Meet the Houston designer dressing Swifties and 'Twilight' fans alike

Madison Sinclair’s BUGGIRL200 designs are weird. She likes them that way.

Photo of Abigail Rosenthal
Sinclair works out of a warehouse in Montrose, where she and three employees fulfill around 500 orders per month.  

Sinclair works out of a warehouse in Montrose, where she and three employees fulfill around 500 orders per month.  

Madison Sinclair

Madison Sinclair is not offended in the slightest when someone describes her designs as “ugly.”

“That was the initial goal of the first accidental BUGGIRL T-shirt I ever made. It was for my best friend’s birthday,” Sinclair said. “And I was like, 'I want this to be so ugly that she won't wear it out and I can guilt her for that.' So yes, ‘ugly’ is on brand.”

Using CustomInk, Sinclair made two of that first T-shirt, a Twilight-themed article featuring Robert Pattinson and the proclamations “Bite me, big boy!” and “I love my vampire boyfriend,” for her and her best friend in July 2020. 

“I posted a TikTok wearing the shirt and people were like, oh my God, I need that,” Sinclair said. “And I was like, really? You do? Because this is ugly."

Sinclair almost immediately sold 80 of the shirts on Depop, a resale site popular with vintage enthusiasts and thrifters. She then bought the domain name BUGGIRL200.com, and dropped out of the University of Houston to pursue clothing design full time. Now, two years and 25,000 shirts later, the BUGGIRL200 brand includes a whole hyper-niche collection of T-shirts featuring proclamations of love to celebrities such as comedian Nathan Fielder and indie rocker Phoebe Bridgers; rainbow-beaded necklaces that scream “TAYLOR SWIFT IS MY WIFE;” and, currently, a slightly vulgar neon poster about farting.

Madison Sinclair's BUGGIRL designs have become synonymous with a growing trend of ironically ugly clothing that’ll draw second glances.

Madison Sinclair's BUGGIRL designs have become synonymous with a growing trend of ironically ugly clothing that’ll draw second glances.

Madison Sinclair

“I feel like it started out as an ironic thing, but it's moved past irony at this point,” Sinclair said from her Montrose warehouse, where she and three employees fulfill around 500 orders per month. 

The design process of, say, a shirt with Jason Segel and Paul Rudd imprinted above the words “these are my GAY DADS” is pretty straightforward. Sinclair started designing her shirts on iPhone apps (“I didn’t start using Photoshop until literally this year”), and the ideas usually come from whatever or whomever she’s fixating on at the moment. 

“The creative direction itself stems from something like a weird thought in my brain that keeps repeating itself over and over. Or I'll see a picture of Robert Pattinson just doing something weird or whatever, and it just spawns a desire to enhance that,” she said. 

TikTokers and Swifties aren’t the only ones who have noticed Sinclair’s “satire T-shirts.” Pop star Olivia Rodrigo posted a photo of the BUGGIRL200 shirt that reads, “I think the Twilight movies are AWESOME!!!!! If you don’t think that makes me SEXY and COOL, DON’T FREAKING TALK TO ME!!!!! I am not even kidding.” Sinclair says Mr. Worldwide himself has posted pictures on Instagram of concertgoers sporting their BUGGIRL200 Pitbull shirts several times. And she got a “really nice” cease and desist from Adam Sandler’s people for a shirt she made featuring the actor. (Sinclair ended up donating the earnings from the shirt to a Houston nonprofit. Sandler’s people were happy to call it even with that.)

More widely, Sinclair’s designs have become synonymous with a growing trend of ironically ugly clothing often sporting some almost nonsensical proclamation or logo that’ll draw second glances. Items like a hat with a bastardized Bass Pro Shops logo saying “Taylor Swift Loves Me, Jake Gyllenhaal Fears Me” or BUGGIRL200’s shirt featuring Pitbull and the phrase “good girls go to church… BAD GIRLS GO TO PITBULL” frequently reach buyers through TikToks, just like Sinclair’s first viral one. And out in the wild, they’re reminders that other people are obsessed with the same things. 

Madison Sinclair has taken common figures of our collective pop-culture obsession and made them more visible, vibrant, and weird.

Madison Sinclair has taken common figures of our collective pop-culture obsession and made them more visible, vibrant, and weird.

Madison Sinclair

“I love the chaotic energy, especially for clothing that speaks to fandoms, it’s truly giving the people what they want,” said Julianna Salguero, 27, a self-described “extreme Directioner since 2012” who bought one of BUGGIRL200’s designs. “I could find a One Direction tour shirt and wear that and communicate that I am a fan of One Direction, or I could wear a bubblegum pink one that demands I live freely in society as one.”

While being a fan of One Direction or Mitski or Pitbull isn’t rare, Sinclair has taken these common figures of our collective pop-culture obsession and made them more visible, vibrant, and weird. The “niche” of it all isn’t being a Swiftie or a Directioner—it’s having the obsessive interest and sense of humor that leads to slamming down hard-earned cash for a proudly tacky T-shirt that signals fandom and personality at the same time. 

“I think connecting with a stranger over something weird and niche reminds you that other people are real in this world, and they probably like some weird stuff that we like," Sinclair said. "I know that for me, there's nothing better than connecting with a stranger who five minutes ago was just a blank shape of a person.”

But Sinclair can see another key to the popularity of the shirts: People are growing tired of self-policing their obsessions and are leaning back into the things that excited them as kids or teenagers—pop stars and celebrities and vampire romances and brightly colored clothes. Yes, you could call all her designs “ugly,” but they’re also completely sincere.  

“We're all embarrassing and cringey and we work so hard to … shove [it] down inside ourselves,” Sinclair says. “And I think it's just so fun to be authentically, hilariously obsessed with something in an unashamed way. It's so boring to hide yourself. I want to be 37 and going to a Taylor Swift concert. Like, I want to be front row when I'm 48. I don't want to change those silly childlike feelings or desires.”

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