Didn't know a butterfly could go back into the cocoon and come out with a sexy new set of wings? Mariah Carey
is hoping for just that as she launches her critically well-received comeback album The Emancipation of Mimi
. If the title is teasingly revealing, her fashion vibe is going the opposite direction. Not exactly covered up—"I don't care if knee-length skirts and low heels are in, I don't like them"—but definitely more subdued than the old days. Remember the Mariah who worked out on a stair machine in high heels during an episode of MTV Cribs
? Though that was a joke for the cameras, she says, "When I had my Butterfly
moment everyone was in shock, like, 'Why is she in a bikini?' I was overcompensating, overtly presenting a sensual-type thing. It was out of insecurity" Now Mariah at 36 is secure enough to let all that (or most of it) go. She likes "clean, timeless looks," says her stylist June Ambrose. "We leave more up to the imagination." In: Louis Vuitton ensembles. Out: Pleated schoolgirl skirts. At home in her Tribeca loft—where she has one closet for clothes, one for shoes and one for lingerie—Carey's fine with a tank and boxer shorts, "but if it's going to be a moment about clothes, you might as well make it special." (Hence the 37 pieces of luggage she took on a recent 20-day tour in Europe and Asia.) She chatted with People's Rebecca Paley about her style evolution.