Polka Dots, always in Fashion

19 Apr


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.

Coco Chanel

coco chanel

coco chanel

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).
 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

sophia loren polka dot shirt
Sophia Loren
Katharine Hepburn
 Katharine Hepburn
Katharine Hepburn
Katharine Hepburn
elisabeth Taylor
Elisabeth Taylor
Brigitte Bardot
Brigitte Bardot
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

The polka dot dress below was Dior’s best selling  ‘New Look’ dress in 1954.This polka dot dress was Dior’s best selling ‘New Look’ dress in 1954. chritian diorChristian Dior 9405b77b52d15b24a073d5c87a4b6624Balmain, 1952 jeanne lanvinJeanne Lanvin Balenciaga Model is wearing a Creation Haute Couture of Balenciaga,in 1964.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

Madeleine Smith in polka-dot minidress by BibBiba 1960's 2

jean shrimptonJean Shrimpton   polka dots 1960's

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

6e5ca94be11183997fd3ab4a8f6bfaa8Comme Des Garçons Comme Des garconsComme Des Garçons 70-Dolce-Gabbana-Spring-2014Dolce & Gabanna _38-saint-laurent fall 2015Saint Laurent Comme des Garçons Comme des Garçons Spring 2015 Ready-to-Wear - Collection…Comme des Garçons Vivienne Westwood 2012Vivienne Westwood Comme Des GarçonsComme Des Garçons


Polka Dots in make up


polka dots in make up


green-yellow-eye-makeup-black-polka-dots   . .


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 .


Whitney Museum Yayoi Kusama!Yayoi Kusama, artist–and walking medley of polka dots .

One Response to “Polka Dots, always in Fashion”


  1. Seeing Spots With Polka Dots – Retired and Smiling - 1 April 2019

    […] and hit the height of its popularity in the 1950’s.  You can read more history here. https://agnautacouture.com/2015/04/19/polka-dots-always-in-fashion.  […]

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