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The Butterfly Effect, the butterfly Y2K trend in fashion history

From Schiaparelli to Mugler's iconic butterfly-dress in a wing flap

The Butterfly Effect, the butterfly Y2K trend in fashion history From Schiaparelli to Mugler's iconic butterfly-dress in a wing flap

The revival of the 2000s that depopulated on social networks under the hashtags #00sfashion, #y2kstyle, did not only revive the low rise trousers, the glittery make-up and the teenage coolness that characterized all the television characters of those years, but also an overlooked trend: the hashtag #butterfly has garnered 2.9 billion views on TikTok alone. It's hard not to stumble upon your feed in a Chopova Lowena choker or a post by Dua Lipa, Bella Hadid or Kylie Jenner with hair clips, crochet knits, or butterfly filters. Pop trends are, also in this case, the synthesis of something already in the air for some time: from the first appearances to today, what lies behind the rise in fashion iconography of one of the most fickle creatures in the natural world?

The credit goes largely to Nicola Brognano, who made the butterfly of the founder Anna Molinari the symbol of the relaunch of Blumarine: "The butterfly is becoming a kind of new Blumarine logo", creative director Brognano previously told Vogue, "Versace has the Medusa, we have the butterfly". Chanel also brought the print to the catwalk, while the butterfly top by Emanuel Ungaro worn by Mariah Carey for VH1's Divas in 2000 has become a kind of urban legend, sold out everywhere on vintage retail and the protagonist of do-it-yourself tutorials in different styles.

The insect, a symbol of resurrection and metamorphosis in the common imagination, made its debut on the catwalks in the 1920s during the surrealist period. The intent of the movement was to make the familiar new in the form of a new dreamlike reality, it is therefore not surprising that Elsa Schiaparelli, a close friend of Salvador Dalì and Man Ray, was the first true spokeperson of the papillons in fashion with the summer 1937 collection, in which she presented a colorful butterfly print that would later return on her tuxedo statement and years later in the pink shock reinterpretation by Bertrand Guyon for the haute Couture FW18. Thierry Mugler often added a touch of Kafkaesque metamorphosis to his approach to Haute Couture: Irina Shayk recently chose the iconic butterfly dress from the 1997 Les Insectes collection, already worn at the time by Jerry Hall and Beyoncé and quoted by Nicola Formichetti and Sébastien Peigné in FW 12. Dua Lipa, on the other hand, like Margot Robbie in 2017 with a lepidopteran printed dress, participated in the Grammys of 2021 in a sparkling vintage Versace butterfly dress, an ode to the jeweled dress in chainmail from SS 1999 worn by both Naomi Campbell and Christina Aguilera.

Alexander McQueen's catwalks were strewn with butterflies, as for the SS 2008 La Dame Bleue fashion show, while Jean-Paul Gaultier for Haute Couture 14 showed outfits under the banner of the most disparate versions of the flamboyant-winged moth, creating the iconic butterfly dress in shades of blue worn by Dita Von Teese. Jeremy Scott for Moschino, who had already experienced the trend with Zendaya for the 2017 premiere of The Greatest Showman, for SS 2019 transformed Gigi Hadid into a bride with a white silk cocoon-shaped dress with a train of butterflies. Brightly colored creatures also took over on the big screen when Carrie Bradshaw wore an oversized Kenneth Jay Lane butterfly in Sex and the City episode Frenemies, alongside Tyra Banks, Gwen Stefani, Lizzie McGuire and temporary tattoos of glitter butterflies on Salma Hayek at the MTV Awards, revived by Billy Porter at the 2020 Critics' Choice Awards.

From the first gaudy lepidopteran prints in Paris in the 1920s to the international catwalks, the trend seems to have undergone the homonymous butterfly effect over the years: since the first butterfly patterned tuxedos, this particular animal print has become a constant on the catwalks of every generation, synonymous with romanticism, innocence, metamorphosis and, according to the opinion of trend setters, of good taste.