Polka dots and spots were immensely popular in fashion from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950's. Let's take a look at how sophisticated and sexy polka dot clothes can really be!

Spotlight on Spots | Vintage Fashion Inspiration

From Dalmatian spots to polka dots, no one can argue that fashion went totally dotty from the 1930’s to the 1960’s. Balmain, Dior and Schiaparelli made spots a glamorous choice for well dressed women.

At some point, mainstream fashion saw spots go from stylish to childish, relegated to the playground and Disney characters. They’re still popular in vintage reproduction clothing, where in my (probably unpopular) opinion they’re horribly and un-inventively overused. A default print alongside cherries and red roses.

I’d love to see spots brought back in a thoughtful, sophisticated way, taking inspiration from our favourite fashion decades when the versatile dot was anything but twee.

Delightfully Dotty Daywear

Today’s style lovers are likely most comfortable with spotted fabrics being used for daywear. Their simple charm lends itself to casual trousers and blouses, but also to feminine shirt dresses and full skirts – silhouettes less common in 21st century ease-focused dressing.

Polka dots have also been popular in beachwear through the decades. Appearing in swimsuits and resort wear, spots seem to capture the carefree mood of vacationers. How fantastic is the woman in eye catching polka dot beach pajamas? (And why is she holding a fake pig!?)

My personal favourite garment here is the 1957 silk crepe skirt with huge balloon dots in pinks, reds and oranges. It’s a novel approach which stands out in a sea of evenly spaced polka dots.

Polka Dot Eveningwear 

Polka dots aren’t something modern fashionistas associate with formal wear, but vintage designers couldn’t get enough of the simple dot in woven or printed patterns. These gowns showcase the romantic allure of spots when paired with hourglass silhouettes, sensual off-the-shoulder necklines and romantic full skirts.

There’s nothing childish about Suzy Parker in that slinky cowl back, or the sensuality of Schiaparelli’s daintily dotted, figure hugging gown from 1953. These dots are decadent, mature and oh so elegant.

Spot On Suits & Coordinates

Woven silks, textured spots and natty polka dots made an appearance in chic coordinates, especially in fifties and sixties fashion. Layered spots made for graphic suits and two pieces, while solid colours made contrasting polka dot blouses and bows look sharp and fresh.

I’m absolutely in love with both the green outfits, from 1958 and 1945 respectively. Having gloves made to match your dress feels like the ultimate in intentional style.

 

Outerwear, Underwear & Accessories

Spots of all sizes pervaded the realm of accessories too. Spotted gloves and hats, worn with solid fabrics or matched to yet more spots. (If there’s one thing we know, it’s that the 1950’s were not intimidated by matchy-matchy outfits).  Outerwear and underwear featured decidedly bold dots in polka and irregular styles.

 

I became slightly obsessed with spotted clothes while researching for this post. The variety of patterns, colours and dot sizes is incredible, and I truly believe that the designers of the past were more inventive with how they used prints than designers are today. There were far too many photos for one post, so I’ve created a Pinterest board dedicated purely to polka dots and spots!

Do you have a favourite dotty design I didn’t feature? Slide into the comments below, or into my Facebook or Instagram DM’s so we can swoon over it together!

 

With Style & Sass,

Velvet DeCollete

4 comments

Emily Kitsch

LOVE this post! I couldn’t agree with you more, by the way, and I wish vintage repro designers would take their polka dot inspiration from outfits like these. I find that, unfortunately, the way polka dots are typically used almost instantly makes a dress look like a costume and that’s the last thing I want in my day to day vintage and vintage inspired clothing. I’m not even sure what it is about how they use them that makes an outfit look costume-y, which kind of drives me a bit bonkers because I don’t want to make that mistake if I ever sew a polka dot dress, for example – it’s actually one reason I’ve avoided polka dot fabric in my sewing!

I would happily wear about 95% of the outfits in this post though – swoon! So gorgeous! Thank you fro this awesome post!

velvetdecollete

I know exactly what you mean about the costumey aspect of modern polka dots, I think it’s the very ‘Disney’ colour options ( the very common, red, black and white) and also that they’re quite often very simple or ‘immature’ styles. I have a wiggle dress my mother made, which has a sage green lining with tiny dark sherwood green polka dots and it’s divine, I’d wear a whole dress out of it.

Rachel Auty

Oh I LOVE this post, and I totally agree with your opinion on polka dots in modern repro clothing. That balloon dot evening skirt is an image I haven’t seen before and it is indeed a winner. The Givenchy day dress in white with red dots and trim is also one of my all-time favourite dress images, and I swoon over the Balenciaga chiffon evening dress. This periwinkle blue Dior is another white I adore
http://theniftyfifties.tumblr.com/post/72772398075/designer-shopping-tech-fashion-travel-makeup-music-antiq

velvetdecollete

The Givenchy is one of my favourites too! It’s actually one of the images that sparked me to write this post, as I’ve has it on my inspiration board for so long.That sheer blue Dior is stunning, I’ve save it to my Pinterest board, thank you for sharing it!

Leave me a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.