Polka Dots or Stripes?

Found photos

Let me make a confession—I don’t like polka dots.  Delving into fashion history has made me realize that I have very strong opinions about textile patterns in general.  From the outset I knew I didn’t like flowered patterns. Geometric designs are more my style.  But now I realize that I even have preferences within the geometric field.  Give me stripes over polka dots any day.

Why this antipathy to dots?  I think of small scale circles code you as dressing like a “proper old lady.” (Big dots are a different matter.) Maybe this comes from reading countless style manuals recommending small prints for older women, with polka dots near the top of the list.  Or maybe it is from seeing so many photos of older women wearing dots. 

National Style Book catalog, 1914-1915

On this page of offerings from the National Style Book catalog from 1914-15, polka dot dress is marked as appropriate “for mature women.”

And what is so wonderful about stripes?  Of course vertical stripes have long been recommended as “slimming,” seen in the striped dress “for stout women” above.  But for me, stripes are much more visually interesting.  You can use them to create bold patterns of your own, like the dress on the right in the photograph above.   Even the much more subdued striped dress in the catalog has an interesting use of stripes at the hem.

What say you? Polka dots or stripes? And why?

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4 Responses to Polka Dots or Stripes?

  1. Maguy says:

    Polka dots forever. And in my mind I’ve always associated them with youth, children, funny clothes, which is why I don’t wear them much actually (I’m 45 and I’m French) !

  2. Kai Jones says:

    I like both, but I agree that usually a dark background with white polka dots reads as older. The last thing I bought that was black with random white spots was really young, though-a loose blouse with a frilled neckline and short sleeves.

  3. Nann says:

    The style advice books point out that vertical lines are slimming. So why are the stripes in so many garments horizontal? I agree that polka-dot print clothing can look dowdy/fussy. But I coordinated a delightful quilt block swap called Dots and Dashes — churn dash blocks made out of polka dot and striped fabrics.

  4. Laura says:

    I HATE stripes. My mother has been buying me striped clothes my entire life. I’m not fat, though I ever into chubby occasionally. I have a large bust . Stripes, either vertical or horizontal only make this situation ridiculous. Poor mom. She just doesnt see it.

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