What a joy it would be to walk around in a world where everyone dressed as if they were Anna Piaggi. It would be terribly disorienting, but great fun: A carnival and a costume party, all rolled into one.
Piaggi, an Italian Vogue editor who died at the age of 81 Tuesday, leaves behind a wardrobe of more than 2,000 dresses and a rich legacy as the most eccentric dresser of the fashion establishment. Her hair was blue, her hats were too big or too small, her neck was always elegantly draped in collars of neon-dyed fur, and her canes were colored to clash. Either nothing matched, or it matched too much. She dressed as though every outing in every outfit was performance art.
Piaggi’s style may not make sense to much of the world, but to photographers and designers, she was a muse of the highest order. Karl Lagerfeld sketched 10 years’ worth of Piaggi in her outfits in his journal. Milliner Stephen Jones considered her his muse, as did shoe designer Manolo Blahnik, and she regularly wore designs by both. She was an inspiration to New York Times street style photographer Bill Cunningham, and was featured in his documentary “Bill Cunningham New York.”
Cunningham photographed Piaggi throughout her career, but one of his finest tributes to her was not an image, but words: In 1994, he wrote, ”Fashion, which often parades as art, can genuinely be called an art form as seen on Ms. Piaggi. She creates her own special environment, and it's not meant to be imitated.”
So even though a world of Piaggi-alikes would be a marvel, it would be a poor tribute to a fashion icon who was truly one-of-a-kind. We’re not as brave as she is, anyway. Piaggi didn't just wear her imaginative get-ups to Fashion Week — she wore them everywhere. The office. The bank. And, as she told Paper Magazine, “Also for the supermarket. My life is quite normal. But I enjoy dressing all the time.”