Eiizabeth Short was only 22 when she was found in a Los Angeles parking lot in 1947, bludgeoned and slashed to death with her torso sliced in half.
It was one of the most sensational crimes of the century in America, and a creative newsman gave Elizabeth a catchy name that helped sell a lot of papers. She became The Black Dahlia, a household name the world over and the subject of endless, feverish speculation.
Incredibly, the indignities heaped upon the aspiring actress after death rivaled the suffering she must have endured in her final moments.
She was defamed relentlessly in the 1940s press, which concocted lurid fictions about her to explain the gruesome, unsolved crime. A common (and disproven) myth held that she was a prostitute whose reckless lifestyle somehow led to her wretched demise. Hollywood gobbled up the story and regurgitated it in several barely recognizable treatments that exaggerated her sexual adventures and added layers of tawdry, invented detail that would make even the tabloids blush.
Her killer was never found, and so no one ever paid for what was done to Elizabeth Short (above right). But countless journalists, actors, filmmakers, authors and opportunistic merchandisers have made millions from her agonies. There’s a jewelry brand called Black Dahlia and a heavy metal band that bears her name, too. She is, literally, a Hallowe’en costume.
Now poor Elizabeth has another distinction: she may be the only American murder victim to have a sexy lingerie line named after her.
Burlesque star Dita Von Teese introduced a Black Dahlia range this month as part of her eponymous lingerie brand, which is sold in Bloomingdales, Bare Necessities, Nordstrom, Journelle and many other retail chains around the world. It’s a black mesh set embroidered with floral lace, and retails for about $200 for a 3-piece ensemble.
Dita does not explain why she chose to name the set after the Black Dahlia case, and she did not respond to our request for comment.
[UPDATE: See Dita’s Twitter response below.]
Presumably, she used the Black Dahlia name as a way to evoke the glamorous culture of 1940s Hollywood, which is the kind of historic reference that Dita strives for in her faux vintage lingerie brand. It’s also possible she did so without knowing the sordid details behind that notorious name, although that’s unlikely given the Black Dahlia‘s enduring media profile.
Besides, Dita is a self-made vintage fashion icon whose knowledge of and affinity for old Hollywood and the lavish lifestyles of femme fatale starlets is well documented. She references that film noir world frequently in her lingerie collections, photo assignments and burlesque shows and posed (above) for a convincingly retro photo to promote the new Black Dahlia ensemble.
This is not the first time that the undergarment industry has — perhaps unthinkingly — tried to profit from Elizabeth Short’s horrific demise. A Swedish retro label called Vintage Wonderland sells old-fashioned Black Dahlia nylon stockings, while the plus-size retailer Hips and Curves offered a Black Dahlia velvet corset a few years ago. And the renowned swimwear brand Gottex still sells a flashy Black Dahlia line that has no vintage style elements whatsoever.
What rationale could possibly explain a company’s choice to name sexy clothing after a young woman who was hacked to death? What other murder victim has been subject to such callous treatment post mortem?
In Dita’s case, surely it was not her intention to glamorize or glorify the cruel fate of Elizabeth Short, but it’s shockingly insensitive nonetheless and an uncharacteristic lapse in judgment from an exceptionally popular style leader.
[UPDATE: In a Tweet responding to our query, Dita says the collection was named for “lace that looks like black dahlia flowers.” See the images below and draw your own conclusions.]
One of the great tragedies of Elizabeth Short’s life is that the mythology surrounding her murder eventually dehumanized her, turning her into a juicy yarn that could be retold (and resold) for generations to come. Tortured in life, exploited in death, she became one of America’s most unsympathetic murder victims and a cautionary tale for adventurous young women everywhere.
For style hounds, the Black Dahlia — the manufactured media story, not the real person behind the name — came to symbolize the seductive underworld of sleaze and sin that characterized post-war L.A. and forms the backdrop for films like Chinatown, L.A. Confidential and Gangster Squad.
Lusty, dangerous and tempting fate, Elizabeth Short is not so much a person as a reference point for an era defined by its oversized fashions and boundless appetites.
In that context, perhaps The Black Dahlia was born to sell lingerie.
If there’s such a thing as a rockstar in the lingerie industy, it’s Dita Von Teese. And if there’s an equivalent to a hit record, it’s the burlesque legend’s line of glamorous retro undergarment styles.
Dita’s two-year-old label Von Follies and its successor Dita Von Teese Lingerie seem to be everywhere these days — on celebrities, in magazines, on catwalks and in a growing number of stores as retailers leap at the chance to piggyback on Dita’s personal star power and the enduring popularity of vintage lingerie fashions.
Problem is, like hit records these days, it’s hard to know if you’re seeing the full Dita or a remix version. The selection varies widely from one shop to the next, depending on which styles and sizes have been cherry-picked by the retailer’s buyers, who presumably know what their customers are likely to want.
And, since Dita doesn’t offer her own retail channel, it’s hard to find the full range of DVT Lingerie styles in one place.
This creates an awkward marketing dilemma for the tiny perfect fashion icon. Dita is constantly doing media interviews, making personal appearances and using her vast social media network to promote sales and new style arrivals at a host of competing retail partners.
Other fashion brands might face a hostile backlash from their partners for this kind of juggling act, but in Dita’s case there are no losers — yet. Dita seems to have an inexhaustible capacity for self-promotion and satisfying the marketing needs of her retailers, and as long as DVT Lingerie remains a sought-after label everyone in the distribution chain will be happy.
Consumers, though, might wish there were a one-stop Dita shop for everyone. And they might soon have their wish.
The online store Bare Necessities, the second largest e-commerce seller of lingerie in North America, will begin carrying Dita Von Teese Lingerie on July 22. It will stock the entire collection, up to an E cup, a move that will be welcomed by women who prefer to shop at home and by full-figured customers who find Dita’s styles especially flattering.
Bare Necessities also offers frequent discounts on its large inventory, so there’s a possibility of scoring some savings on this popular brand down the road.
“Dita has a great following and very loyal fans (and) many of them always look for her sexy lingerie and in fuller sizes,” a BN spokesperson told Lingerie Talk. “Many women have been unable to do this successfully in the past because other retailers did not invest in Dita’s full size range.”
To help kickstart her new online partnership, Dita visited the Bare Necessities offices in New Jersey last week for a photoshoot and to educate staff members about her collection. Talk about a rockstar moment!
The photos above show Dita making some last-minute adjustments during the BN photo shoot and posing graciously with the starstruck BN staff and managers.
If you can’t wait three more weeks for Dita’s debut on Bare Necessities, you can find the DVT Lingerie collection (or parts thereof) at Bloomingdales, Stylebop, ASOS, Faire Frou Frou, Myer (Australia), Debenhams (UK), Glamuse (France) and other regional retailers.
Meantime, here are a couple of new offerings from Brand Dita — promo images for the new fragrance Fleurteese, and a DVT sunglasses collection due out this fall.
Dita Von Teese turned 40 last fall, which is not usually a happy milestone for a stripper.
But the irrepressible burlesque star is proving that great second acts are possible in everyone’s life, especially for women, despite what F. Scott Fitzgerald might have said to the contrary.
Dita has accomplished the rare feat of turning her body into a brand. And these days that brand is everywhere, reaching into more homes and in more ways than anyone could have imagined.
Here’s what our favorite icon-in-the-making got done in the last week alone:
The rapid emergence of Brand Dita follows a booming 2012 in which she landed five magazine covers and — get this! — her 2005 wedding dress was included in an exhibition of historic bridal fashions at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
How has she been able to pull all this off? First, by resisting many of the countless and pointless media engagements that have taken up much of her time in the past decade. And second, by entering into a fruitful partnership with Aussie brand development company Lime Door Brands, which coordinates her apparel products. Dita’s recent activities have been a case study in focus, commitment and careful brand management.
Perhaps the biggest surprise in all this is Dita’s admission, in an interview with Elle this week, that she’s still just a one-woman show, in more ways than one.
“I do not run with an entourage of makeup stylists, and I don’t have someone dictating to me what is the right thing to wear,” she said. “I don’t have anyone advising me. Every one of my products — my lingerie, my perfume, and everything that I do beauty-related with regard to building my burlesque shows — is just me. And I’m really into the motto: I can do it, you can do it.”
Dita Von Teese probably hates it when the media constantly refer to her as the ex-wife of Marilyn Manson, but this week that past connection was unavoidable.
While the goth-rocker looked corpse-like and sounded worse during a disastrous concert tour of Australia (he was actually booed off the stage in Sydney) that was meant to reinvigorate his career, the former Mrs. Manson had the Aussies eating out of her hand. Some people marry well; others soar after a divorce.
For Dita, her week-long star turn in Melbourne was the latest highlight in a slow, strategic ascension over the past five years that has made her an international style icon and head of a growing empire of fashion and beauty lines.
Visiting Down Under to launch her new 50s-inspired Von Follies lingerie line for Target Australia, the former burlesque star was front-page news every day, with fans lining up before dawn to meet her at store appearances.
The crowning moment came Saturday night, as an SRO crowd of 3,000 fans greeted Dita with wolf whistles when she kicked off her L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Week runway show at the city’s trendy Docklands development. Yes, you read that correctly: 3,000 paying customers for a lingerie show.
Earlier in the week, Dita endeared herself to Aussie women by firing several runway models for being too thin, and publicly scolding some of her Von Follies catwalk crew for using spray tan. And, to put an exclamation mark on her triumphant week, Dita on Saturday tweeted a photo of her behind, clad in one of her new high-waisted brief styles.
The instant success of the Von Follies collection, which actually debuted in Target stores a few weeks ago, prompted the retailer to move up its second installment of new styles from the collection. Meanwhile, Dita and her team are now openly discussing a worldwide rollout for the collection.
And for those curious celeb-watchers, Marilyn (above, in Perth) wasn’t in evidence at his ex’s glittering show Saturday, having left the country a few days earlier after a two-week tour that produced an almost-universal critical thrashing.
Here are some more photos from the Von Follies launch in Melbourne on Saturday:
Is Australia the new launching pad for international celebrity fashion brands? Burlesque superstar Dita Von Teese certainly hopes so.
The global style icon — who turns 40 this year! — debuted her latest signature lingerie collection in Oz earlier this month and it appears to be a hit.
In fact, several styles in the first delivery from the Von Follies label have already sold out on the website for Target Australia, which has exclusive distribution rights to the line.
That’s pretty impressive, given that Dita herself won’t publicly launch the Von Follies collection until she makes a much-hyped runway appearance at the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival in two weeks. It’s open to the public, with tickets starting at $50.
And why Australia? Dita’s new project is a collaboration with the private label marketer Lime Door Brands, which also handled the recent launch of her dress line, Muse. The partners have always stated their intent to make Von Follies an international brand, though it’s unclear if Target will be the retail partner in other countries.
As for the collection itself, it’s an appealing combination of very French styling (lots of black eyelash lace), vintage silhouettes and modern stretch fabrics.
What will endear Dita to new lingerie customers, though, is the broad range of sizes in the collection, including some styles designed specifically for fuller figures. Smart move from a woman who once boasted a 16.5-inch waist!
Dita/Target plan to introduce new styles in March to coincide with her Melbourne show, followed by another release in April. The current assortment includes five looks: an animal print set, a black fishnet line, a black-blue stretch lace set, a nude-polka dot range, and a red-black combo for full figures.
Below are some additional promo images from Von Follies. And above we have Target’s promo commercial, featuring a pseudo-cancan soundtrack and a voiceover with an unconvincing quasi-French accent. I wonder if the Aussies will notice?