Age shaming is a hot topic these days, mostly affecting women. There’s age discrimination in the workplace, in the arts and onstage. Collette McLafferty, author of Confessions of a Bad Ugly Singer, documented this experience succinctly, having spent every year since her 25th birthday being told she was too old to make it big in music.
One of the most insulting ways age discrimination manifests is through fashion. There are tons of videos on “what not to wear” when you’ve hit a certain milestone, like your 30th or 40th birthday. This Oprah magazine video, in which stylist Adam Glassman — #Adamsays — tries to convince a 48-year-old mom to swap her cute miniskirt for a pretty-but-boring turquoise sheath dress, encapsulates this attitude. You might look great and feel great in a miniskirt, but don’t you dare put one on unless you’re “a cougar” trying to attract young men.
But in an era when 40-year-old Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine can tear off his shirt during the Super Bowl and flaunt his perfect abs, I call BS on this double standard — and (probably) so does my rockmommy friend Rew, who was told on TLC’s “Love, Lust or Run” to drop her signature goth-dress-and-chunky-boot look for a more streamlined, body-hugging green dress that was supposedly more age appropriate.
And instead, I’d like to draw attention to the bold and badass Liz Phair, who recently told The Washington Post, “They’ll bury me in a miniskirt.” She was 51 at the time of the interview.
Seeing Liz Phair perform is inspiring. Exile in Guyville is one of the greatest records I’ve ever owned, and it pretty much captured all of my angsty, lusty, complicated emotions. I spent hours singing along to the CD in my car (as well as all follow-ups, including whitechocolatespaceegg and the self-titled Liz Phair). I’ve only seen Liz twice, but she commands her set like a pro. And she also does it while looking fantastic in a miniskirt! If she enjoys wearing one, why shouldn’t she? Why should some fashion “guru” create the rules of what we can and can’t wear?
Because Liz is a mom, she probably gets twice as much backlash. But again, motherhood should not dictate how a woman dresses, except that a mom should feel as comfortable and supported as possible when rearing young children. Motherhood does not mean a woman should stop wearing bikinis, miniskirts or whatever else makes her happy.
So I’d like to raise a glass (of coffee) to Liz Phair, my idol in music and in fashion, an inspiring rocker and rock mama. Keep strutting your stuff, girl. Redefine what it means to be a fifty-something gal. All of us thirty- and forty-somethings are looking up to you.
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.