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Von Teese is known for her fascination with 1940s cinema and classic vintage style.

This began at a young age and was fostered by her mother, who would buy clothes for her daughter to dress up.

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Her mother was a fan of old, Golden Age-era Hollywood films, and from her Von Teese developed a fascination with the actresses of that day, especially Betty Grable.

She was classically trained as a ballet dancer from an early age, and danced solo at age 13 for a local ballet company.

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Though she originally wanted to be a ballerina, Von Teese states that "by 15, I was as good as I'd ever be." Von Teese says she was disappointed, as she had been hoping to receive beautiful lacy garments and stockings, of the type she had glimpsed in her father's Playboy magazines. She worked in a lingerie store as a salesgirl when she was 15, eventually as a buyer.

Von Teese has been fond of wearing elaborate lingerie such as corsets and basques with fully fashioned stockings ever since.

Von Teese got her stage name by adopting the name Dita as a tribute to silent film actress Dita Parlo.