When it comes to my overall stance, I’d personally go with what bell hooks had to say back in 1993:
“Fiercely critical of Madonna when I see her work projecting the worst aspects of white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal culture, I am also fiercely affirming of her successful attempts to challenge sexist notions of womanhood, female sexuality, and the like.“
‘Dress You Up‘ is, in my view, a subtle example of Madonna’s challenge to sexist notions of female sexuality. For a start, The lyrics are clearly focused on the style and looks of the person she is offering to further decorate with her “love”. Some readings have described Madonna to be blatantly portraying femininity as “objectified sexuality” in the song but it seems clear to me that, rather than positioning herself as an accessory, Madonna is focusing on the physicality of another person alongside her own desires and actions in relation to that:
“Feel the silky touch of my caresses
They will keep you looking so brand new
Let me cover you with velvet kisses
I’ll create a look that’s made for you“
Granted, it’s clearly a light dance-pop song that therefore perhaps shouldn’t be imbued with too much seriousness but the sense of agency is definitely there.
YouTube description: Static widescreen shot of the cover of Madonna’s Like a Virgin album. This features a sepia picture of Madonna sitting on cushions in a white dress with a criss-cross honeycomb bustier design top and a full netted spread skirt with flowers laid over it (possibly a wedding dress).