By definition the Polka Dot means ‘one of many round spots that form a pattern on cloth’. (1)
The Polka Dot has been around for a lot longer than you may think. The polka dot started its life with negative connotations of the plague until the 19th century when the polka dot dance appeared and took the world by storm. The dance craze started a revolution of excitement that lead to polka dots being used in all sorts of fashion and homeware items. The polka dot as a fabric pattern wasn’t made possible until the mid-19thcentury when machines were able to produce evenly spaced dots; such stirring designs for the time. Since then the polka dot has never really lost its momentum. It has become a staple piece in most people’s wardrobes.
The term polka dot was first used, in reference to a fashion accessory, in women's lifestyle magazine Godey's Lady's Book in its 1857 issue. Describing a "Scarf of muslin, for light summer wear, surrounded by a scalloped edge, embroidered in rows of round polka dots." (2)
Since its creation the fashion world has embraced the little dots throughout the decades. From high street brands to luxury fashion houses. Celebrities like Marylin Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor have famously worn the print. The iconic Disney character, Minnie Mouse was first seen in the 1920’s wearing the red and white dottie print.
Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe in polka dots
Fashion designers such as Christian Dior, Carolina Herrara, and Kate Spade, are just some of the few distinguished designers who’ve incorporated the spotted motif to their work. Christian Dior used polka dots in his iconic New Look collection, which became his best-selling New Look piece in 1954.
Christina Dior Catwalk and Givenchy Catalogue Image
Carolina Herrera used polka dots on most of her dresses during the late 1980s and early 1990s and it remains a key print in her collections.
To this day the polka dot remains a classic.
Thandie Newton, Nicky Hilton Rothschild and Jaime King in polka dots
Polka dots featured in art, reflecting the subjects clothing. ‘In Monet’s Luncheon on the Grass (1865–6), a glamorous lady is pictured donning a delicate, frilled white dress speckled with small blue polka dots, and in Frédéric Bazille’s Family Reunion (1867), both young girls in the family portrait wear white frocks with blue dots and ribbons. The subjects of Berthe Morisot’s The Sisters (1869) are dressed in identical white polka dot ensembles — in this decade, it was custom to wear polka dots in white and blue.’ (3)
Also in art the pointillism movement was popular, which means to paint with tiny dots. (4) Although the movement didn’t gain much respect in the art community, some great painters have been Pointillists; Maximilien Luce, Camille Pisarro, Van Gogh, Roy Lichtenstein and Chuck Close have all experimented with this technique.
More recently the work of Yayoi Kasama, a famous Japanese artist, has been propelled into the spotlight for her use of dots in her work and for the great meaning they hold in her life. (5)
AT JESSIE AND JAMES
For us, we love the playful nature of polka dots. They are easy to work with and create endless possibilities. They can be sporty and fun or glamourous and sophisticated. We have used them over the years in many of our collection. Each time they offer a different look and bring life to our designs.
In the words of Marc Jacobs “There is never a wrong time for a polka dot."
For more in-depth history of the Polka dot, check out https://www.fashionologiahistoriana.com/costume-history-legends-essays-in-english/polka-dot-pattern-in-history-of-fashion