Who doesn’t love a polka dotted motif? The term “polka dot,” dating from 1880-85, is of American derivation, and of course it immediately conjures up a mental picture of a field of spots forming a pattern on a textile.
Here is what Christian Dior had to say about Dots in his Little Dictionary of Fashion, first published in 1954: “I would say the same about dots as about checks. They are lovely, elegant, easy, and always in fashion. I never get tired of dots… Dots are lovely for holiday clothes … and for accessories. According to their color, so they can be versatile… Black and white for elegance; soft pinks and blues for prettiness; emerald, scarlet, and yellow for gaiety; beige and gray for dignity.” (The Little Dictionary of Fashion, by Christian Dior; Abrams, New York, New York, 2007, page 34.)
“Lovely, elegant, easy and always in fashion.” That is quite an endorsement, and one with which I completely agree. I also have to agree with these quotes, the first one from Marc Jacobs: “There is never a wrong time for a polka dot,” and this one from the American actress, Anna Kendrick, “You can’t have a bad day in polka dots.”
While images of polka-dotted dresses, blouses, ensembles, and sportswear are in abundant supply from many sources, it’s always inspiring to look at a few select examples, many from the 1950s. The following two images were part of a feature in the February/March 1955 Vogue Pattern Book Magazine. Although pictured in black and white the first example is described as “Tiny white polka dots on red crepe. A soft day-long dress.”
The next image is titled Gigantic Dots: “Bold black dots on hot pink surah. A dramatic sheathed bodice dress.”
The June/July 1957 VPB Magazine featured “the most romantic dress of the season – a pouf of black-and-white silk polka dots.”
Less than a year later, in the April/May 1958 VPB Magazine, an entire feature was on Polka Dots and Patent Leather: “Exciting goings-on in polka dots: fresh new arrangements – at their most polished in black and white silk surah, spruced with gleaming black patent leather.”
Below is the dress of this description: “Dots blown up to impressive sizes – a look for relaxed but festive evenings.”
And here is the image for “Classic polka dots – square cut blouse [with] reverse-dot cummerbund:”
One of my favorite outfits from the show Mad Men was this white linen dress with a built-in silk polka dot sash. The two-color sash makes this dress a standout:
This famous – and stunning – 1958 dress and coat ensemble by Arnold Scaasi, an American couturier, was featured prominently in the retrospective of his work at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, September 25, 2010 – June 19, 2011:
And finally, this is a Carolina Herrera ad which I plucked out of some magazine a while ago. The ad is for the handbag, but the polka-dotted dress, with its bright red sash steals the show:
So why all my focus on polka dots? They have been much on my mind lately, as I have finally begun the many-step process of making a couture dress, using this vibrant silk, purchased seven or eight years ago:
Now my hope is that one cannot have a bad sewing day when working with polka dots.