Woman in fashion show wearing a polka dot gown

Polka Dots

Polka Dots first appeared as a fashion pattern in the 1840s. It’s said that it came from Gypsies who brought their moon-shaped mirror embroidery to flamenco dancers who wore them in dance. They were soon visible in ties and handkerchiefs. Polka Dots pioneered in men's fashion.

Gypsie moon-shaped mirror embroidery

Polka Dots dancing with the Flamenco dancer

The pattern caught on in late 19th-century England when dandy Beau Brummel started a trend for dotted bow ties and scarves. Historically, a dandy is a man who places particular importance upon physical appearance, refined language, and leisurely hobbies. Fashionable is a more modern term. George Bryan “Beau” Brummel was an iconic figure in Regency England. For many years he was a close friend of the Prince Regent, the future King George IV, and the arbiter of men’s fashion. He would take some 5 hours a day to get ready. 

Beau Brummel Suit & Tie Fashion

How it became known as Polka Dot is a different story. The term originated in Bohemia, now a part of Czechia in the early 1900’s when polka music and dance were popular. Polka Dot was used in all kinds of Polka dancing garments. The word Polka likely came from the Czech word for “Polish woman.”

Polka Dot started quite a stir when it first appeared, adding spirit to clothing at a time when it was customarily drab. Fashion patterns historically take a route into British royalty, which is then catapulted into worldwide fame. This is also the case with Polka Dot which started in men’s fashion with Beau Brummel. And then it landed in America and spread like wildfire. It first came into the public eye when Miss Ameria 1926 was photographed in a polka dot bathing suit. Shortly thereafter, Disney’s Minnie Mouse was drawn with a cute polka dot dress and bow. Polka Dot was on its way to becoming an American pop culture superstar. Christian Dior made a whole collection on it.

Disney's Minnie Mouse

In men’s wear, polka dot is especially versatile, working welll with both casual and formal wear. White dots on black ties and bow ties is more formal and revered, worn by the likes of Winston Churchill. Barack Obama wears White polka dot on Navy Blue ties. Smaller or more densely packed dots are more formal, while larger and less densely packed dots are more casual. With the different color combinations, polka dot ties make you stand out.