A look at the dot through the ages in fashion

Apr 18, 2014, 10:41 IST | Meher Castelino

As Mumbai's vote date nears, April 24 to be precise, the atmosphere is all about how the dot, made by the voting ink has been hot through the ages in fashion and finding it is fun, sexy and versatile

With the country already dotty this year is it time to see dots everywhere and on everybody? Don't worry we are not talking about the mental state of the population but the political one. Everyone will hopefully have a dot on their finger, to prove they have voted for the best party to govern the country.

Men can sport dots too as this Elvis lookalike and the dancers at Mahalaxmi racecourse show
Men can sport dots too as this Elvis lookalike and the dancers at Mahalaxmi racecourse show

They will proudly hold up 'the forefinger' to declare they are old enough to vote and have exercised their rights as a loyal citizen. But while Indians will want to see dots on fingers in 2014, this circular shape has been part of human life for many centuries and in many ways.

Marilyn Monroe on the beach in a one piece with the wind attempting to blow her red polka dot umbrella away, is classy, fun and whimsical they say
Marilyn Monroe on the beach in a one piece with the wind attempting to blow her red polka dot umbrella away, is classy, fun and whimsical they say

First of all we have the different expressions like "going dotty" (which means slightly crazy), "seeing dots" (the eyesight needs checking), "sign on the dotted line" (this is legal jargon) and "come on the dot" (which refers to punctuality).

Kate Middleton is dot on
Kate Middleton is dot on

On a more fun note, Minnie Mouse wears an iconic red and white dotted dress and hair bow, which Walt Disney created in 1928. Another comic book character whose adventures little kids loved to follow was the cute girl, Little Dot who was so obsessed with dots she painted them on everything and everyone.

Dot Marc Jacobs is the perfume
Dot Marc Jacobs is the perfume

In 1962, DC Comics even had a Polka Dot Man whose brave exploits thrilled kids immensely during that era as he used dots to fight villains and came out victorious.

For the Indian woman, the bindi or red vermillion dot is a sign of happy matrimony and varies in size from tiny to giant in the centre of the forehead. I remember back in 1964 when I visited USA, a little boy in a department store was slightly alarmed by my red bindi and exclaimed, "Mummy her forehead is bleeding!"

The song hit the charts and has stayed there as evergreen. It is still a beach favourite especially when the sexy two piece comes into view
The song hit the charts and has stayed there as evergreen. It is still a beach favourite especially when the sexy two piece comes into view

While the bindi has religious significance for Indians, in the West it did cause some unpleasantness and violence a few decades ago. One has heard of the Dot Busters in the USA who were in the news from 1987-1993 and apparently attacked women wearing bindis.

Dots have always been a part of the fashion world and have been even given an unusual name - Polka Dots - which have a youthful stylish connotation, as this design evokes nostalgic touches of retro, vintage appeal. Many have often said that a "polka dot" is an odd name.

Dots rule in the fashion universe Dots have a great versatility to them
Dots rule in the fashion universe and Dots have a great versatility to them

While the second word is a geometric pattern, the first word describes a dance form in the 1800s in Europe and has a Bohemian origin. So how did these two get combined? It is believed that the dance was so popular that people prefixed their products with the word 'polka' on articles of food, clothing as well as ornaments and everything else they could think of.

When the dance's popularity waned, the products too lost their charm but the term 'polka dots' attached to a design of small dots on fabrics has since then remained as an endearing fashion design.

At times confined to more playful clothes like bathing suits, lingerie, children's wear, toys, décor and furniture; there have however been several occasions when the black on white or vice versa colourful dots have appeared on formal wear for men and women.

Polka dots have turned garments into iconic creations and even had songs composed on them. One still remembers the foot tapping chart buster, "Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" by the 1960s teen heartthrob, Brian Hyland.

This timeless classic is even today a hot favourite when women appear in bikinis on the beach. Frank Sinatra's first hit song "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" in 1940 with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra had couples swaying to it during the World War II era.

It is interesting to note that the red and white 'Polka Dot Jersey' is given to the "King of the Mountains" since 1975 for the "Mountains Classification in the Tour de France". Horse racing sees polka dots on the jockeys' uniforms and creates a very colourful look for this sport. Closer home, our adorable Amul girl with a red dotted dress was Amul's mascot to rival the Polson butter girl in 1967. The Amul girl remains an iconic figure even in 2014.

Fashion has been most loyal to polka dots in black/white, red/white or other dual tones and in a variety of sizes and placements. Polka dots are a trend that appear and disappear every season but has never left the fashion charts completely.

Carolina Herrera, the Venezuelan designer had been associated with polka dots in the late 1980s and early 1990s for her women's wear collection. But Herrera even used the pattern for her men's perfume packaging - Herrera For Men, Aquaflore and Flore.

Christian Dior in the 1950s soon after launching the "New Look" gave valuable advice on how to wear dots. He suggested that should women wish to wear dots then they should keep in mind that the black/white combo was elegant, pink and blue were pretty, emerald, scarlet and yellow revealed happiness; while beige and grey were dignified.

Yves St Laurent, Dior's successor used polka dots lavishly for his collections. In 1963, his polka dotted dress modelled by the super model Jean Shrimpton, photographed by the famous William Klein created a sensation. St. Laurent offered men's ties, scarves, bow ties and for women it was shoes with dots in varying sizes.

For Spring/Summer 2014, Dolce and Gabbana, Moschino and Michael Kors showed polka dots in their collections, which have thrilled the fashionistas, since the designers have brought them to the forefront on the fashion charts again. Marc Jacobs launched "Dot Marc Jacobs" fragrance for women in 2012 and even had the packaging to match the name of the perfume.

America first woke up and took notice of polka dots in 1926, when Miss America posed in a polka dot swimsuit. In 1951 Marilyn Monroe's photograph in a polka dot bikini shot the sex symbol to fame. It is believed that Hollywood stars Elizabeth Taylor and Lucille Ball were great promoters of polka dots.

The year 2006 saw the brief rise of the polka dot fad once again for dresses, slim figure hugging skirts, scarves and tops. Back in the UK last year, Kate Middleton wore a polka dot dress by Jenny Packham as she stepped out of hospital holding Prince George.

This brought back fond memories of the late Princess Diana's similar attire when she stepped out carrying Prince William. Both ladies pushed the popularity of polka dots up the fashion ladder after their appearances.

Polka dots are very much a part of masculine attire and over the years proved firm favourites.

Seen as a constant for neckties or bow ties, kerchiefs, scarves and cravats, polka dots or the tiny pin dots are favoured for all kinds of neck wear. Small round dots repeated at regular intervals against a solid background have long proved their versatility.

The most common is the white dot against the navy blue background for neckties and a firm rule that is kept in mind by style setters in this designs is, the smaller the dots, the more sophisticated the design of the ties.

Marc Jacobs had his 'Dotty' chambray shirt collection, which is a hit with men. Rei Kawakubo designer for the Comme des Garçons label has added dots to everything from brogues to shirts, tees and even wallets for men's fashion items.

If the foreign designers love playing with dots, Indian designers are not far behind. Ashish Soni's Grand Finale collection at Wills India Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2014 last year called "La Dolce Vita" revolved around dots in black and white with a marked 1950s touch.

His showstopper, the dapper Bollywood actor, Anil Kapoor strutted in a shimmering dotted tuxedo and bow tie. Aneeth Arora used polka dots on Jamdani for her latest collection. The famous Parsi Gara embroidery has a pattern called "kanda papeta" (onions and potatoes) that resemble large dots on a black background for saris.

Dots appear for all kinds of things in life right from nail décor as well as for mobile covers and IPad folders, home, bed, table linen, cushions, furniture, curtains and there is even a TV series in Canada called "Polka Dot Door".

Artists have been influenced by dots. Pointillist artists like Georges Seurat and Paul Signac saw the world as dots and created masterpieces with tiny freckles, though they were not taken too seriously at times with this technique.

Funny, fizzy, playful and stylish the dot has been a stayer on the sartorial and artistic scene. Even Vincent Van Gogh, Maximillian Luce, Roy Lichtenstein and Chuck Close have tried their hand with this medium.

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