In 1990, when Madonna belted out "Like a Virgin" in a Gautier cone bra and was banned by the Pope, no disapproving mother would have suspected that she would one day design a clothing line for the middle-school set.
But Madonna has since left the bellicose bras and racy lyrics to Lady Gaga. Now the mother of a 14-year-old, the diva and her daughter Lourdes Leon work together to design the Material Girl juniors line for Macy's (M). The third Material Girl collection, which includes beauty products and lingerie, is being released in stores throughout the month of August.
The Material Girl style is a mix of '80s punk and trendy street style, not unlike the grunge-chic look espoused by ever-younger fashion "it" girls like actress Taylor Momsen, 18, the brand's first spokeswoman. (The current face of Material Girl is Kelly Osbourne, 26-year-old daughter of singer Ozzy Osborne).
Too Fashion Forward?
Leather jackets, lacy biker shorts and tie-dye harem pants may be easy to pull off in Manhattan, where Lourdes Leon -- Madonna's daughter -- attends high school. But Material Girl is undoubtedly edgy for the Macy's juniors department, which has 805 stores locations across the U.S. New items include a polka dot push-up bra with a skull and cross-bone charm, as well as lip glosses and body sprays in flavors like Sinful Sugar.
"They have some stuff that I wouldn't wear, but they also have normal things," says Sophie, a 13-year-old from Manhattan. "They seem to advertise to more of a crazy girl, but it's not all like that." Sophie owns a bathing-suit top and a wide-neck T-shirt from Material Girl. She says that few of her friends would go for the line's more out-there items.
The pop-goth intimates are now available in 300 Macy's stores across the country. While Macy's doesn't release any sales data, Women's Wear Daily reported last month that the Material Girl line was doing well. "It's one of our top five brands for juniors," said Martine Reardon, executive VP of marketing and advertising.
Helping Teens Express Themselves
Teens have always wanted to look older (and sexier) than perhaps they should. Even before Madonna came around, girls had to get creative to find clothes they liked, cutting off hems and purchasing items intended for older women. However, it is the rare brand that has actually catered to this. Even today, many fast-fashion lines that are attractive and affordable to young teens don't always make clothes in the right sizes. "Juniors" is above all a sizing category, made for small figures with high busts and slender hips.
"The clothes and music have a rockish feel," Sophie says of the Macy's juniors department. "Brands make their clothes seem older so younger people will buy them. They want to make you feel like you have the freedom to go out, to go to parties."
Even so, juniors departments are family shopping destinations. Unlike her other favorite shopping sites like Forever 21, Sophie mostly goes to Macy's with her mom. At Macy's flagship store on 34th Street in New York, a Material Girl sales associate also noted that she sees lots of girls shopping with parents. "It's funny sometimes because you see girls trying to convince their moms to buy certain things," she says.
Perhaps Madonna, the original Material Girl, has more clout with an older generation of Macy's shoppers than one would expect. Sophie, for one, remembers hearing about the line not from a friend, but from her dad. But if anyone can get away with selling denim bustiers as teen wear, it's got to be Madonna.
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