Historic Patterns: The Polka dotApr 28, 2023
The dot is a commonly used motif element in many classic pattern styles, but the most well known and with the strongest concept has to be the Polka Dot pattern style. In this article you’ll learn about the history behind this style and its name, common purposes and contexts, as well as some tips for how you can create variations of this classic pattern style.
The Polka Dot is a classic pattern style that consists of an array of equally sized and evenly distributed filled circles, that traditionally is done with the dots in a single bright and cheerful color on a white or off-white background - or the reverse.
As Polka Dots typically have a playful, innocent sentiment to them, they’re often used on products for children; on clothes, toys, ceramics and furniture and when used on products for adults, for example swimwear and lingerie, it adds a youthful expression.
Polka dots aren’t commonly used in formal contexts, and if they are, they’re balanced with neutral colors or black and white and have usually smaller dots - for example on shirts, blouses, dresses, ties and scarves.
The name polka comes from the Czech word pulka which means ”little step” and refers to the polka dance that became extremely popular in Europe and America during the 19th century. To build on the momentum of this trend the word polka was used to name all kinds of products, which often were decorated with a spatter of decorative and cheerful dots, perhaps illustrating little steps? The name Polka Dot was used in Godey’s Lady’s Book - the most popular American fashion magazine of the time - and the rest is history.
SIMPLE BUT VERSATILE
The Polka Dot pattern style may seem monotonous and simple with limitations, but the truth is that it’s a highly versatile pattern style that can be varied in many different ways and is used for a wide range of purposes. It can be a bold statement pattern, as well as a blender in a collection.
And when something seems to be simple or limited, one can’t help but want to see if it’s possible to challenge that. Perhaps it’s time for a new Polka Dot trend soon, with new ways to design it and use it?
Perhaps you’re the designer who will revolutionize this pattern style and make your mark in history.
WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT HISTORICAL AND CLASSICAL PATTERN STYLES, TYPES AND MOTIFS?
TIPS FOR CREATING AND VARYING A POLKA DOT PATTERN
1. USE DIFFERENT TYPES OF REPEAT LAYOUTS:
Scattered, Straight, Half Drop, Brick, Diagonal
2. PLAY WITH SPACING AND SCALE:
From very sparsely distributed dots to a tightly packed and dense layout.
Depending on how you scale and space the dots you can create really small to oversized dots.
3. CREATE VARIATION:
With overlapping dots, use different sizes, colors, group in clusters, give the dots rugged edges - seemingly hand drawn or even and symmetrical.
4. BREAK THE RULES:
Combine dots with other shapes like ovals, octagons, stars, squares, lines - or creating cross-over styles using together with other types of classic motifs.
5. ADD TEXTURE:
Add a texture to the dots or to the background.
6. TRY DIFFERENT TOOLS AND MEDIA:
Using different tools and materials you can create different styles - like a sketchy, doodle or painterly look, with textures and effects. Examples of tools and media to experiment with are watercolor, gouache, ink, crayons, paper cut-outs, stamping and block printing using vinyl or linoleum sheets.
SENTIMENTS YOU CAN CONVEY WITH A POLKA DOT PATTERN
Cheerful & upbeat
Light & Airy (in a sparse layout)
Lively & Energetic
PRODUCTS AND CONTEXTS WHERE POLKA DOT PATTERNS ARE OFTEN USED
Children’s apparel, bedsheets, ceramics and furniture.
Women’s apparel; swimwear, lingerie, scarves, socks, tights, pants, skirts, dresses, shirts and blouses.
Men’s apparel (small scaled); shirts, ties, socks
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