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Star treatment at the mall: a popular new pastime for American girls

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MCLEAN, Virginia, Aug 28 (AFP) - Most little girls dream, at some point or another, about being a princess, a movie star or a singer, but many are now living out their dreams -- if only for a day.

A new concept store to hit American shopping malls allows girls to get glammed up for their birthdays and other special occasions.

Nestled between a toy store and a jewelry store in the massive Tysons Corner shopping mall in Virginia, a pink-and-mauve girls' wonderland awaits Caitlin, who is celebrating her sixth birthday at the "Club Libby Lu" shop with her sisters and four friends.

"Caitlin loves to play grown up," her mother, Mary-Ellen Greene, says.

"Younger and younger, they want makeup," she says, but adds hopefully: "Maybe if they do it now, they won't want it in seventh or eighth grade."

Dazzled by the vast array of girly gear -- from pink leopard cushions and tiny diaries to plastic diadems and makeup kits -- the girls disappear into a dressing room at the back of the boutique and emerge as fairies decked out in blue tutus with wings on their backs or as rock stars, complete with slinky black pants and sequined tube tops that show off their shoulders and midriff.

"My mom would never have taken me to a place like this," notes Greene, adding: "I hope the mommies will be OK when I drop (the girls) off!"

Delaney, 8, hides her belly with her hands and picks out a T-shirt. "She's a one-piece girl," Greene explains.

Next, it's on to the makeup studio, a small table in the middle of the store with enormous mirrors in the shape of a heart. There, the girls don nail polish and get glamorous new hairdos, while some have glittery stickers applied to their cheeks.

They patiently close their eyes while their eye shadow is applied, soaking up the luxury and enjoying all of the attention being lavished upon them. Passersby seem mesmerized as they peer in the store's windows.

"I love it! It's so adorable! I don't have girls. That's why I love to see these things," says Amira Taha, the mother of three boys.

"They also do your hair!" an awestruck young passerby gushes to her sister.

"It's about pretending and playing with your friends. It's no different than playing dress-up in Mom's closet, but in a different environment," says Melissa Levitt, district manager for Club Libby Lu's East Coast stores.

But unlike hunting for treasures in Mom's closet, this dress-up party comes with a price tag -- about 150 dollars total for seven girls.

Targeting girls aged six to 13, who represent some 20 million Americans, according to the latest census, Club Libby Lu has 80 stores throughout the United States and plans to open more.

Topping off their day of star treatment at the Virginia shop, Caitlin and her glammed-up cohorts, sporting feather boas around their necks, strut down the aisle to peppy pop music to show off their new look.

"What have I done? What have I started?" an amused Greene laughs.



COPYRIGHT 2005 Agence France-Presse. All rights reserved.

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