Although we often think of polka dotted clothing and accessories as being a very 50s or 20s thing, the polka dotted pattern originated as far back as the early 1800’s, and possibly earlier.
Where did the name”Polka Dot” come from?
It’s hard to find a clear answer, but research shows that the name Polka became associated with polka dots in a sort of happenstance way— as dotted fabrics became popular for clothing in the 19th century, there was also a massive explosion of popularity for Polka music and dancing. (perhaps partially because the dance featured actual physical contact between the two sexes) People began referring to the dots as polka dots at that time, maybe because everyone was wearing them and doing the polka quite a bit! The use of the term “Polka dot” has been recorded as early as 1873.
People attached the term “Polka” to things that didn’t have dots as well during the polka craze. Polka dots were just so popular though, that the name and style stuck, eventually becoming very popular again in the 20’s, and once more in the 50s.
Here’s a photo of Lucille Ball with her then husband Desi Arnaz in her iconic Polka Dot dress from I Love Lucy
What do you think of when you imagine “Polka dots”?
“Black or navy polka dots on a white background have come to be associated with spring and summer fashion.”
says Paula Darnell in her article “A Pictorial History of Polka Dot Clothing”
We might also think of the song “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini“. Polka dots have earned a beachy, fun, girlish vibe over the years and are a great fabric for all sorts of swimwear and accessories. Dotted swimwear has been popular since the 1800s when ladies wore swimsuits that were more like a dress, than the extremely scantily clad beach garments of today.