“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’sHarper’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?