Do you remember the butterfly sequin tops of the ‘80s? I don’t, but that’s because I consciously gave up paying attention to fashion in January of 1977. They were big among the disco crowd, which meant they spread elsewhere as time went by. And now they are coming back due to the rage for all things retro. The look was a mixture of the ethnic styles of the ’60s with the sparkle of the ‘70s and the experimental shapes of the ‘80s.
Some of the most beautiful butterfly sequin tops were produced by Swee Lo International. Malaysian-born New York City fashion designer and couturier Madame Swee Lo first made a name for herself in the 1960s designing hoity-toity looks for Mrs. Howell on “Gilligan’s Island.” In her boutiques in New York City and Palm Beach, Florida, she specialized in delicate fabrics from India and China, “exotic” accessories, and of course, sequined evening gowns. In 1981, she officially incorporated her clothing company, selling her designs in upscale boutiques and high-end department stores like Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, and Bonwit Teller. Her butterfly tops often employed stunning color gradients in the sequin patterns and could run you $180, big money in 1980s dollars.
But you don’t have to pay that much now, because original butterfly tops are being sold on eBay and Etsy. Read their history and see plenty of pictures at Collectors Weekly.