For the season of change: prints and patterns are as varied as the turning leaves, yet there is one that remains constant - the polka dot.

The term ‘polka dot’ first appeared in 1857, in an issue of Godey’s Lady Book, where one writer described a muslin scarf, ideal “for light wear,” as being “surrounded by a scalloped edge, embroidered in rows of round polka dots.” Indeed, dotted patterns dd not just immediately appear on the scene in the 1850’s, before the polka dot received its moniker there were several types of popular regularly spaced spotted designs; but none of these earlier patterns became as well-known as the quintessential polka dot, quite simply because the technology to mass produce evenly spaced, uniformed sized dots did not exist until the industrial revolution. 

The art world was also experiencing seismic shifts during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and some of these burgeoning movements, Pointillism in particular, incorporated fields of round spots - and, one cannot talk about dots in art without talking about the father of Pointillism, Georges Seurat, who was inspired by the science behind color and the human vision. He completed his manifesto painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, in 1884. The large scale oil painting depicts 48 well-dressed middle-class types lounging around a suburban park. The entire scene, from the water to the sky, is made up of thousands of tiny colored dots: distinct pricks of red, green, indigo, and zinc yellow. In a 2004 piece about a Seurat exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago, New York Times writer Holland Cotter notes that “La Grande Jatteis more like a textile than a painting, a kind of 19th-century Bayeux Tapestry…”

It is often true that fashion follows art and vice versa - so what is it about the dot that inspired these two realms nearly simultaneously?

photographs by @jackiembarr

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