Go Way Back: Polka Dots

Ok, did you know that the polka dot has its roots in the Central European dance?! US EITHER. (Yah, now it seems pretty obvious—we know.) Get more on its spotty (heh) history below. —bea koch

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The Origin: Polkamania hits the world in the mid-19th century. As the folk music and dance craze spreads from Europe to America, so does the popularity of the dotted pattern that covers the dancers’ dresses. And they’re not just dotting the dancefloor, either—check out this Frédéric Bazille painting from 1867, “Family Reunion.”

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The Evolution: A certain sweetness factor means polka dots are often relegated to the realm of swimwear and pajamas. Here’s Miss America 1926, Norma Smallwood, rocking a spotty maillot.

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In 1928, Disney introduces the most fashionable rodent the world’s ever seen: Minerva Mouse. Originally dressed in blue, Minnie gets a makeover in 1931, and it really sticks..

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The U.S. government harnesses the power of the polka dot when it creates the way-iconic Rosie the Riveter campaign to encourage women to join the workforce during WWII. And, hey, that scarf is both fashionable and practical: It keeps hair away from industrial machinery in the factories.

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When Christian Dior introduces his New Look in 1947, he’s all about popularizing a fresh silhouette. But he also succeeds in dressing up the polka dot, which he uses frequently in his designs, like the dress from 1954.

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One, two, three, four! Tell the people what she wore! It’s 1960, and it’s alllll about Bryan Handy’s song “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.”

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In 1962, DC Comics introduces Polka-Dot Man, whose spots can morph into weapons—and even a getaway vehicle!

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Basically everything Julia Roberts puts on in Pretty Woman is memorable. But legendary costume designer Marilyn Vance’s fave item? This dress (with a coordinating hat, natch) that Vivian wears to the polo match.

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Gwen is everything in that polka dot dress from the 1996 music video for “Don’t Speak.” Seriously, check it over here.

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The Right Now: It seems like polka dots are everywhere these days, but we’re giving top props to Dolce & Gabbana for their SS2013 menswear collection. As usual, those guys take a go-big-or-go-home approach.

What’s the deal with gingham and leopard print? Get the scoop here.

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Of a Kind

Vreeland Mini Dress by Nikki Chasin for Of a Kind 

BUY / 100 of a kind / $109

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So, those little dots are embroidered into the straw of this Kayu clutch. I know—cuteness to the power of a billion. —erica

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Gold polka dots and an orange zipper—and yet Folk still manages to keep things crazy-simple. —erica

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Whoa, whoa, whoa—Saturdays Surf *shoes*? With polka-dot lining, no less? —erica

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If you’ve ever questioned just how sophisticated polka dots can be, really, A Détacher is here to demonstrate. —erica

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Made in Bangladesh with hand-carved coconut buttons, this silk Bhalo shift is not what you expect in a polka-dot dress, making it even more spot-on. (Heh.) —erica

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Next Level: Polka Dots

Our stripe love is hardly waning, but right now, it’s all about the dots. The trick is finding pieces that are more fun—goofy, even—than girly, and these four are spot-on (heh). —erica

LEVEL I: Little white dots on a chambray shirt dress from Pim + Larkin…doesn’t get any easier than that, does it?

LEVEL II: The print on this Acne skirt might be loud, but the colors and the cut are as straight-forward as they come.

LEVEL III: Camel and silk? Talk about classy. Nice one, Robert Rodriguez.

LEVEL IV: Yes, whoa. The platforms on these Loeffler Randall guys are big enough for the polka dots to really shine. Feel. Ing. It. 

There’s more “Next Level!” You have to see it to believe it…

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Are we meant to feel happy or sad for the tan dot on this Hansel from Basel tote? Because I’m really torn. —erica

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