How to: Make polka dots work for you
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Printed clothing and dresses

How to: Make polka dots work for you

Words— Mylène Genty

Although I’ve been riding the minimalist train for quite some time, I'll admit it, I have a thing for prints. And in recent months, their irrestistible playfulness is winning the battle over my minimal, plain garments. Blacks, blues, and greys can only entertain me for so long.


A few years ago, when I was part of the un-exclusive ‘black-on-black’ club, I thought prints were immature. How close-minded I was. A good print can feel quite liberating and emit a refreshing laissez-faire attitude. It should come as no surprise then that prints are popping up everywhere with the coming of spring.



Clockwise from top-left: Rei Kawakubo and Comme Des Carçons, Roy Lichtenstein, xxxx, xxxxx, xxxxx, Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman


Clockwise from top-left: Window display from artist Yayoi Kusama, Roy Lichtenstein, Jacquemus,Rei Kawakubo and Comme Des Carçons, a classic black and white pattern, Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman


The Polka Dot



One of the most timeless prints of them all is the polka dot and it's definitely having a moment this season. The word “polka” itself derives from Czech and translates to “little woman” - which makes sense, given the prints’ inherently feminine feel. It’s been around since the 20s–with Minnie Mouse as the unofficial rep. From there it took off with strong polka dots via Rosie the Riveter, slim polka dot silhouettes courtesy of Christian Dior, and everyone from Marilyn Monroe to Elizabeth Taylor putting their own spin on the small circular pattern. But we'll just fast forward to the 90s for a look I'd actually like to recreate from head to toe: Julia Robert’s high-class brown polka dot dress with matching hat in Pretty Woman.


Through the decades, designers and artists have had a lot to say about polka dots. Rei Kawakubo used them countless times on her iconic Comme Des Garçons pieces. Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama - the "Priestess of Polka Dots" - is famously renowned for her obsessive use of the pattern. Other modern artists have used them with moderation–think of Roy Lichtenstein’s pop art paintings. Pointillist painters like George Seurat used dots as a trademark and experimented with our perception of color. From feminine softness to modern art, these dots have come a long way with no danger of fading out of the spotlight. They are now a fashionable vector of coolness. Here are five notable examples:





This dress. The one that started it all. We all wanted it–or maybe it was just me. It can’t wrap my head around how simple the design of this piece of clothing is. It’s a tea dress. Yet it’s the sexiest thing I’ve seen in the past two years, at least in the absorbing world of Instagram. How can a dress achieve such a level of coolness? The fitting plays a big part, sure, but the print is non-negligible. It brings an aura of sexiness which isn’t over the top and makes it barely impossible to take your eyes off of it. My theory: this patterns acts like a kaleidoscopic print. It’s hypnotizing. Minus the dizziness.





They’re intrinsically chic yet easy to dress down. In the case of polka dots, a classy printed blouse is easy to incorporate in a business casual outfit. On the other hand, mix the same top with a pair of high rise jeans and you’ll instantly turn into the girl next door, just a cool, relaxed woman.





The print goes hand in hand with the pyjama trend (which you should try, if you haven’t already). For example, a pair of printed drop-crotch trousers with an identical blouse might seem rather intense, but remember all those girls who paved the way before and you’ll be out there rocking that look in no time.





This screams summertime. The official season of easygoing outfits. It’s the time to start experimenting. Follow Jacquemus' lead: take your prints and go outside your comfort zone with oversized blouses and flowy skirts. Add on a straw hat while you’re at it and hit the countryside with aplomb. 





They say you should dress for the job you want, not the job you have. I never quite understand what that exactly meant, but I’ll assume it means to always dress your best. That’s quite an easy task when you throw in a polka dot pattern because as I mentioned above, the print is hella chic. You can never go wrong with a fluid polka dot blouse. Match it with your favorite trousers and a pair daring shoes and you’ll have yourself an A+ interview outfit.





For some reason, these dots also have the ability to awake the French girl asleep in me. Whenever I try to channel Jeanne Damas’ look for a night out, I make sure to have these accessories at hand: a Mac’s ruby woo lipstick, a beret and Sade inspired gold hoops earrings.



Here are just a few inspiring examples from our social community:





A dress with jeans? Hell yeah. More flow, more movement, more layers.




A polka dot top tucked into colourful trousers and large sunglasses. 




A bell sleeve blouse with simple black leggings and simple gold jewelry for a subtle throwback look. 





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