Polka Dots: A Timeless Fashion Trend

We all have seen polka dots someplace or the other. Even you will believe that polka dots are one fashion trend; they have never gone away for too long. 

If you think polka dots are the latest trend in fashion which came in very recently, then you might be wrong. Polka dots have been in fashion for centuries now and yet. It was one of the popular trends year after year. In fact, the word is being searched numerous times in a single month. Polka dot dress should also be mentioned. You would be surprised to know that people are showing interest even today.

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Here we analyze what is so special about polka dots and dresses with this design. We will also learn how polka dot emerged in the fashion industry. Why it became a trend in fashion, something that no trend forecast could have imagined at that time.

An Overview

As you can see from the trends, the design has a very high search volume during specific months of the year. It holds good year after year. It is interesting to know about the stats because it is fascinating how it has stayed so relevant over all these centuries.

But how does print design manage to be relevant for so many centuries? It is something you should ponder over. But first, you need to understand the history of polka dots in general and fashion. You would be surprised to know polka dots’ fascinating history over the years. 

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You would be surprised to know that polka dots did not just affect the fashion industry or fashion designers. Such dresses had an impact on society as a whole.

History of Polka Dots – Why Such Dresses Were Popular

Polka dots design became famous during the mid-19th century. However, in the 18th century, the polka dot pattern represented many different things in different parts of the world. Unfortunately, all of the things that it represented could have been better.

However, there is a good reason for this though. But why did the people of the 18th century think they were? Even you might as well if you lived in that era.

You should understand what they symbolized and the reasons behind polka dots’ bad reputation, especially in the 18th century and early 19th century. If you are among those who are good with history, you would know that in Medieval Europe, especially during the 18th century, diseases like Smallpox, the Bubonic plague, and leprosy had reached epidemic heights.

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These diseases affected people’s psychology in a significant way. Hence these dark, semi-random dot patterns reminded people of these deadly diseases. It is one of the primary reasons polka dots were considered good or bad, whatever people thought it to be. This negative association with these dotted patterns was carried on over even to the renaissance period.

Polka Dots & The Dawn of Its Popularity:

Now you may wonder how it could ever become so popular. How did something that is associated with such deadly diseases come to be such a popular trend in fashion? 

It is essential to know what makes the whole thing so fascinating. Is it the beauty of the pattern or the history behind it? During the mid-19th century, diseases were eradicated, and people stopped associating patterns with conditions. Also, the advent of sewing machines helped them create dresses with uniformly spaced dotted patterns.

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But at the same time, you also understand that polka dots just became famous because of the end of epidemics. At the same time, the sewing machine’s invention also helped it gain popularity. Several events spread out across the mid-19th century and 20th century contributed to the popularity of these patterns. You should have a few of them, which are created based on the timelines. 

The Polka Dance Craze of 1830s

Yes, it was during 1835 in Europe – where it all started. A dance of Bohemian origin called the Polka dance slowly started to gain popularity on an international level. 

The craze for the dance was so much – that all types of companies started to create polka-themed merchandise to profit from the trend. Interestingly, these merchandise included polka pudding, polka stationary, and the ever-popular polka pattern itself. 

But the exciting part of the story is even after the dance faded over time, the popularity of the polka pattern remained.  

Miss America wore a Polka dot Swimsuit in 1926

After the craze of 1835 started in Europe – the polka pattern resurfaced in America on a swimsuit. Yes, it was Norma Smallwood, the then Miss America. As soon as her photograph in a polka dot swimsuit was published, the polka pattern saw increased hype. One of the reasons why Norma Smallwood wore it was – that she was the first Native American ever to be crowned Miss America.

Disney Introduced Minnie Mouse in 1928

As early as 1928, Disney introduced Minnie Mouse. Though the character in the cartoon wore plain dresses, she was seen wearing polka dot dresses in the posters. Believe it or not, Minnie Mouse wearing polka dots positively affected the whole industry of polka patterns.

Beyond the 1960s

There was no major event after those that happened. The peak popularity of polka dots was only seen in the 1920s, ’40s & ’60s, which gives it a retro connotation. After all these events, polka dots did not require any significant event to resurface after the 1960s. It looks like it is now here to stay

Recent Events

Do know that as recently as 2019, Zara released a dress with a polka dots pattern. The dress went viral to the extent that people started calling it “The Dress”. Interestingly, the dress even has its own Instagram handle. Sometimes, it becomes so hard to comprehend the popularity of something. Some believe it was the first time a dress got so viral that it decided to create an Instagram handle of its own.

Maxi Dresses with Polka Dots

As you saw above, the polka dot maxi dress from this fast-fashion powerhouse became so popular that it spawned its Instagram handle. The part of the story is that the dress was such that it was dress that suited any body shape, occasion, or weather. 

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With over 26k followers, this polka-dot print dress made this dress stand out. Even designers were not surprised, as they are classic prints and can be paired with everything and anything. Designers debunk the myth that this is essentially a summer print, just the flowy dress you would love to wear. 

Polka dots are trending even today, and online print searches increase daily. Designers suggest you warm up the dots by wearing them on sweaters or darker-colored fabric as a base. You can also use a polka-dot scarf, pair of socks, or even a hair band for a chic look.

Historically speaking, polka dots may be iconic now, but their rise has been checkered. In medieval Europe, they had a bad symbol. It was only in the mid-19th century that you saw polka dancing having a moment in central Europe. It was only then that the pattern garnered a cult following. 


Fashion designers are believed to keep reworking to revive old fashion trends. This is why most fashion designers try to profit from nostalgia. In reality, they are not to be blamed. We millennials are stuck in nostalgia, and it looks like we can not get over it.

Many fashion experts believe this nostalgic touch has kept the polka dot designs popular even today. Whatever the reasons for their popularity, polka dot dresses are even popular today.

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