A Mad, Mad World of ‘Madonnas’

Times Staff Writer

It’s getting so you can’t wear your rhinestones anymore without someone screeching “Madonna Wanna-Be” from the window of a passing car.

That’s Madonna talk for anyone who looks like a clone of the pop singer herself, whose junk jewels and boxer shorts, curvy skirts and corsets, lace leggings and lame blazers are causing something of a fashion sensation.

Until now her admirers have scavenged their Wanna-Be wardrobe from lingerie drawers, gym bags and thrift shops. But this spring they can purchase Madonna’s flamboyantly feminine style prepackaged. Entertainers Merchandise Management Corp. is introducing the Boy Toy collection, named after the belt buckle Madonna wears on her “Like a Virgin” album cover. The line features a dress, a skirt, a crop top and cropped pants and an oversize sweat shirt in black or white, available at specialty stores such as Bullock’s and Judy’s. (Prices range from $18 to $30.)

But Madonna’s tasty-trashy wardrobe was making waves well before it went mass market. By now, it is so often imitated that you can itemize it.


“The most important ingredients are the crop top, the bare midriff, a hip-hugger skirt or pants and lingerie straps showing under your top,” Marlene Stewart says. She is the Los Angeles-based designer who styled Madonna’s stage clothes for her U.S. tour this spring.

Adriana Caras, a Madonna-esque sophomore at the University of Southern California, describes the look as “carefree, cute and young.” But she tones down her idol’s overtly outrageous stage style to fit student life.

“Wearing lingerie in public like Madonna does can be obnoxious, but you can wear a tank top instead of a corset,” she says.

Caras says she isn’t about to accessorize her outfits the way Madonna does, with rosary-bead necklaces and Christian cross earrings. But junior high student Tyla Ball says she wears them just because “the look is pretty rad.”


No less rad than naming a child Madonna, as did the Italian-American Catholic parents of Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone of Pontiac, Mich. “I couldn’t believe it when I found out that Madonna is her real name,” says Stewart, who got to know the “Material Girl” personally when she started designing her clothes. “The crosses and rosary beads she wears are a play on her cultural background.”

There’s a Wanna-Be beauty side to Madonna’s look as well. The hair should be a shoulder-length mass of loose curls, with dark roots and blond tips. And true Madonna mavens draw a dark mole above their lips.

“She’s like Tina Turner, a female sex symbol,” says Mimi Vodnoy, who wears a corset along with a Madonna ‘do to work as a hair stylist at the Allen Edwards salon.

Vodnoy says she spends hours a day cutting the hair of girls who come into the salon carrying Madonna’s picture on record albums and asking for the same look.

“Even women 35 years old want modified Madonna hair styles,” she says.

They want a Madonna body too.

“Madonna isn’t skinny, she’s big. But she’s voluptuous,” says Vodnoy who got a close look at those curves when she paid $100 to sit near the stage for Madonna’s Los Angeles concert.

Tired of the leaner look, Vodnoy says: “Keeping up a body like Madonna’s would make life a lot easier on a lot of girls.” Caras already sees a trend toward more voluptuous figures on her college campus.


“A lot of girls now want muscle tone but not an anorexic body,” she says. (Madonna maintains hers by lifting weights.)

For both fashion and beauty watching in the Wanna-Be way, Vodnoy says, the Glendale Galleria is a prime place to go.

She adds: “Beverly Hills girls dress like Madonna too, but they don’t want to admit it.”

Junior high school students Camille Weintraub and her friends Alice Bubman and Allison Silberkleit are three Beverly Hills girls who beg to differ. They used to dress like Madonna. But now, they say, the look is getting old.

“I’ve worn the rhinestones, the 10 or 15 bracelets on one arm, the scarf in my hair,” Weintraub says.

“I like Madonna’s look. But I like to dress more like fashion models.” She now wears tight jeans, oversize sweaters and long, straight skirts.

Silberkleit says she may add a touch of Madonna to her dress style, but she’d wear a lace tank top like Madonna’s with another tank top underneath it.

“If I wore a tight skirt like hers, I’d wear a big shirt over it. And I wouldn’t think of wearing a lace bra that shows through a top for school. Nobody at my school would.”


Bubman concludes: “It’s her music we like. We don’t try to dress like Madonna.”

Die-hards don’t need to worry that Madonna has run out of outrageous fashion ideas for them to imitate. Stewart, who is still designing for Madonna, says there are layers of see-through pants and see-through tops to come.

And the look is going more commercial for fall. In New York, young designers are showing Madonna-like clothes that cross sweats with sweetie-pie style.

And then there is Betsey Johnson, the mother of it all, who’s been designing what she calls “sexy-funky-curvy-body” clothes since 26-year-old Madonna was a baby.