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Jill Kargman is a modern-day polymath. She’s a humorist, writer, style soothsayer, and legit actress. We are bigtime / longtime fans of Jill and when the opportunity arose to meet her in NY and interview her about her Particulars, we jumped at the chance. Sitting down with her in her smashing NY home we got down to brass tacks and received a great dose of her irreverent humor and truly got a sense of what makes her singular style tick.
MELISSA: You have a really incredible, distinct style. How did you dress as a kid / college gal and how did that influence or segue to your style today?
JILL: I guess I do. It’s funny, I feel like it’s evolved only in that it’s gotten darker and creepier, but I still love romance. So sometimes people are surprised that I love hearts and bows because I love skulls so much, but I think what I’m really drawn to is romance and violence intertwined. So leather and lace, sugar and spice, everything nice, but what to me the beauty is in the contrast. And if someone was full Adam’s family without any of the ribbons, I feel like it’s too extreme. And to me the beauty lies in the oscillation between the two sides.
MELISSA: I know that you often (maybe only??) wear dresses and skirts, how do you pull that off in NY winters?
JILL: I don’t own pants.
MELISSA: You don’t own pants? Okay.
JILL: I don’t own one pair of jeans.
MELISSA: WOW! Amazing.
JILL: Like this leg has not gone through a leg hole in 30 years. I just dress basically like a Hasidic person gone wrong. I wear skirts and dresses every day. And in fact I shop in a couple Hasidic stores, but then I put a harness over it. So it’s like not the subjugation part and the wigs and the having nine children, but I definitely feel like less is more with less skin, not less clothing.
MELISSA: How do you deal with the weather, do you just wear an extra set of tights?
JILL: I wear these satin tights every day, see they don’t run. They’re warmer actually than pants too for me at least. And then I wear— don’t wear mini skirts—I’m 45 and I have two teenage daughters, that’s sort of their domain now and I don’t believe in that whole twinning thing, trying to dress like your kid. So there’s a lot of that shit around here. It’s fucking terrifying. So I kind of have gone longer, not because of them, I just feel like it works for me and I don’t judge, if you have it flaunt it. I don’t give a shit what other people wear, it’s just not for me. I feel like with my body, it’s not that I’m not comfortable in my body, I just feel most comfortable covered up.
MELISSA: Well, you look fabulous. Do you always keep it monochromatic? Do you wear color?
JILL: I feel like I mostly wear black and white because I’m so pale that I look really like a dead body in color. I don’t think I look my best in color, but sometimes I go with a red dress or a red top. I refuse to say the phrase “pop of color,” but I guess that’s what it is. I fucking hate “pop of color.” I was watching the Oscars and I think they said it 27 times on the red carpet. I wanted to machine gun them all.
MELISSA: You have a lot of piercings. I love a good piercing. How many do you have and when did you get them?
JILL: No, I actually did them with my kids because I have an almost 17 and 14-year old girls and then a 12- year old boy who doesn’t want piercings. I would’ve been totally fine if he wanted a piercing but I think he might be my only child that gets a tattoo. My daughters never want tattoos, which I think is so great because it’s like their rebellion against my rebellion and so they never want tattoos. They think they’re for moms.
MELISSA: That is amazing.
JILL: So to answer your question and then we’ll go into tattoos…each of them vary, I’ve had these for a very long time and then about five years ago, I felt like I had my midlife crisis at 34. I’ve always been very precocious and that’s when I really started getting tattoos and wanting to do just body modifications because I felt like my body was spinning out of control. I had cancer at 34. I had stage three melanoma so I have a foot and a half long scar (points to top of leg up to stomach). Well, it’s really a foot long but then I have another scar. They did take the lymph nodes out of my vag and I really felt like, it’s funny because I already had my tattoos by the time Girls was on, but in the pilot of Girls, Lena Dunham’s in bed with someone and they say something like, “Why do you have all these?” And she says, “I felt like my body was changing and I wanted to take power back.” That was sort of like my reaction too. I felt like I actually had one tattoo before I was diagnosed and I got 11 more, but I feel like it was because suddenly my body didn’t feel like my own. Then the next 10 years that would continue to evolve into a double mastectomy. I had two lumps in my left boob.
JILL: And my grandmother… I’m turning 46 in July…my grandmother died at that age, so I just was feeling mortality and I wanted to kind of just decorate myself. So I had these piercings forever, but I got my tragus pierced in kind of one of those weird moments. None of my tattoos were spontaneous except for New York across my back. I have the New York Times logo across my back without the “Times,” just New York, in the actual size. And that one, I had been fantasizing about but I didn’t know where and then I was like, “I’m just going to do this.”
JILL: But yeah, the tragus piercings took a long time to recover, so when people ask me about it, I love it. But I did them both sides at once so I couldn’t even sleep on the other side. When people ask me about it because they like how it looks, I say really think it through. And my daughter got her cartilage up here and that I think that took a while to heal too. I have no interest in that, it really hurts. I also feel like a lot of people are getting them now so tragus is still a little weird but up here (points to top of ear) I feel like everybody has it.
So leather and lace, sugar and spice, everything nice, but to me the beauty is in the contrast.
MELISSA: What’s your favorite jewelry design era and why? What do you lean towards?
JILL: My taste has changed. I used to love Edwardian jewelry and I just thought, I love filigree and I found it really romantic. Then I had a phase where I liked kind of chunkier things. But now I do really like that contrast where it’s lacy but rhodium so black, like black rhodium is really my favorite metal. And most of my jewelry I think is black rhodium. I even wanted to dip my engagement ring and my husband said, “No, leave it, leave it pure.” But I just love rhodium and I feel maybe I like it so much is because I’m so ass pale, but I like the contrast.
MELISSA: Who are your favorite jewelry designers?
JILL: Eva Fehren is my number one. She’s a really close friend and I love Jennifer Fisher. I have a Gothic key black diamond and she’s a friend too. And then Lynn Ban as well who did these lace rings. These are actually called The Lace Rings.
MELISSA: And clothing?
JILL: I just feel like clothing has gotten really expensive and I just find it almost unconscionable some of the prices I see and I always feel like, “Gosh, if I can’t afford this, like who exactly is buying this?”. I really can’t afford it. And I also find it so pretentious when salespeople call it a piece. I don’t call a dress a piece, I think of jewelry is more of a piece and so they’re the same price. So I bought all three of these for like way less than you would buy a designer dress. I wear my clothes a lot. I never wear anything once. Like I was rip shit that my daughters wouldn’t re-wear their Bat Mitzvah dresses again. I felt like what a waste, it’s not your fucking wedding. So I don’t buy anything like that. I only have one dress that I wore once and I have to, I’m trying to find something to wear it again because it just feels wrong, I want to amortize it.
MELISSA: Because you have two daughters and you obviously love fashion, do they take your clothing? Do they want to borrow your jewelry?
JILL: They don’t take clothing because they think I dress older and because it’s long. They like a shorter term. They borrow my shoes. Sadie has my same size feet and her foot fit in my shoes. I knew I was kind of fucked. So I usually let her borrow. It’s just kids don’t treat them with the same care. And especially still if I have a McQueen stiletto, I don’t want it all fucked up after a night on the town. Also, kids have nothing to look forward to. I feel like my parents— my dad worked at Chanel for 25 years—he never let me wear Chanel. I never borrowed my mom’s stuff. She wouldn’t even let me borrow a Chanel bag when all my friends had Chanel bags because they were like little spoiled.
JILL: I was never allowed to have a Chanel bag and I thought it was annoying at the time, but now I look back and it’s like, “Why the hell should I!”. I wasn’t working and earning that money so it just feels spoiled when kids have access to stuff, even if it’s borrowed. I went to pick up my daughter at some party and all the kids were walking around, this is my 13-year old, in their mom’s Louboutin’s with the red bottoms. I just thought, hey, it just looks spoiled. They’re not wearing the shoes, the shoes are wearing them.
MELISSA: Do your kids have dibs on anything that they want later in life?
JILL: We did talk about it because we talk about death all the time. It would sound weird to another family but hopefully it won’t be anytime soon.
MELISSA: You obviously live on the upper East side, but you’re not the cliché upper East Sider, are there any trends coming out of here? Good, bad, or in-between?
JILL: It’s not so much a trend, but those cashmere capes with a ruffle around it. They’re just so asexual. Lilly Pulitzer, I don’t understand how that doesn’t wilt a boner, but I know a mom who has seven kids who wears those all the time, so I guess it works. Yeah, I just don’t know. To me, I wore all those smock dresses as a little girl and I think they’re really charming and cute. I just don’t understand grown-ups wearing them, but I don’t know. I have a couple, I had a Miu Miu smock dress that was cute, but it wasn’t little girl cute. It wasn’t me trying to be something else. But those are two.
And the other one, as I mentioned, just this fastidiousness in general. It manifests in fashion in your home, but just like people not serving red wine because you might spill it and take off your shoes. Like this is not Osaka and I’m all for cleanliness, but I just feel like people are so uptight. If I go to a party and I have to take my shoes off and they won’t serve red wine, I don’t feel relaxed. I don’t feel like it’s like a fun, sexy party and I just don’t get entertaining that way. I’ve had to take off my shoes at a number of parties and I just find it really weird. Just don’t have a party.
My daughters never want tattoos, which I think is so great because it's like their rebellion against my rebellion and so they never want tattoos. They think they're for moms.
MELISSA: What are your everyday particulars in jewelry and /or clothing?
JILL: My engagement ring and wedding ring. It’s now 19 years old. We’ve been together 20 years. I know it’s a big year. I feel like we met in 2000! Also, my tragus piercings. The lightning bolt studs are Maria Tash, I never take them off, and obviously my tattoos I can’t take off, but that’s really it. I enjoy swapping shit out even my little piercings. I switch those out every couple of days because I like to. I get sick of seeing the same shit and it feels fresh for a second. I’m bad at it with handbags. I get lazy. I have awesome bags and I need to remind myself to rotate. There was some invention I saw while I was on the elliptical, an insert that fits inside your bag to hold all your shit and then you put it into another bag.
MELISSA: Do you have a lot of pouches that go in your purses?
JILL: I have a pouch upstairs, that says Fuck Trump! I throw all my stuff in it when I am traveling. Funny story, I was in Idaho skiing
last year and this restaurant (Enoteca) didn’t take reservations, you would think you were in Soho not Sun Valley. I showed up and the woman said “It’s about an hour and a half wait.” I was like, “All right, we’ll put out name down and get a drink.” Then she saw my Fuck Trump pouch and this is in blood red Idaho. She was like, “Actually, I saw your bag and I don’t get to see a lot of those here, so I’ve got a spot for you.”
JILL: She gave us a table because of my fuck Trump pouch. It was kind of a great moment. I saw it as a personal victory because my kids told me to stop walking around with that. We do have a thing in our family “pointy finger,” which means credit. So I had all of them giving me pointy finger!
MELISSA: Speaking of vacations, anywhere on the horizon that you’re going with your family and what kind of accessories do you take on vacation?
JILL: So my parents live in Palm Springs for the winter and we go every spring break and I hate the desert. I hate the sun. We are in LA on either end, so I enjoy that because I like restaurants and it feels a little like edgier, grittier and more fun. But I do love like the gay scene in Palm Springs and some of the restaurants. I do not leave the house without a giant hat and I look like a crazy person, but I sunburn so easily. It’s just not worth it. I don’t think sun block works, at least not on me. I think it’s kind of a myth. It might work for other people, but for me it doesn’t work. The only thing that works is being indoors. I’m really more of an indoors person, so California is tricky for me. I will have giant sunglasses on and a giant hat the entire fucking time.
MELISSA: Any hats that you love, like brands that you love?
JILL: You know what, I would see the $400 hats at Barneys and now I’m like, “Oh, I guess it makes sense that they went out of business, but I don’t spend that on hats. I buy just like something big and shiny.
MELISSA: What’s on the horizon for you? Anything you’re working on?
JILL: Yes. I’m working on a book that’s based on an article that I just wrote about middle age, so I’m excited about that. It’s kind of like a funny collection of essays. Then I’m working on a new TV show, so waiting, I’m always in limbo. It’s like you write, you write, and then you’re waiting for verdicts. But I’ve gone through this development cycle a couple of times, so I’m sort of used to it, so it’s good I have the book too. Keep me busy and distract me and all that shit.
MELISSA: Ok, show me your particulars?
JILL: I am a huge Game of Thrones fan. So my friend, stole this three eyed raven from an HBO Premiere party. To me that’s love, true friendship.
Then there was a brief window when the new Barneys CEO (may Barneys rest in peace) got fired after 10 days. Barneys wanted to trick out all of the Goyard shit with all these symbols you could put on the bag. I went to Barneys and I was going to order a J.K. because you can tell that I like monograms. While I was there, they had received a book with all that you can engrave on the bag. The sales guy comes back with it and I say, “Oh my god. You can get a skull”? So, I ordered it. A month goes by, no bag. I call, I stop by there because I live really close by and they’re like, we have to talk to you. Goyard caught wind of the skull bag and did not want to honor the order. It literally went to the top of Barneys.
MELISSA: Are you the only person with this bag?
JILL: There are three in the world. So one in Tokyo and two in New York. And so Barneys was like, you’re going to fucking stand by this order. Barneys told Goyard, you shouldn’t have sent us this if you are not going to actually do it. Then we (Barneys) look like assholes. So they’re like, ok we will do it and there are only three in the world. The CEO got fired. I have had people offer me $10,000 for the bag with my initials and asking “where can I get it”?