The inimitable burlesque star and intimates designer makes a habit of surrounding herself with glamour; its transformative power can’t be overstated. For Dita, a lifelong connoisseur of vintage underpinnings, it all starts with conjuring up the lingerie she most wants to wear, and it ends with inspiring untold fans to do the same.
Bare Necessities got an exclusive chance to ask the lovely Dita what she’s up to for spring and beyond, the inspiration behind her newest designs and what she’s personally most excited about putting on which, coming from her, is really saying something.
Q: What were your inspirations for the spring/summer collection?
A: I love vibrant, unexpected color for this time of year, and I always love pastels, too. With my best-selling Madame X range, which begs to be seen and has become a favorite with pin-up girls, it’s so much fun to explore color, and I love asking my social media followers which colors they wish they had. I always have a personal wishlist of colors, but it’s nice to hear what those who wear this style would love. More and more often, I feel like they’re excited about unusual colors. And as much as I love joyful, colorful lace, I stand by the power of lingerie in deep, rich tones and elegant black. It’s for every season, always classic and wearable.
“I’ve always challenged the idea of seasons for lingerie, so I often think…just make it gorgeous!
I’ve always challenged the idea of seasons for lingerie, and maybe that’s a bit because it’s a global market, and I’m designing for Australia as well, and their seasons are opposite ours, so I often think…just make it gorgeous! I do think it’s nice to play with moods from season to season, and I love to shift and dress for the weather, but it’s not quite the same as with clothing where there’s a reason for warmer fabrics and things like that. With lingerie, in the spring and summer, I like light, effervescent colors, vibrant colors and even colors that border on neon. But ultimately, I think of things we will want to wear over and over, from season to season. I’m a big fan of saturated color anytime, and you know how I feel about black lace. It’s a staple for the femme totale, so we revisit black and deep blue in different ways, and it’s never passé.
Q: What lingerie trends have you been noticing?
A: Honestly, I don’t look at lingerie trends; I don’t even know where I’d find them. I take inspiration from other places. I’ve worked in lingerie since I was 15, and my entire career is based on my love and obsession with lingerie and what it can do to make life a bit more beautiful and pleasurable. But I like to keep my blinders on when it comes to my line, and just try to make things without outside influence. I do notice that, as time goes by, brands start doing similar things, and I see the way designs tend to trickle down. One of the only things I like to look at are other brands’ price points to challenge my own brand to find ways to up the ante on the details while keeping an attainable price.
Admittedly, I do design with my own desires in mind; years ago, I kept pushing my own brand to move on from moulded cups and to start “freeing the nipple” in a way, with soft, light lace bras that still have support but don’t reshape the breasts into unnatural domes. I finally got my way a few years ago. We made beautiful bras like Coquette and Tryst and reimagined my Savoir Faire bra without the fiberfill and linings. It’s become the trend in lingerie now. When I follow my instincts, it usually works.
“When I follow my instincts, it usually works”
The other thing I’ve been challenging since the start is the use of stretch lace. I’m not usually a fan of it, so I use it minimally in my line, only when I think it’s a really beautiful and rare stretch lace. I realize it’s a bit tougher to make non-stretch fabrics fit, but I’m always pushing the engineering process to figure out ways because there’s something so nice about intricate lace with bold patterns in it, like what we use on Tryst and Marlene.
Q: You’ve long stood for size inclusivity. What do you think about where the industry is headed?
A: My mission from day one of launching this collection was to offer wearable, everyday glamour at an attainable price, and size inclusivity. When I first debuted the brand, we did a runway show and used women with various skin colors, we used voluptuous models and we also cast non-models like pin-up girls and dancers. I tried to find older models back then as well, because I think ageism is another important issue. It wasn’t so easy then, but I think in the last few years, things are changing.
No one can say that I’m joining the brands that are jumping on the inclusivity bandwagon. The proof is there that it’s been my aim from the start. Of course, no one brand can tick every box, and I think it’s important to stand for something even if you can’t please everyone, and while I certainly can’t make bras for every woman, size range was something I addressed before I so much as put my name on a piece of lingerie. I always send customers looking for larger sizes to Bare Necessities because not only do you carry my largest sizes, but you also have a vast selection of sizes available beyond what I can do.
Q: How do you continue to grow and evolve longtime favorites like Madame X and Dahlia?
A: Mostly with color! But I’ve also done Madame X with velvet details and tiny sequins…that was a personal favorite. I love crowdsourcing colors. I wanted emerald green for so long, but it seemed that lingerie buyers were against it. It kept coming up as a requested color, so we did it anyway, and it was a big success. I love green, whether it’s emerald or chartreuse or lime or pine. Green is chic and unexpected. Marlene is super gorgeous in green. I played with the overlay a lot before finding the right satin lining. What I love to do is take swatches of the laces for my lingerie and bring them into my wardrobes and hold the lace up against my vintage dresses and dress linings to see how the color contrasts look. I have a lot of fun with this, and come up with bizarre combinations that work beautifully.
Q: Would you consider branching into new categories or styles based on the popularity of many of your collections?
A: I love lingerie as outerwear. For my first collections, I did bustiers and dresses that were easy to wear out on the town. I’d love to do more of these; they were based on vintage corsalettes, but we made them lined, with zippers, and longer, to wear as dresses. I would also like to do negligees and extravagant loungewear. I have a goldmine of vintage loungewear in my archives to use as inspiration that I know people want to wear!
Q: Can you give us a sense of what you’re looking forward to down the road for fall?
A: I have some beautiful new embroideries I’m excited about; a collection called Julie’s Roses, named for Julie Newmar who’s a good friend. I go to her house to see her beautiful rose garden, so I named it for her. The Bijoux collection is another gorgeous embroidery that I can’t wait to wear myself. I love graphic black on ultra-fine tulle mesh so it appears to float on the skin. And lately, I’m absolutely loving Tryst in green, it’s my favorite right now.
Q: How do you wear your pieces? What’s your best personal styling advice?
A: I love coordinating my lingerie with my clothes—sometimes matching, sometimes creating exciting contrasts. I love laying out a sweater or dress and taking a photo to share on social of the bra I choose. I love wearing something like Maestra or Madame X in a bold, bright color with a low-cut T-shirt to work out in, flashing a hint of the color. I’m crazy about bright red lingerie under black, or a soft pastel underneath a sheer ivory blouse.
I do love matching sets. In fact, even before I designed my own lingerie, I would buy different styles of underwear for every bra: the bikini and the string and the brief. Versatility increases the wearability of the set and also the longevity of your investment. I have my favorite styles of underwear, so I mix and match my black laces a lot.
“Lingerie is for everyone that wants it. I love the idea of changing people’s minds about it”
Q: What are your fans most excited about? How do these pieces make them feel?
A: I love hearing what they love, and I love seeing their photos! It’s one thing I really love about social media; we are living in an era when people aren’t afraid to flaunt their sensuality. I love seeing pictures of people wearing my lingerie. I was very excited yesterday when RuPaul’s Drag Race superstar Violet Chachki wore my Dahlia lingerie for her Youtube Channel and on social, and I recently taught a dancer named Jake Dupree to do my Champagne glass act for a secret show I produced in Hollywood. We decked him out in Madame X with my signature seamed stockings underneath a beautiful tuxedo. He was fabulous. Lingerie is for everyone that wants it. I love the idea of changing people’s minds about it, trying to liberate us from taboos and stigmas.