Sarah Mallory > Polka Dot
Seeing Spots: Polka Dots in Post-Modern & Contemporary Interiors
In the mid to late twentieth century, the polka dot assumed a prominent role in modern interiors – the repetition of circles grounded in a contrasting color appealing to both the minimalist and post-modern design sensibilities. The following collection of images seeks to explore and highlight the remarkable capability of the polka dot to appeal to both the mind and the spirit, creating contemporary, mesmerizing interiors that are entirely unified through the presence of small circles of color.
A Spot of History
The polka dot, characterized by a repeating pattern of off-set dots set on a solid ground in a contrasting color, is perhaps (today) the most familiar use of the dot as a decorative element in any given composition. Seemingly ubiquitous, the polka dot does have a history outside of contemporary interiors. Used as an element in design for thousands of years, the dot referenced various objects including coins, pearls, jewels, and disease. The term “polka dot” materialized in 1840 when a European traveler observed a young peasant girl in Bohemia (now Poland) performing a unique dance comprised of little steps. She wore a dress of spotted fabric, perhaps referencing the coins that would dot the hems and bodices of the ethnic gypsy population in Bohemia. The traveler quickly dubbed the dance “Polka,” a Czech word meaning Polish woman or girl. He returned to Paris where he performed the dance. Women wore dotted fabrics to Polka dances, helping the sporty spot earn the moniker “polka dot”.
The polka dot continued to experience surges in popularity during every decade of the twentieth century and is now synonymous with certain icons of American culture, such as Marilyn Monroe, Minnie Mouse, and Rosie the Riveter. Even noted couturier Christian Dior, in his Little Dictionary of Fashion, quipped, “I never get tired of dots.” The polka dot has come to be associated with femininity and fun because of its boisterous polka patronage.