Polka Dot Fever – 1850s to 1950s

Here at Lady JoJo’s we unreservedly love polka dots so when we saw it all over this season’s catwalks and in so many high-street shops we got a little bit excited.  Remember when leopard print was all over the shops?  Well, I still have a wardrobe full of clothing bought that season so when such fabulous fads are back in fashion it means one thing – it’s time to bulk buy!  I want to have a little look at where these ubiquitous dots have come from and how you can wear them today.

Polka dot fabric did not really exist prior to the mid-19th century as machine’s were required to create the even spaced dots – otherwise it looked blotchy and unattractive. A combination of the advent of the industrial age, meaning that this fabric could now be mechanically produced, and a dance craze at the time, ‘The Polka’, established this pattern as fashionable.  The Polka was a dance that started in Europe and quickly spread over to the States.  The link between the dance and the pattern is difficult to establish however it is generally believed that dresses with this pattern were commonly worn when dancing The Polka and the link between the two became cemented.

Here a couple of mid-19th century images sporting polka dots.

Polka dots remained relatively fashionable throughout the remainder of the 19th century but received a new peak in popularity in 1928 with the introduction of Minnie Mouse by Walt Disney.  Polka dots were used everywhere from fashion to household objects and became so popular that in 1936 a designer actually tried to copyright the pattern – she obviously failed.

In the 1920s Polka Dots were particularly popular on swimwear.

1926 Miss America Norma Smallwood

1928 Vogue – Lanvin Swimsuit

The 1930s saw polka dots entering into high fashion and starting to be used more seriosuly by designers.

American Actress Myrna Loy in 1933 film ‘When Ladies Meet’

1936 Travis Banton Couture Dress Made for French-born Hollywood Actress Claudette Colbert’s Private Wardrobe

As we all know 1940s fashion was simple and conservative during the war and any fabrics or patterns which were considered luxuries and not necessities were very rare.  Polka Dots were not as prominent during this period but here is a lovely snap of a young Elizabeth Taylor sporting the look.

Elizabeth Taylor 1944

Polka Dots absolutely boomed in popularity in the 1950s and you could find such a an array of objects in the now familiar polka dot print – clothes, dinnerware, accessories, curtains, toys, pop art, etc.  Again, polka dots were particularly fashionable for swimwear.

Marilyn Monroe circa. 1951

Polka Dots were back at the forefront of high fashion in the 1950s and here is a selection of some of my favourite deisnger dresses from this decade including examples from the three dominant influences on post-war haute couture fashion: Christian Dior, Pierre Balmain and Jacques Fath.

French Designer Jacques Griffe 1951

French Designer Pierre Balmain 1952

French Designer Jacques Fath 1954

Christian Dior Couture Collection 1954

Evening Gown by French Designer Mme Gres 1955

The ever popular polka dot continued in popularity throughout each subsequent decade however I have decided to stop before I have to delve too much into the 1960s and the novelty song, ‘Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini’.

In my next blog, I intend to continue with my polka dot love by exploring how how the pattern has returned in this season’s designer collections.

About Lady JoJo's Boutique

A vintage-inspired boutique in the heart of Edinburgh's Old Town with Online Shop. Visit us at http://www.ladyjojosboutique.com
This entry was posted in Christian Dior, Fashion, Jacques Fath, Jacques Griffe, Lanvin, Marilyn Monroe, Mme Gres, Pierre Balmain, Polka Dot, Swimsuit, Travis banton, Uncategorized, Vintage, Vintage Fashion and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Polka Dot Fever – 1850s to 1950s

  1. Hello Jo Jo,
    I put a link to your Polka Dot Fever on my blog at http://littlecabincreations.blogspot.com/2013/07/polka-dots-pachyderms.html If it’s no okay, just let me know & I will remove it. It’s a great post & fit so well with my little elephant Dottie!

  2. prachi says:

    where is the next blog which, intend to continue with polka dot by exploring how how the pattern has returned in this season’s designer collections!?

  3. Pingback: The History of Polka Dots in Bullet Form | The Printapattern Blog

  4. With havin soo much content and articles do you ever run into any problems
    of plagorism orr copyright violation? My blog hhas a lot of unique content I’ve either authored
    mysel or outsourced but it looks like a lot of it is popping it up all over
    the web without my agreement. Do you know any ways to help stop content from
    being stolen? I’d definitely appreciate it.

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