Polka dots and Moonbeams

1950’s vintage dressesToday, when almost everything is made in polka-dot pattern, it can get easy to feel a bit sick and tired of it from time to time. Although I must admit, it’s one of my favourite print and it reminds of the golden era of Hollywood, causing some kind of nostalgia. The fifties are probably your first association when it comes to the term polka-dot, and that’s completely legit. This decade celebrated dots pattern putting it on every piece of clothing and accessories that you could possibly imagine. But, the truth is, we don’t really know the exact origins of polka-dots, but what we do know is that this pattern is much older than we think.

There are a few interpretations when it comes to the origins of polka-dots. One of them is that European immigrants brought with them not only their recognizable polka dance and music but also a new fashion trend that became a huge hit in the United States. Certain fashion historians believe that polka dance was named after a word polka, meaning a Polish woman, and other that the name comes from Czech word pulka, which means half because a characteristic of this dance was fast half-steps. From 1840 till 1860 polka dance was extremely popular. People were enthusiastic and proud of their culture and many polka clubs were founded, followed by a certain type of dance costumes. That is how we got first dot pattern vest, and very soon gloves, hats, shoes and so on. At that time people began referring to the dots as polka-dots. In 1857, Philadelphia based women’s magazine, Godey’s Lady’s Book, was the first to use the term polka-dot in their printed edition, advising women to wear a muslin scarf, decorated with polka-dots, for the hot summer days.

There is another, a bit more fairy-tale like story, how this pattern became so popular. By the second half of the 20s era, Walt Disney decided to make a prettier half for the Mickey Mouse. Supposedly, Disney came up with a Minnie Mouse outfit after several hours of consulting with his staff, when pen fell down on the sketch and formed a dot, thus recognizable red and white polka dot skirt.

What is a certain fact is that during the 1930s, polka-dots were very popular. Especially smaller ones, made on the black, blue and red background, often worn by Eleanor Roosevelt. Of course, the 40s, 50s, and pin-up girls brought the biggest popularity of this pattern. One of the most famous photos, during the WWII, was Chili Williams, called The Polka-Dot Girl, wearing polka dot bikini. During the fifties, everything was covered in dots, coming in all sizes and colors. But the fashionable ones wore them in black, white and pink. It really didn’t matter are you rich or poor, Marilyn Monroe, Lucille Ball or a housewife, you couldn’t go wrong dressed in polka-dots from head to toe. At about the same time, the comic hero Daisy Mae celebrated her trademark polka-dot peasant blouse.

A decade later, pop art and designers like Mary Quant experimented with a brave mix of polka-dots, stripes and color blocking trend, blending green, orange, blue and pink. There was also a Batman villain who loved polka-dots, Polka-Dot Man, who made his first appearance in 1962, wearing a skin tight costume covered in colorful polka-dots. Funky seventies were a bit chaotic fashion era, most famous by a lot of reproductions. Designers used Peter Pan collar from the 50s, jumpsuits from 60s and mixed them with dots. During the eighties, polka-dots accessories became popular, thanks to the Madonna mostly. Generally, this pattern was considered to be a happy one and in charge to put a smile on people’s faces. Although people in 50s wore dots all the time, thanks to the economic progress that happened during the 80s, polka-dots were on the shelf in every single boutique.

In the following years, polka-dots were always, more or less, part of the fashion world, thanks to their possibility to easily adapt almost every fashion trend and to wake a certain feeling of nostalgia in us.

By Miss Psycho Cat

misspsychocat@britishretro.com

Miss Psycho Cat

By | 2017-09-18T19:05:15+00:00 September 15th, 2017|