Fashion editor Anna Piaggi was an old-school fashion eccentric. The longtime Vogue Italia contributor, who died on Tuesday in Milan aged 81, wore a wardrobe that was exceedingly varied — she claimed in interviews to never wear an outfit publicly more than once — but nonetheless had some common touchstones. Piaggi was particularly given to opera glasses, capes, canes, undersized hats (the better to show off her finger-waved blue hair), and elaborate shoes. If clothes are, as James Laver wrote, "the furniture of the mind made visible," then Anna Piaggi's mind was a riot of contrasting prints and textures, Stephen Jones headpieces, and corporate uniform items. Here are some of her best outfits.
To the opening of the 2006 Victoria & Albert Museum show dedicated to her wardrobe, Piaggi wore a Stephen Jones Union Jack hat and a flag as a cape. She poses at left with Vivienne Westwood, whose designs she often wore.
Here's a video of a similar hat being made, courtesy of the museum.
The milliner Jones placed a paper hat on one of the show mannequins at the exhibition press preview. Piaggi, of course, had completely changed clothes.
Piaggi was a frequent subject of street-style photographer Bill Cunningham. These photos, all from Cunningham's layouts, date from the 1980s and were originally published in Details magazine. Today, VFILES published a selection of scans.
She loved opera glasses.
In 1998, Piaggi told Paper magazine, "Mentally, I feel like an immigrant in the 19th century who still thinks of America as a very adventurous place. I think it's possible to find fantastic things, like the McDonald's apron." She also liked lab coats such as the ones worn by dressmakers at Chanel. That's her with a younger Karl Lagerfeld on the right.
These photos are all via Paper .
What's interesting about Piaggi is that she was interested less in dressing to convey status or prestige than she was in dressing as a kind of performance. Modern-day street style stars, like Vogue Japan fashion director Anna Dello Russo, may seem unusual. But Dello Russo's form of eccentricity is merely the wearing of head-to-toe in-season runway looks out of context on the street. Piaggi mixed hundred-year-old Paul Poiret and 1920s Chanel and 1970s Ossie Clark and 1980s Jean-Charles de Castelbajac and things from two seasons ago that no other fashion editor would consider wearing. And things that had no brand name at all — mountaineering jackets sourced from sporting goods stores and sweatshirts from touristy boutiques. Piaggi dressed thematically, and, as explained in a 2004 Observer profile , she dressed to give those around her pleasure, selecting outfits with references that she thinks might appeal to entertain them.
There's traditionally a lot of latitude for older women to dress after a dramatic fashion — just check out the ladies on the blog Advanced Style , most of whom fall near the "eccentric" end of the spectrum — but Anna Piaggi was an original unto herself. RIP.