So there you are, shopping for back-to-school clothes with your daughter. You’re trying to find fun and fashionable clothing that won’t make your innocent child look like she’s ready to hit the beach instead of the books. It’s tough enough trying to keep within your budget and hang on to your sanity when you go through this annual ritual.
You think the situation is about to improve when see your daughter’s face light up. She’s spotted a new clothing line while scouring the aisles of your local Macy’s department store. Your teen is thrilled, and based on the prices she’s announcing as she excitedly grabs a skirt to try on you’re at least willing to take a closer look.
And then you see it; trouble with a capital “T,” or should we say a capital “M” for the Material Girl herself.
I have a feeling that this type of scene is being played out in malls around the country right now thanks to pop icon Madonna and her daughter Lourdes launching their new teen clothing line, Material Girl, last month in New York City. I could write an entire column concerning just the name alone and the wrong message it sends to young girls about accumulating more and more stuff, but I’ll save that for another time.
The clothing, purses, jewelry and shoes have the infamous 1980s look that helped launch the Michigan native into the international spotlight. Many of the clothes that Madonna hopes you’ll purchase for your innocent child come complete with silver studs, lots of leather, lace and barely-there skirts — ensembles that would make most concerned parents cringe.
You can’t argue the fact that Madonna is a shrewd businesswoman. She has sold more than 300 million records worldwide. She is well aware of how to cash in on name recognition. And after all, if much younger divas such as Miley Cyrus and Britney Spears can design and sell clothing, certainly Madonna, who has been at this stardom thing for going on almost 30 years, can sell a skimpy T-shirt here and a black bustier there. I’m all for the entrepreneurial spirit, but the girl isn’t exactly hurting for the greenbacks, and the last thing our oversexed society needs is more of what advertisers refer to as KGOY (“kids getting older younger”). The Material Girl clothing line, and the heavy media hype and marketing that goes with it, is the type of thing that’s making it increasingly difficult for parents to protect their child’s dignity. And if girls start dressing immodestly when they’re tweens and teens, the trend only gets worse.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that teaching modesty to children and adolescents means “awakening in them a respect for the human person” (No. 2524). Modesty-fashion experts such as those with the Pure Fashion ministry (www.purefashion.com) offer guidelines for helping girls learn how to dress fashionably without losing their dignity. EWTN has produced a TV program for girls based on the “All Things Girl” book series I co-authored. Both the programs as well as the books are available through the EWTN Religious Catalogue. “All Things Girl” is designed to help young women recognize that what really matters is being a daughter of the King of Kings.
Teaching modesty and respect to children in today’s consumerist culture takes hard work. Obviously we can’t count on the Madonnas of the world to pass along these ideals. So it’s important for parents and others entrusted with the care of children to do their homework and stand their ground. The Material Girl and her daughter may not thank you for it, but someday your own daughter or granddaughter will.
Teresa Tomeo is the host of Catholic Connection, produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and Sirius Channel 160.