Diane Keaton, Taylor Swift, Princess Di: What do these three women have in common? They all look great in polka dots. Keaton embodies the high fashion whimsy, wearing larger-than-life polka-dot-inspired outfits. Swift keeps it feminine and sweet in polka dot dresses and heels. And Princess Di proved a quirky polka dot print can look sophisticated and regal.
Polka dots have transcended time and trends. And while fads come and go, designers hold on to these circular graphics, creating styles that any woman can wear.
Why Dots Rule
We all want staples in our closet. So right next to your little black dress, you must hang a polka-dot blouse, dress or skirt.
“Polka dot is a classic print in the way a stripe is,” says Clare Mukherjee, a stylist. “It’s something that is never really out of style and brings a youthful quality to any outfit.”
Joshua Seth, an editorial stylist who has worked with ‘InStyle,’ “Zink” and “Flaunt,” says he loves the impact polka dots have. “Polka dots are a simple way to turn an ordinary look into something that is funky, retro or even futuristic,” he says. “It can also make it really chic and sophisticated. It’s a really easy way to put any twist on your everyday outfit.”
From Gucci to Stella McCartney, Marc Jacobs to Ferragamo, designers continue to reinvent this classic look. A great way to update this feminine look is by adding an element of masculinity. “I really like to balance out the girlishness of polka dots with clean, sharp tailoring,” says Mukherjee, whose clients include Maggie Grace and Alexis Bledel.
“It’s all about balancing out the elements and not going too girlish with it,” she says. “Some girls, like Taylor Swift, will wear a polka-dot blouse and high heels and go super-feminine. But I think it’s nice to downplay that and contrast the youthfulness and femininity with mature pieces.”
To get this daytime look, Mukherjee, a regular fashion expert on the Emmy-nominated TV show “How Do I Look?”, suggests pairing a tie-neck, polka-dot blouse with a blazer, denim shorts and a flat shoe.
Polka dots are also great for a night on the town. “I love a whimsical, vintage-inspired polka-dot minidresses and flats and a chain strap bag,” says Mukherjee. “It’s a perfect girl’s night or date look. It’s even a great meet-the-parents outfit.”
And to shake up your classic little black or white dress, Mukherjee suggests throwing on a pair of polka-dot pumps to add some whimsy to your look.
Big dots, small dots, tiny dots. Pink dots, blue dots, white dots. What does your polka dot say about you?
“There are basically three sizes to polka dots,” says Seth. “The very, very small polka dot can be very chic,” giving a nod to Gucci’s sheer silk, floor-length polka dot dress.
Next size up is the traditional small polka dot. “This is seen as more childlike and whimsical,” says Seth, “But, today it can also be thought of as really flirty and fun.” His suggestion to achieve this coquette look is a small polka dot skirt paired a solid blouse or shirt.
Finally, don’t shy away from the big polka dot. “The large, structured polka dot is a lot more high-fashion and fashion-forward,” says Seth. He suggests reserving this look for evening wear. Try the large polka dot in a full dress or a full-length, A-line skirt. And while polka dots can be worn by any body type, Mukherjee suggests for curvier body types to shy away from the large polka dot since it can accentuate areas of the body you would prefer to diminish.
For a more sophisticated, work-appropriate look, Mukherjee suggests opting for muted polka dots. “Try monochrome or black and white,” she says, “Don’t go for white with a red polka dot. It’s all about being age-appropriate and opting for more subtle color options if you are a little bit older.”
Mixing & Matching
For the more adventurous women in fashion, mix a classic polka-dot print with an unexpected pattern.
“Mixing polka dots with another pattern can create a more funky or sophisticated look,” says Seth. “I love the look of sheer black-and-white polka-dot blouse under a black and white pinstripe suit.” He says this look is great for the office or for drinks or a luncheon.
Seth says, “It’s a very sophisticated, glamorous way to wear these things, but you can also make this look more casual by rolling up the sleeves.”
Add even more whimsy to your outfit by mixing a new polka dot purchase with the floral prints in your closet. “I like anything that is a floral or tropical print with polka dots because it’s very unexpected,” says Seth.
And while Seth promotes mixing different size polka dots in one outfit, he suggests staying away from pairing your favorite polka-dot garments with intricate patterns such as plaid, argyle or gingham.
Whether you choose florals or pinstripes to mix and match with your polka dots, one thing to keep in mind is color. “Always make sure your prints’ colors are in the same story,” says Mukherjee.