I never could have imagined myself as an older woman. My style can be eccentric: I have a penchant for Victorian collars, wear two nose rings, and prefer clashing patterns over anything that matches. Occasionally, when I see an older woman in a tongue-in-cheek sequined sweater or with an unnatural hair color, I experience a flash of recognition. But for the most part, from what I've seen, there’s a cultural dearth of older women whose sense of style skews offbeat.
And then I laid my eyes on Moira Rose.
Played by the inimitable Catherine O’Hara (Home Alone), Moira is the iconic matriarch and former daytime soap star on Schitt’s Creek, the delightful sleeper Canadian sitcom. The show is about a wealthy family that loses everything and has to survive in a podunk town its patriarch, Johnny Rose (Eugene Levy), once bought as a joke. And while Schitt’s Creek has been on the air since 2015, Moira is only just now collecting her accolades for being a costume-bejeweled beacon for shamelessly over-the-top-dressing women everywhere.
She’s a tour de force of avant-garde fashion, a tornado stomping through the titular dusty town in towering Givenchy heels and black and white Alexander McQueen dresses, turning words like “baby” and “pettifogging” into a phenomenon as beguiling as her wardrobe. Her potpourri of wigs (which have names) are a reliable running joke, both on the show and among fans. She dresses designer, but transcends trend. The other characters accept this about her nearly without question, and by season three, no one blinks when she attends a town council meeting in a massive cossack hat and spiky, avian-influenced sweater.
Before I made my way onto the Schitt’s Creek bandwagon, more than one person compared me to Moira. Knowing little about her besides her status as a noteworthy matriarch, I assumed it was a compliment. But when I watched the pilot episode, where she shows up to the breakfast table wearing a high-necked, cat’s cradle-esque sweater, and oversized sunglasses, I knew it was much more than that—Moira was me when I grow up.
As a child I paired overalls with frilly shirts and cowboy boots and demanded a pixie cut despite most definitely not having the face for it. Around fourth grade my orthodontist prescribed nighttime headgear, so I wore it to school one day, just because I could. As I got older, I exclusively shopped at thrift stores for their smorgasbord of 60s dresses, 80s jackets, and clip-on earrings. This was also a practical choice—unlike the fictional Rose family, neither I nor my family have ever had McQueen money, so I built an uncommon wardrobe on a veritable commoner’s budget.
What especially resonates about Moira, though, is that she’s inextricable from her wardrobe. For me, the clothes I wear each day epitomize who I am, just as much as what I think or say. This is true of Moira, too: Her wigs are the most extra and obvious of accessories, but they’re no less seamlessly integrated into her presentation. She’s always been ready for the red carpets of her old show business days (long before her “Crows Have Eyes” comeback) in Emilio Pucci dresses and Daphne Guinness-inspired jewelry. Moira’s clothes are a manifestation of her identity, one she’s refused to leave behind in her current fish-out-of-water existence. In Schitt’s Creek, they’re the only reminder of the well-heeled life she once lived—so why not keep wearing the heels?
With her flamboyant wardrobe and demeanor, Moira is a big, biker-gloved fuck you to all the archaic paradigms of how women should dress and behave after a certain age. This says something about O’Hara as well—Moira is as much a concept of O’Hara’s as that of show creators Dan and Eugene Levy and costume designer Debra Hanson. As she told TV Insider, when she was initially developing Moira, O’Hara decided, “I want this woman to look different.” She recently told BuzzFeed News, “I instantly feel like Moira when I put on these clothes.”
I know I’m not alone in my appreciation of a bold wig, chain mail capelet, or high collar (especially those adorned with faux fur). I’m also not the only non-famous, stylist-free younger woman whose clothing choices feel far more like necessities. And while I may never adopt Moira Rose’s pajama vests, I can rest assured knowing I, and others like me, have a future in structured jackets with sky-high shoulders — or as one motel guest describes it on the show, “scary-looking attire.”
Moira is proof we don’t have to let ourselves be shamed into unremarkable uniforms “suited to our age.” She’s the rare, fashionable older woman in culture who rejects the narrative that she shouldn’t exist. She reassures us that, yes, we’re damn well allowed to keep dressing fabulous, for now and forever; to fearlessly make our presence known with a blue or pink wig and a couture (consigned) feathered top hat.
Or, as she would say: “You can’t let others define you — LOOK AT ME. Never let the bastards get you down.”