Polka dots have become synonymous with femininity since their renaissance in the 1950s, but the history of polka dots is a complicated one, intertwined with ethnic prints, Eastern European dancing, and women’s emancipation.
While pin-ups brought dotted bikinis or waist-cinching silhouettes to the fore in the 1950s, the origin of the polka dot print is much more difficult to pinpoint.
In medieval Europe, where brocades and jacquards were the fabrics of choice of the rich and noble families, polka dot prints were pretty much unheard of. The actual look of the dot was associated with negative things like diseases, as well as bad omens on a superstitious level. The robes and bandages stained from leprosy and other diseases like bubonic plague created round-looking splodges.
On the flip side, in non-Western cultures, circles and dots were considered good omens, from representing the Sun on the Japanese flag to simple batik prints in the Far East and also colorful fabrics typical of Central African dress with prints inspired by nature.
As fashion became more of a tool of self-expression, reserved to the very rich, of course, and the innovation in terms of fabrics and patterns took hold, also thanks to the merchant ties with the Far East, printed fabrics became increasingly more popular. Thus we begin to see polka dots emerging in their own right in the mid 19th Century. Fabric manufacturing countries like France and even Germany began to make their own polka-dotted prints called quiconce or Thalertupfen.
The rise of the polka dot as patterned clothing initially spread with the lower classes, who were looking for more “interesting” colors and patterns but could not afford the silks of the upper classes. In 1865, we saw an early photograph of a woman holding a broom and wearing polka dots matched with stripes. It was in this period where the polka dot pattern really took flight, and its name originates from the Eastern European dance called the polka, though the reasons behind this association are varied and mostly discredited.
Polka dots continue to edge their way into fashion, enjoying a real boom in the roaring 20s and 30s, with Miss America Norma Smallwood conquering the crown in 1929 sporting a fetching polka dot print one-piece swimsuit. In the 30s, the print really began contaminating fashion outright, with black or blue dots in the white background becoming a must-have for the summer months.
While polka dots fronted the magazine covers of the day, even Minnie Mouse, who made her first screen appearance in 1928, soon adopted the pattern.
With polka dots becoming more commonplace, especially in swimwear, the iconic Marilyn Monroe sported the number in plenty of photoshoots and was possibly the inspiration for the 1960 song “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini,” which made it to #1 on the Billboard charts.
Throughout the Fifties and Sixties, polka dots gain more of a momentum and earn their rightful place in a formal fashion, with Audrey Hepburn wearing pink ones in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Christian Dior emblazoning Maison’s couture creations with said dots.
While the folk element often attributed to the polka dot clad dancing flamenco senoritas of the Iberian Peninsula stuck, the pattern becomes a mainstay in Mary Quant’s swinging sixties designs and later in the flower power Seventies.
The pattern continues to invade the runways, streets, and films (remember Julia Robert’s chic polka dot ensemble at the polo match in Pretty Woman?) throughout the 80s and 90s, from accessories to full-on total looks.
Princesses like Diana chose polka dots for important photo ops like presenting her firstborn son to the Kingdom (a look which Duchess Kate will replicate in the same situation 30 years later). And celebrities are seen walking the red carpet in all sorts of different incarnations of the polka dot.
All the while, the extreme femininity, and playfulness of the print are not lost, and designers like Dolce&Gabbana have made it a staple in their collections, remanding to 1950s American pin-ups and Sicilian mothers of old and Spanish senoritas.
On one last note, the popularity of the polka dot print may also lay in its intrinsic sensual, playful, and ultimately feminine connotations. The centuries where polka dots became established as a viable printed fabric were also the same where women began to gain a much yearned for independence. Perhaps the popularity of the polka dot lies in its folk and feminine beginnings, removed from the male-dominated scenario of micro prints textiles used in tailoring. Women embraced the polka dot as punctuation for their time in the limelight.
What’s your favorite Polka dots and Carnation temptation?
Let yourself be conquered by the tempting call of polka dots and floral motifs, two themes of the Dolce&Gabbana; Spring-Summer collection, and destined to become your favorite.
Polka dots and carnation motif accessories will be your best allies in conquering the biggest trends this Spring Summer. As one of the main themes of the Spring Summer Collection, inspired by the Spanish influences in Sicily, they are both versatile and extremely glamorous. Let’s fall into temptation with their irresistible call and get ready to show them off on mini bags, flat shoes, bracelets, heels, wallets, and iPhone covers. So, what are you still waiting for? Choose your favorite one, and never leave home without them.
Trend Alert: 5 reasons to go crazy about Polka Dots!
From catwalk to the red carpet, polka dots are one of the strongest trends for Spring Summer. Blufashion illustrates 5 reasons why polka dots are the new stripes and your must-have print for Spring-Summer.
As one of the strongest motifs in the brand’s 30-year history, polka dots have been interpreted by Dolce&Gabbana in a wide variety of ways. Notwithstanding the Spanish influence of the season, from sequins to embroidered tulle until the combination with flowers in the latest Dolce&Gabbana Spring Summer Collection, polka dots are one of the strongest trends for the coming season. It’s not just us saying this; there is plenty of evidence from the red carpet to fashion editorials that attest to the great return of the polka dot.
Still not sure? Blufashion has 5 good reasons why polka dots will be your print of choice next spring-summer.
1. Keira’s on It
One of the most stars with the most envied, imitated, and unobtainable red carpet style of recent years hasn’t let the polka dot trend pass by her without giving it a whirl. Keira Knightley was one of the first polka dot ambassador at the Toronto Film Festival when the look was hot off the Milanese runway.
2. Polka Dot covered cover girls
Polka dots are, of course, already covering our favorite fashion magazines, worn by some of our favorite cover stars. The uber funny Anna Kendrick (one of the main characters in the most anticipated movie for Christmas Into The Woods) wears a sparkling polka dots sequin dress on the cover of December Marie Claire Issue, perfect for a cover or for a holiday party – you choose.
3. It Girl Friendly
It girls clearly are all about polka dots too. Gigi Hadid and her friend Kendall Jenner, models, fashionistas, social media stars, and so on, have no qualms wearing polka dots in their latest editorials.
In one W Magazine, where Gigi discusses her style must-dos and don’ts, while Kendall is on Vogue US shot by Patrick Demarchelier. It seems like polka dots have been approved by everyone, really.
4. Fashion’s Darlings
Polka dots have been baptized as the must-haves by the biggest fashion editors out there, the people that are really in the know. Whether lace or sequins, polka dots are all over the pages of our favorite glossy magazines from Vogue UK to Vogue Netherlands, passing by Marie Claire UK and Wonderland Uk.
And who are we to argue with them?
5. Polka Dots and carnations
But what if you don’t like polka dots, but you like more visual prints? Well, Dolce&Gabbana mixed them with passionately red carnations to create a unique print, which stood out from the Spring-Summer catwalk and will stand out anywhere you choose to wear it. Hailee Steinfeld hints that this is a great combination for red carpets…
Oh, and as a bonus! You can wear the combination of polka dots and carnations as accessories, too.
Like Mother Like Daughter: Polka dots moments
Versatile and glamorous, polka dots are the go-to choice for facing Spring in style. As one the strongest motifs of the Dolce&Gabbana collection, the print suit both mothers and daughters, and what could be cuter than matching ladies in the family?
No doubt, this Spring polka dots will be the passkey for daily glamour or special getups. From sequins to lace, passing by embroidered tulle, they are so versatile and glamorous you cannot resist the temptation of polka dots, one of the strongest themes of the latest Spring Summer Collection. Elegant and demure, with a strong Spanish inspiration on grown women, and well, polka dots look infinitely cute on little girls too. Go on, can’t resist the urge to match? We’ve done it for you.
Glamorous ways to wear polka dots
From sequins to embroidered tulle, polka dots are one of the strongest motifs of the latest Dolce&Gabbana collection. Let us show you some ways to wear polka dots.
Whether you are going to the office or to a cocktail party, polka dots are always a good choice to face your special and daily occasions in the most glamorous way as one of the strongest motifs and trends both of the latest Spring-Summer collection and the brand’s 30-year history; polka dots are versatile and extremely glamorous, that missing piece in your fashionable wardrobe. From lace to embroidered tulle, here are several up-to-the-minute ways to wear polka dots!
Iskra Banović is our seasoned Editor-in-Chief at BlueFashion. She has been steering the website's content and editorial direction since 2013. With a rich background in fashion design, Iskra's expertise spans across fashion, interior design, beauty, lifestyle, travel, and culture.