The 1950s was the polka dot’s biggest decade. Everyone from movie stars to housewives dressed up in dots, and the polka dot pattern has been often associated with the 1950s ever since. Because the decade was an innocent, carefree, flourishing one in American history, the polka dot carries implications of innocence, happiness, simplicity, fun, childhood (with a bent towards girlishness). Coco Chanel favored dots in the 1920s and in 1928, Mickey Mouse’s female companion, Minnie, was born in the Walt Disney illustration studio dressed in a polka dot skirt, a trademark of the animated icon.
In Medieval Europe, due to the lack of machines clean regular dotted patterns were very hard to make. Uneven dots made people think of diseases for its visual comparison to the scattered and circular appearance of measles, boils and other infections such as small pox or leprosy so it wasn’t a good look.
During the19th century, the industrial revolution brings in machines. Dotted fabrics start to appear more frequently and are known generally by three different names like Dotted-Swiss or the French word quiconce, which described the diagonal pattern of the dots on the five-side of dice. The Germans used thalertupfen, for the large coin-sized dots on fabric (thaler being the currency used in German-speaking Europe until the late 1800s).
1830 Bohemia (current Czech republic), polka dancing becomes popular and eventually sweeps across Europe and the United States. It becomes so fashionable, marketers start adding “polka” (which means polish lady in Czech) to various items like the polka pudding (a boozy confection of orange-water-flavored cream, drizzled with sherry polka sauce), polka curtains, polka gauze, polka hats, shoes.
In 1951, Monroe was famously photographed wearing a polka dot bikini.
In 1857, The American Women’s magazine, a very popular magazine at the time, coined the term “polka dot” for the first time in a description of a dotted muslin scarf. Fashionable dotted patterns start to be referred to as polka dots and are associated to good-looking women (like Marilyn Monroe) making it a feminine pattern.
Movie stars in polka dots
In the 1940s and 50s Polka dots enter high-end fashion when Christian Dior released his “New Look” collection of hourglass dresses, many styles bedecked with dots. After a wartime period of shifting gender roles, Dior told Vogue that his collection sought “to make women extravagantly, romantically, eyelash-battingly female” again. Hollywood followed feminine suit, and the newly-ladylike print fast became popular with actresses: Elizabeth Taylor, Lucille Ball and Katherine Hepburn were some of the polka dot’s chief exponents.
Haute Couture Polka Dots
This polka dot dress was Dior’s best selling ‘New Look’ dress in 1954. Christian Dior Balmain, 1952 Jeanne Lanvin Balenciaga
Throughout the ‘60s, the artist–and walking medley of polka dots–Yayoi Kusama became known for the busy dotted swarms that covered her paintings. “Our earth is only one polka dot among millions of others,” she once said. Kusama also believed–before she checked herself into a mental hospital in 2006–that when painted with polka dots, the body became “part of the unity of the universe.”
Polka Dots in the ’60
In 1962, Marvel Comics unleashed its polka dot-clad superhero—Polka-Dot Man, who used the power of polka dots to defeat baddies. In 1965, Bob Dylan appeared on the cover of the EP for “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” in a striking green polka dot shirt. Much later, in an episode of Mad Men (in which nearly all the female characters have worn polka dots), Roger Sterling donned a spotted maroon silk scarf. In recent years, the print has become increasingly popular with men, with celebrities like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Lionel Messi, and Mickey Avalon embracing the trend, as well as the designer Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons, who has applied polka dots to brogues, shirts, tees and wallets among other men’s fashion items.
Polka Dots in today’s fashion
Comme Des Garçons Comme Des Garçons Dolce & Gabanna Saint Laurent Comme des Garçons Vivienne Westwood Comme Des Garçons
Polka Dots in make up
Info: http://thehairpin.com/2013/06/a-brief-history-of-polka-dots-2 , https://printapattern.wordpress.com/2014/08/06/the-history-of-polka-dots-in-bullet-form/, http://courseweb.stthomas.edu/mjodonnell/student/hartmann/decades.html .
Yayoi Kusama, artist–and walking medley of polka dots .