Here’s what it was like to work with Christina Kelly at Sassy. In the March 1993 issue of Spin, she was called “The only teen journalist who matters” in a story written by my boyfriend at the time, and I didn’t even get mad at him. One couldn’t really argue. Sassy was changing the culture, and Christina—in her omnipresent leopard-print coat—was the soul of the magazine. And nobody took the fuss over the magazine more lightly than her, so it was hard to build up any real resentment.
Plus, Christina was, and remains, a whole lot of fun (aside from the year she spend terrorizing me, but more on that later). She lives (and writes her own peerless blog, Fallen Princess) in Montclair New Jersey, so our relationship these days mostly consists of Facebook chats. Lately, she popped into my head because I was thinking about women whose style has at once evolved and stayed true to its core essence. Christina’s always had a retroish, feminine look, but as it’s grown softer and more sophisticated over the years. The leopard print coat, however, has remained a constant.
Kim: How are things in Montclair this afternoon, Christina?
Christina: Fair. I am feeling a bit anxious because Violet sprained her ankle and is hopping around on one foot.
What did you do to her?
Ha. She slipped on a piece of paper at school on Friday.
That’s awful. How old is Violet now? She’s been kind of a fashion plate right out of the gate, right?
She is nine, and takes a keen interest in her outfits. She also places pressure on me to up my game, And as you can tell from my profile picture, I ignore her.
I think you enjoy that you look like a 12 year-old summer camper in your profile picture. Every time I see you you look entirely pulled together.
Thanks Kim. Since we only see each other every three years, I can make that happen for you.
Hahaha. OK. Let’s talk about your leopard print coat.
I got it from my grandmother, who got it from her dry cleaner when no one picked it up. It was after 1983 but before 1987. It has a lovely box pleat in the back. I have had it relined numerous
times. I have always had it in rotation. It is sort of roomy so I could even wear it in the early stages of my pregnancy with Dale. I actually haven’t worn it much this year because I got a new coat from In God We Trust. And also, I think there is going to be a point when I can no longer ironically wear an old lady’s old coat.
That’s funny. What I like about your relationship to that coat is that while lots of stylish women—and again, I am lumping you into this category, whether I send you there kicking and screaming or not—have owned certain pieces for decades, nobody I know has kept any one item in such constant rotation. Or, there are women who everyone says, oh she always looks great in blazers and white button-downs; that’s her thing. Or she’s never without an armful or bracelets. Or even: she loves leopard print coats. But your thing is THAT leopard coat.
That’s true. I never saw a leopard coat I liked better than mine, but also, I’m cheap, and since I have a perfectly good leopard coat, I am not going to buy another one. Also, I get in ruts. Andrea [Linett; late of Sassy and Lucky] used to say I always had an Excitement Outfit, the outfit I wore when I wanted to go out and fuck shit up. When we lived together I had a huge black tent I wore with leggings. Andrea called it the Excitement Tent. I have no idea why I persisted in wearing it. I don’t think I got laid once in that thing.
I was actually thinking about the excitement outfit recently. Andrea and I used to talk about excitement pieces all the time when we were launching the magazine. Excitement outfits are crucial even after we stop going out and fucking shit up.
I am wearing my current excitement outfit as we speak. It is a sweatshirt dress from Madewell. It was $54 on sale, with free shipping!
Plus, we all wore tents all of the time. We wore babydoll tents with leggings and Doc Martens and the fashion department tried to make tents and jeans a thing, remember?
They were replaced in short order by their converse, baby tees
A trend that had its mercifully brief moment in the sun. Can we discuss these pictures? I can’t not start with the cheesecake photo on the checked floor.
When I was at Footwear News there was an aspiring photographer in the promo department who took a shine to photographing me The checked floor was in my tiny kitchen on Sullivan Street. I am not naked, although I guess it looks like I am.
Moving on: Your super-short hair and big tiger-print hoop earrings. Please set the scene.
That was my asymmetrical bob. I had that for a while around 84-85. My hairdresser was named Wess Berlyn. He died, which was sad. I styled it with Tenax and a blow dryer. I was also into drawing in my eyebrows and darkening a freckle above my lip to look like a Marilyn Monroe-esque beauty mark. The sleeveless black turtleneck was a go-to look. I tried to dress in mostly black and white, and have everything in my apartment be black and white. I am clearly at some sort of party there, probably work related because the photo was professional.
I love that beauty mark detail! So how do you feel about the fact that Sassynostalgia has reached such an astonishing pitch in the last couple of years?
I don’t mind it. It doesn’t seem to result in any professional opportunities for me, which let’s be honest, is my main concern.
Ha. So much of it revolves around you, though.
I think maybe I try to ignore that.
It makes me feel weird. Like a has-been. And also outed. I am trying to be a boring middle class housewife here. Let’s talk more about how cute I was,
I know what you mean about the has-been-ness. I still get so much more response from women in their 30s about having been there than I do as a result of having launched and run a magazine for ten years.
Well it will be hard to top the cultural relevance of your most important invention ever, Kim France Pants. But this is getting depressing. I prefer to focus on my immense cuteness.
You were insanely cute back in the day, and tent dress or not, I recall you getting laid fairly routinely. And you look super-foxy now.
How about telling me how you make the leopard coat work out there in Montclair?
I make it work for me in Montclair by wearing it. There are quirky gals out here too. I like using the word gal ironically. Even Violet does it now.
All right then, dear. Anything to add? Should take this time to dispel any factual inaccuracies out there in Sassy lore?
That I made you cry every day for a year? Except it is sort of true. Sorry about that.
I would say that the more accurate statement would be that you made me cry intermittently for a year. But then we were just two gals in love.
ha ha ha. love that.
OH! Also! Remember the Dear Boy with J. Mascis, where I said to ask him if he liked girls with big butts? There was an item about how I had just left for Elle and that you added that question as payback because you were mad I left.
But you really wanted to know! And he gave a good answer. Plus we came up with those questions before you left. I also wasn’t mad you left. I never got mad at people for leaving any magazines I worked for.
I totally wanted to know. And his answer was awesome. It was like: I don’t even understand why this is a question.
Ok. I’m going to let you go. I know kids are going to descend upon your home soon.
I also have a French test that I don’t feel like studying for.
So cosmopolitan! Thanks for your time. I’d say see you soon, but I know it’ll be a year at best.
Come to Montclair!
The next day, Christina followed up:
I must mention the label inside the coat, which says it is “Genuine Cheetar.” Every time they reline the coat, I make them move the label over.
Also, when Violet was three I bought her a leopard coat at K-Mart. We would walk around town like twins. It fit her for a couple of years because it had a generous cut. She is saving it in the attic for her daughter. I have also taught Violet: only one leopard item at a time. You can’t wear the leopard scarf, cardigan and coat at one time. Sometimes I have found myself wearing the coat, and then it starts to rain, and I realize that the umbrella in my bag is the leopard one. Then I just feel like an idiot.