Polka Dots | Vintage vs. Highstreet
Fashion has gone mad for polka dots! Featured on the runway for SS20 – spots, polka dots and other round looking splodges are everywhere. But what is it about them that makes us go dottie for spotties!?
Taking it way back (and after a good snoop on google) it is true that the history of the polka dots has been a long time in the making. The meaning behind dotted fabric patterns has evolved as time has gone by. Medieval Europe times suggest that dots on clothing were seen as a symbol of the bubonic plague. Not exactly wardrobe goals.
As for fashion, the first time that the term “polka dot” appeared was in a women’s lifestyle magazine in 1857 called “Godey’s Lady’s Book.” This magazine gave reference to a scarf with the following description “scarf of muslin, for light summer wear, surrounded by a scalloped edge, embroidered in rows of round polka dots (townandcountrymag.com)
A dance and a pattern!
The term “polka dot” derives loosely from the Bohemian folk dance of the same name (“Polka”, in the Czech language, means “Polish woman” or “little woman”—tradition has it the dance was named when some Bohemian travellers came upon a young Polish girl performing the dance).
In the mid-1800’s, Eastern European immigrants to the United States embraced the polka craze, even forming polka clubs with identifying uniforms for the dancers. Some historians believe these uniforms, often featuring fitted jackets with a dotted pattern, may have inspired the term. However, the Oxford English Dictionary notes that the dance’s popularity caused the name to be affixed to all sorts of products, such as – polka-gauze, polka-hat, polka-dot, even polka ham!
Minnie Mouse – a style icon!
Back in the 1920s, the polka dot came into the spotlight when Miss America was photographed in a polka dot bikini circa 1926. However, the first famous champion of the polka dot was, of course, Disney’s Minnie Mouse in 1928.
Her staple red and white dress with matching bow is covered in polka dots. This would be featured on many little girls dress up boxes for years to come. My own little girl is obsessed with Minnie Mouse and loves wearing polka dots as a result.
Other famous occurrences of the polka dot feature Marylin Monroe in 1951 who was famously photographed in a polka dot bikini. Of course nine years later when Brian Hyland’s hit ‘Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini’ topped the charts, this meant that polka dots were not going anywhere.
Do you remember “that dress” from Zara last summer? Polka dots. The £40 phenomenon that literally everyone everywhere was wearing. It even has its own Instagram account. Wear it at a summer BBQ, running errands, christenings or even paired with tights and boots. The white polka dot dream made waves. Personally, I will be keeping my eyes peeled for this year’s offering from Zara. Surely it will contain polka dots!
As seen in Paris, this year polka dots show no signs of slowing down. Naturally, this means that shops on the high street start to produce affordable copies of the trends from the runway. Fun, vibrant and stand out. It ticks all the boxes for me. In my wardrobe, I have a few vintage pieces as well as a few high street pieces too.
Vintage vs highstreet – polka dots win in both categories. Apologies for the only photo I have but I am wearing this 1960s polka dot dress at my Godson’s christening. The fit, cut and pattern is one of my favourites.
High Street Bargains
I recently purchased this shirt with black and white polka dots on from Primark. A bargain at £6! Size down if you are thinking of getting one. The cut is a little generous and oversized. Perhaps that is how you wear them these days, but I prefer a more tailored fit. Pairing it with my dungarees from Collectif, and a red beret. This outfit is one that I am still thinking about.
When I was thinking of writing this blog post, I wanted to show you that it is possible to wear high street and vintage together. Where possible, I will always try and mix vintage pieces into my outfit. Okay, so the dungaree are collectif which is vintage reproduction. However, the beret, belt and brooch are all vintage. Mixing the old with the new is my favourite.
Vintage or high street, polka dots are an investment! Spring Summer 2020 will see a wash of this print in the shops and online. However, I just know that you will have something polka dot hanging in your wardrobe. This is not a new trend, just an old one re-invented.
2020 sees it in puff sleeves or on smock dresses. You may own a 50s fit and flare style or even a 60s shift dress. Patterns, colours, cut and fit are easy ways of staying true to your own style whilst still lending a nod to viral trends. As this trend is staying put, anything you purchase or pull out of storage that has pretty little polka dots on it will surely be ooo-ed and aaah-ed this summer.