In the past year, designers and creators have been hard at work digging through the Y2K fashion archives to bring back trends like low-rise jeans, belly chains, and heeled thong sandals. Judging by the spring ‘22 runways, the butterfly print is the latest nostalgia-inducing trend to take flight.
Like many early ‘00s style staples, butterflies were modeled by the era’s biggest pop culture stars. In 1999, Christina Aguilera accepted her first Grammy Award in a Versace flapper-style dress with a butterfly embellishment. A year later, Butterfly singer Mariah Carey famously donned an Emmanuel Ungaro butterfly-shaped top to the “VH1 Divas 2000: A Tribute To Diana Ross” special. (Years before, Cher donned a butterfly-themed look, complete with a matching headpiece and bandeau top, to the 1974 Grammy Awards.) At local malls, teenagers fed on the butterfly craze through stores like Limited Too and Claire’s, with accessories like butterfly hair clips, body jewelry, and fake tattoos all trending.
Thanks to today's celebs like Dua Lipa and Olivia Rodrigo, the trend has been making its comeback for the past year. The “Levitating” singer has worn a series of butterfly-themed outfits, including an homage to Cher’s 1974 look. More recently, Dua Lipa wore a Masha Popova butterfly one-shoulder top, as well as a Blumarine butterfly top. Meanwhile, Rodrigo has sported a series of butterfly-themed looks, including hair clips in her "Brutal" video and a vintage butterfly sequined top on Instagram.
But it isn’t just celebrities giving the trend wings. In March, Blumarine — a beloved aughts brand known for its midriff-baring tops and skimpy slip dresses a la Paris Hilton — used the insect motif in its fall 2021 collection. The runway show included butterfly-adorned tops and belts, as well as micro-mini skirts that looked pulled from the archives of a Y2K pop star. The label's spring 2022 collection took the trend even further, featuring butterfly necklaces, belts, and a denim top that resembled Carey’s iconic look.
While Blumarine’s collections are a direct reference to looks popularized in the '00s, other designers opted to make the trend appropriate for women who are not willing to go back to their hair clip era. Take, for example, Zero + Maria Cornejo’s spring 2022 collection that included subtle butterfly-shaped embellishments on navy and beige dresses, tops, and skirts that could be worn anywhere from the office to Friday night dinner. Meanwhile, Badgley Mischka unveiled graphic, colorful butterfly prints on ruffled dresses that made the print cocktail party-appropriate, rather than juvenile. Alberta Ferretti also took to butterflies for spring 2022, with monarch-printed high-low tops and pants that made the once-youthful trend look all grown-up and, even, elegant.
While the obsession with all things ‘00s fashion may be startling to those who grew up in the era — see: the return of the two-inch zipper — the butterfly trend is showing that metamorphosis is possible when it comes to the trend of our youth. We’re not bound to the childish hair accessories or club-ready tops anymore. Instead, fashion is incorporating butterflies in subtle, minimal ways, including prints and abstract embellishments, that make the trend look sophisticated. One might consider donning a white butterfly-printed dress with minimal accessories to a cocktail party or a butterfly-embellished denim skirt with a T-shirt to run some errands on the weekend. All to say: There’s no reason to leave behind the trend that once served us so much joy.
At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.