Paula Joye February 08, 2012
It’s been a long time since I last wrote. More than 20 years. In 1987 I sent you a letter asking whether the jacket that you wore in the film ‘Desperately Seeking Susan’ was worn by Jimi Hendrix? And if so whether it would be possible for me to buy it?
What did I know? I had just turned 16, you were my hero and I didn’t really think through to whom I was writing or what I was asking for. I just did it. Being a die-hard Madonna fan had taught me that women should go after what they want, dream big and dress to steal the scene. Nothing was going to scene steal at my Year 10 formal quite like that jacket. I was aiming high.
Obviously you didn’t sell me the costume but what you should know is that someone from your fan club wrote to let me know that said jacket was not for sale but sent me a hat and poster of you in the outfit instead. This life size gift was extremely handy. I took the poster to a dress maker and had your Jimi jacket copied.
Mission accomplished. Scene stolen.
It was incredible. You were incredible. You cart-wheeled your way onto yet another page of fashion history with sets, costumes and sizzle that set a new standard. It wasn't just great it was The Greatest.
But I digress. The real reason I’m writing is to apologise. Over the last decade I’ve become a little critical and judgmental of your style choices. I’ve particularly struggled with the whole leotard/fishnets/knee high boots look. I thought that perhaps as a mother you might have toned it down. That once you turned 50 you'd add an extra inch to the hemline? Just a little. But frankly I’m ashamed of myself. What narrow minded, un-Madonna thinking on my part. Where had that sixteen year old girl gone?
You've given fashion so many moments. From the tube skirt and lace crop-top in Like A Virgin to the Jean Paul Gaultier conical bustier; soft net mantilla hats and red lips as Eva Peron, platinum Hollywood glamour in Vogue - I even loved that slightly kooky geisha period. When it comes to style you’ve never, ever stayed still.
I should have parked my judgement and afforded you the respect you deserve. Have I packed my tutu dresses away? No I have not. Madonna, I'm guilty of throwing rosary beads at the same glass house in which I used to worship.
What makes my judgment worse is that I’m sure I’m being critical because you’re a woman. Goodness knows I continue to turn the other cheek as Mick Jagger and Steven Tyler wander around in lycra tights. Society somewhat bizarrely still expects women of a certain age to look, act and dress in a particular way, while we let men fly under the radar wearing bike pants, bad slogan t-shirts and too much hair gel.
It's a dumb double standard.
Your extraordinary performance on Monday night reminded me of yet another style lesson I learned from you way back in the halcyon jacket years. It was: start the way you intend to finish.
Why should age, society or sex stand in the way of that?
So Madonna, if that for you means continuing to wear a leotard then bring it on. I shall be clapping (and very possibly copying) until you decide it's time to take your final curtain call.
Let me know about the dress...