I started my career in the early '90s wanting to be the next Bettie Page. Back then I was a young blonde from a farming town in Michigan, and when I saw the pinup pictures of Page with her jet-black hair, pale skin, and classic '50s style, I was enamored. Even when she was filming something really risqué, she always had an air of playfulness and fun about her.
So I dyed my hair black and spent almost two years emulating her before I found my own look. Then, a few years ago I heard that all the shoes she wore when she posed for [photographer] Irving Klaw were going up for auction. I got out my best perfumed stationery and wrote a heartfelt letter to the owner telling him how much it would mean to me if I could buy a pair outright. I even flew to Las Vegas to pick them out.
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They're beautiful custom-made fetish heels that she wore all the time, so for burlesque fans like me they're basically Dorothy's ruby slippers. It was a pinch-me moment when I tried them on, especially since they're a size 6½ and fit me perfectly. Now they live in an antique birdcage in my home in Los Angeles. I always felt like I was following in Page's footsteps, so to have the actual shoes that created those footsteps is really something.
Von Teese is the author of the New York Times best-selling book Your Beauty Mark: The Ultimate Guide to Eccentric Glamour ($29; amazon.com). For more stories like this, pick up InStyle's June issue available on newsstands and for digital download now.