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Madonna Doesn't Dress Her Age. Why Should You?

Vivia Chen

November 6, 2013

©KittyKowalski__Flickr"Mom, that is so inappropriate. You can't wear that to the office. That's for clubbing."

It's not like I was wearing a belly button ring. Or a peek-a-boo shirt. Or a micro mini. I had on a gray metallic skirt—about three or four inches above my knee—with opaque tights and a black turtleneck. A bit youthful, perhaps, but certainly nothing scandalous. To hear my teenage daughter talk, though, you'd think I was wearing something outrageous.

You know you've hit a certain age when your children start censoring your appearance. But as I get older, my attitude about "suitable" attire gets increasingly liberal. I don't believe women have to dress their age because I no longer know what's age-appropriate. And, frankly, if you can wear something young, sexy and hip without people breaking out in hysterics, why shouldn't you?

So I have loads of sympathy for the grief that Madonna, 55, keeps getting for the provocative outfits she sports. She's on the cover of this month's Harper's Bazaar, where she wears (or not wear) her usual dominatrix-inspired get-up. One photo shows her in her signature black fishnet stockings—this time topped with a bra and corset-thong in black shiny leather.

Most middle-aged women I know are absolutely thrilled that Madonna can carry it off. They say Madonna is empowering and that all women should rally behind her example.

But many younger women don't seem to share that sentiment. It seems that the youngsters would rather wrap the Material Girl up in some kind of Laura Ashley smock and pack her off to the Little House on the Prairie. 

Remember the grief she got when she wore another black fishnet ensemble (with garter belts that rose to her underpants) at the Billboard Music Awards earlier this year? One woman tweeted: "Madonna you are my mothers age. Needless to say i don't want to see either of you in fishnet tights," reports The Wall Street Journal. The article also notes: "Madonna continues to push boundaries and buttons. And once again, people are asking if she's gone too far."

Gone too far? Well, why shouldn't she? First of all, it's her job to go far as possible. Plus, she looks damn good: She's fit and strong, with not a flab in sight. You 20-somethings out there should look so good!

Don't worry. I'm not telling middle-aged women who work in the corporate sector to don a leather corset (unless, of course, it gives you a little thrill to wear one under your demure wool suit). I'm just asking: What's wrong with pushing the envelope on the age thing when it comes to our appearance?

What do you think? Do middle-aged female professionals have to dress conservatively to be taken seriously? Or have we evolved to the point where it's fine for a 40-plus woman to go a little wild?


E-mail  Vivia Chen: vchen@alm.com     Follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/lawcareerist



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Madonna doesn't look great but rather she looks like she is trying too hard to recapture her youth. Law is a profession in which one wants to be taken seriously and have their advice respected. If you also look like you are trying to recapture your 20s in your 40s or 50s, you won't get that respect. By the way, law is a profession that values age and experience over youth and a hot bod.

Too sexy for work? I wish I was thinking about that more. My main goal right now is to get out of the house without the kid's breakfast on my suit.

Madonna is an entertainer. If she wants to market herself as a sex object, exhibitionist (as well as singer and entertainer), that is not particularly noticeable. Defer to your readers re: whether they want a professional colleague to present themselves/essentailly market themselves as a sex object/exhibitionist in the office.

One word:

Coldplay video "The Hardest Part."

Not talking theatrical stagewear but clothing for real women. It would be easier if there were hard and fast rules. Some things it's easy-- knee socks and tiny floral prints look awful on women over the age of 25. Fact is that every woman is different. As a Madonna contemporary, I scrutinize and revisit every outfit I put on-- to avoid frump as well as age inappropriateness. There are women my age who are in awful shape and were never well dressed when they were younger--never mind now. I work out and am told I look great in a mini skirt and intend to wear one as long as I am fit enough and I still look good in one. What is one difference is that I didn't need to be so self conscious about my clothing choices when I was younger. If you aren't athletic and willing to put the time in to the updating and self evaluation, I think that erring on the side of conservatism is probably called for.

If she didn't have such a smokin' hot body, I'd tell her to cover up. Given her profession as an entertainer, I consider it entirely INappropriate to tell her to dress "appropriately" (whatever that means.)

Anyone who thinks she's "competing with younger women" misses the mark - she has a truck-load of money, power over her life, a pretty face, and a perky, tight butt - she's won already!!!

I am the same age as Madonna. I agree with the sentiments your article attributed to younger women--I think she needs to dress more age appropriately. She just can't compete with younger women by wearing this stuff. What she could do that would be empowering is to dress in a sexy way that is age appropriate. No one wants her to wear Laura Ashley, but neither do we want black leather corsets as outerwear. How about fishnets with a mini-skirt? She would look great and sexy and age appropriate.

I don't do it bc ive become a slob, but once youve proven yourself i think y can actually pull off a little more. A young woman who is already distracting the men with her youth and beauty, and hasn't proven herself - she is going to feel more limits on her wardrobe, i think. You want to be taken seriously. But once people come to you gor your skills- it's easier to let loose with ur wardrobe bc it's not as distracting.

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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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