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"Momshell."

It's the latest addition to the lexicon of modern motherhood.

Women who meet the definition include supermodel Heidi Klum, actress Jessica Alba and other "bombshell moms" who don't sacrifice style for the stroller or sippy cup.

Judging by the Internet, celebrity magazines and how-to books, the momshell movement is here to stay. Jessica Denay's "The Hot Mom to Be Handbook: Look and Feel Great from Bump to Baby" (which includes "celebrity hot mom contributors") was published last month. Janice Min's "From Mousewife to Momshell: The Rules and Celebrity Secrets for Being a Thinner, Younger and Sexier Mom" hits shelves in spring 2011.

The key to being a momshell, these books argue, is ditching the frump for the fabulous.

"Why can't a mom be hot?" said Michael Tamte, co-founder of Hot Mama, an Edina, Minn.-based chain of women's upscale clothing boutiques. "That myth is being broken."

Tamte is bringing his message to Madison: A Hot Mama store is scheduled to open Wednesday at Hilldale Shopping Center.

Though the retailer sells some maternity wear, 80 percent of its merchandise is for the chic post-partum set - mothers who don't intend to schlep around in sweatpants just because they have a tot (or two) in tow.

"We're serving a customer who wants to look fashionable but doesn't have a lot of time to follow the trends," said Tamte, 39, who launched Hot Mama in 2004 with his wife, Megan. "We've done that work for them."

And Hilldale, he said, is the right place to set up shop.

"We know good customers are shopping there - the customers we want to serve."

The average cost of a pair of jeans at Hot Mama is $170. Jersey tops, sweaters and dresses typically run $58 to $78.

Tamte said the Hot Mama ethos isn't just about fashion. The company's goal is to encourage mothers to make time for themselves outside of their kids.

"We want to help moms achieve a balance," he said. "We believe wholeheartedly that that is very good for the family."

It's good for business, too. Hot Mama earned $10 million in revenue last year and expects to double its profits by 2011. Its 2,200-square-foot Madison store will be the retailer's 15th location.

"We're very good at what we do," Tamte said, citing excellent customer service and a wide selection of merchandise as the secret to the company's success.

Lisa Jacome, a Madison mother of four, said she "will totally be there" when Hot Mama opens. Jacome, 36, owns Patty Cakes, a kiosk boutique inside Hilldale that sells "couture for kids" - frothy petticoats, flower-festooned bows and custom-monogrammed onesies.

One of her most popular designs is a onesie that says, "Don't you wish your mommy was hot like mine?" across the chest in metal rivets. When she has them in stock, the onesies sell out in two days.

A self-described "hot mom," Jacome shares the belief that when Mom is happy, everyone's happy.

"If you leave the house and you look fabulous, then you feel good," she said. "And, in turn, you're nicer to your kids, you're nicer to your husband. I think it all starts from that."

Jacome and other supporters of the hot mom movement believe the trend is empowering. Gone are the days when a woman must choose between maternity and sexuality.

Others say it's simply a sign of the times. Women are waiting longer to marry and have children, and therefore have more disposable income - and a more established sense of self - when they do. And some women don't want to relinquish their style just because they have kids, especially if part of their identity hinges on dressing fashionably.

"You're still in shape, you still want to look good," said Patti Opie, 50, a Madison makeup artist who has two grown children. "That goes with skin care, makeup, hair color and clothing. I don't dress like my mom did when she was 50."

But some local mothers question whether the hot mom trend puts economic and psychological pressure on women. Now they must be fit, well-heeled and desirable - all while juggling kids, a partner and a full-time job.

"You're expected to be this sort of octopus, where you're working, being a mother and also looking good and being sexy," said Megan Massino, 26, a Ph.D. student in English at the UW-Madison.

Massino, who has a 14-month-old son, acknowledges the positive elements of the momshell movement.

"Anything that leaves open avenues for mothers to freely have sexuality, identity and individuality outside stereotypes of motherhood is a good thing," she said.

But the trend gets tricky, she added, when society starts viewing "regular moms" as frumpy, mousy or inferior.

"It seems like we're trying to create a subculture where ‘hot moms' are better than other moms," she said. "It's not fair to mothers who want to wear sweatpants."

Massino and others also wonder whether the hot mom trend is about empowering women or peddling pricey products. After all, not all aspiring momshells can afford $170 jeans.

Ferrinne Spector, a psychology lecturer at UW-Madison, said socio-economic status plays "a huge role" in a woman's capacity to be a "hot mom."

"Pregnancy and babies - that's big, big business these days," said Spector, who is 30 and has an 11-month-old son. "There are a lot of upper-middle-class mothers who have the income to look really, really good. But I think it's specific to a certain stratum of society."

When Heidi Klum and other wealthy celebrities become exemplars of modern motherhood, she said, average moms often feel pressure to measure up.

"It'd be easy enough to get back into shape six weeks after giving birth if I had a personal chef and a trainer and a nanny," Spector said. "But I think it's unrealistic to expect the ‘normal' mom to have any of those things."

And while she said she believes a happy mom makes a happy family, Spector pointed out that not all women find solace in shopping. Some frazzled mothers, she said, take time for themselves by getting a massage, reading a book or having lunch with friends.

And ultimately, hotness is in the eye of the beholder.

Asked when she feels like a hot mom, Spector said that sometimes it's when she least expects it.

"My husband will say, ‘You know, you look really, really nice right now.' And when he says it and I haven't washed my hair and I have baby puke on my shoulder, I believe it. It feels like it must be true."

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