Long before Madonna was named the Queen of Pop, excommunicated by the Catholic Church on three different occasions, and played sold-out world tours wearing next to nothing, she was just Madonna Louise Ciccone, a young girl growing up in a religious household in Michigan. In those days, as seen in a throwback photo she shared on Instagram this week, Madonna wasn’t allowed to wear anything remotely like the provocative outfits that quickly became a staple of her onstage presence; suffice it to say, there weren’t any cone bras in her childhood bedroom’s closet.
In the photo, Madonna and her lookalike younger sister Paula smile at the camera on a grassy lawn on the day of Madonna’s high school graduation, likely in 1976 or ’77. They each wear brightly patterned, sleeveless maxidresses that, as she wrote in the caption, they’d made themselves using Butterick sewing patterns. “I was always so embarrassed we could not afford store bought dresses. In retrospect Im [sic] glad i learned how to use a sewing machine,” she wrote, adding, “Notice No cleavage or bare knees!! Papa Ciccone was very strict.”
They say all trends inevitably come back around—so there’s definitely a chance we’ll see Madge rocking knee-covering, cleavage-hiding homemade dresses on her next world tour. (Then again, probably not.)
Madonna, now 60, has previously spoken about that modest upbringing, which doesn’t quite jive with the image of her writhing around onstage at the VMAs just a few years after that photo was taken. She once described her younger self to Vanity Fair as a “lonely girl who was searching for something.” She continued, “I wasn’t rebellious in a certain way. I cared about being good at something. I didn’t shave my underarms and I didn’t wear makeup like normal girls do. But I studied and I got good grades…I wanted to be somebody.”
And in her 2016 episode of The Late Late Show‘s “Carpool Karaoke,” while discussing her triple excommunication, Madonna admitted that, growing up, she’d dreamed of joining a convent. “I kind of wanted to be a nun when I was growing up, I did. I liked their uniform,” she said—then, shockingly, compared her current life to a nun’s as well. “My work is rebellious, but my lifestyle isn’t rebellious. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I don’t party. I’m quite square,” she said. “I go home and I’m Julie Andrews, that is the crux of the matter. I mean, give me a nun’s habit!”