In her memoir Don’t Sing at the Table (2010), the best-selling author Adriana Trigiani tells a wonderful fashion anecdote from her childhood. When she was about eleven, in the late seventies, she noticed that her maternal grandmother, Lucy, only had three dresses in her closet. Not only that, but the dresses were identical navy blue polka dot silk shirtwaists with a notched collar, short sleeves, and pearl buttons. Since her grandmother was a skilled custom dressmaker, she asked about this strange wardrobe choice. Lucy, in her early eighties at the time, explained; “White polka dots on navy blue are classic. You can wear that fabric to a wedding or a funeral or a party, and it’s always just right.”(46)
Adriana was so inspired by this that when she moved to New York to start her writing career, she bought a navy blue polka dot dress of her own. At B. Altman’s she found one with short sleeves, a square collar and covered buttons. “[M]y friends are laughing as they read this because they know The Dress; they have pictures of me in it, because I wore that dress absolutely everywhere.”(46)
I suspect that was a lucky find for Adriana, since I’ve scoured the internet for photos of dark polka dot dresses from the seventies and eighties and come up with very little. Like everything else, fabric patterns go in and out of style.
Expect to see more consideration of polka dots in the future. And many thanks to Nann Hilyard for the book tip!