Sunday, October 14, 2012

Having a Moment: Polka Dots

As far as I'm concerned polka dots are always in style; they're just not always in fashion. We do seem to be having a polka dot moment. When Marc Jabobs and Donna Karan anoint them and (pun alert) they're spotted on catwalks, polka dots can morph from classic to trendy, again.

The history of polka dots is brief. Originating in England, they first appeared called as such in 1854. Methinks polka dots are a result of the Industrial Revolution. How else to adequately reproduce what Leonardo Da Vinci declared was the hardest object to draw— a perfect circle? Although named in honor of the dance, it's not likely polka dots refer to the swirling patterns of the dancers. The polka was the Macarena of its day, and many items were deemed polkalicious.
Dancing dots

Hollywood has always loved polka dots, from Clara Bow to Zazu Pitts. Perhaps costume designers appreciated the graphic spark polka dots added to black and white film.

A Gallery of Hollywood Polka Dots
Clara Bow
Zazu Pitts
Lauren Bacall
Myrna Loy
Shirley Temple
Marilyn Monroe
Minnie Mouse

Then there's the tale of Chili Williams, a WWII pinup favorite who became known as "The Polka Dot" girl after this photo in a bathing suit (stitched up by the photographer) ran in Life magazine in 1943. She had a brief film career during the war years and was not related to that other bathing beauty, Esther Williams.
The opposite of chilly...

I shudder to mention 1960's "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini", but it's probably playing in your head right about now. Ending on a high note, Frank Sinatra's first hit song with Tommy Dorsey in 1940 was "Polka Dots and Moonbeams".
Bow tie and matching lyrics


  1. I bought a polka dotted blouse recently and thought it's future was bleak, but it was of the time. Thanks for changing that. Now I will wear it next year too.

  2. Polka dots are eternal! Wear it in the best of health, as my grandmother used to say.

  3. Great looking. I love polka dots. For me they are perennially in style. Lovely pictures.

  4. Love the salute to the polka dot. I wear them in scarves that is about the extent of it but I love them and yes they never go out of style.