Unbeknownst to many in the public, politicians have been tying polka dot ties since WWII. Inspired by Churchill's signature polka dot bow ties, former British Prime Minister John Major and current British Prime Minister Tony Blair have both been photographed with polka dots around their necks.
Whereas the 1950s were the decade of polka dot formal wear, the 1980s were the decade of polka dot accessories.
Polka dots hearken to the 1950s, summing up the best of Mad Men-era America: optimistic, prosperous, ostensibly prim, but also dizzyingly energetic, the atomic age dissolving into particles before our eyes. Most superficially, polka dots suggest simplicity, fun, childhood (with a bent towards girlishness)—what could be a less complicated, less loaded pattern?
French designer Coco Chanel favored dots in the 1920s and such 1950s glamor queens as Marilyn Monroe flaunted the print while house-wives across America donned delicate, evenly spaced dots in "Leave It to Beaver" bliss. In the '60s, "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" became a pop-song dot anthem; the puffed sleeves of the 1980s found themselves spotted by the likes of revolutionary American designer Geoffrey Beene.
It was the 20th century that truly saw the beginning of the polka dot's lasting role in fashion history. In 1928, Mickey Mouse's female companion, Minnie, was born in the Walt Disney illustration studio dressed in a polka dot skirt, a trademark of the animated icon. During the 1940's and '50s, the polka dot graced the gowns of female celebrities from Marilyn Monroe to Elizabeth Taylor, during the same time period Christian Dior began to release his notable hourglass dresses in spotted prints.
The English term polka dots stems from an extended craze for polka music and dancing that swept east to west from Europe between the 1840s and 1860s. Marketers hawked every product they could as polka-themed: polka pudding (a boozy confection of orange-water-flavored cream, drizzled with sherry polka sauce), polka curtains, polka gauze, polka hats, shoes, and vests, many bedizened with a kicky pattern Godey's Lady Book—the Good Housekeeping of its day—dubbed the polka dot. The polka-product craze flamed out, but the term "polka dots" for the dotted pattern stuck.
The term "polka dot" first appeared in the 1880s when both the dots and the dance were especially popular.
In the mid-19th Century dotted patterns went by a variety of names in Europe like Dotted-Swiss or the French word quiconce, which described the diagonal pattern of the dots on the five-side of dice. The Germans used thalertupfen, for the large coin-sized dots on fabric — thaler being the currency used in German-speaking Europe until the late 1800s
it's troubled childhood took place during the medieval era, where it became infamous for its visual comparison to the scattered and circular appearance of measles, boils and other infections. At the height of the renaissance, the polka dot began to earn a more tolerable reputation in cosmetics in a trend known as "patching." Also referred to as "moucheron," which translates from French into "little fly," patching involved women strategically attaching circular pieces of fabric to cover up facial blemishes.
For some cultures the dots conveyed magic, male potency, and the triumph of a hunt. In central Africa, white dots are still used during male-initiation rites.