Polka dots might bring us down memory lane to our mothers’ wardrobes in the ’80s. But if the streets and runways of Fashion Week are anything to go by, we’re up for another polka-dot comeback.

From Stella McCartney and Balmain to Elie Saab and Carolina Herrera, designers and brands reintroduced the playful motif in their Spring Summer 2024 collections. 

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As arbiters of style, celebrities have been the first to hop on the trend. During a recent visit to Paris, Selena Gomez sported a romantic mini-dress featuring puffy sleeves and black polka dots. Meanwhile, Queen Letizia has been championing polka-dot dresses — á la Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman — throughout 2023.

The survival of polka dots in fashion 

We probably associate the print with the dresses of flamenco dancers or have recollections of watching Shakira rock polka dots in the music video of “Addicted to You.” However, the history of this motif dates back to the eighteenth century and the Industrial Revolution. Polka dots then rose to fashion prominence in the 1800s, buoyed by the polka dance craze — hence the name. 

The popularity of polka dots blew up in the 1900s, propelled by figures like Norma Smallwood (the first indigenous woman to be crowned Miss America in 1926) and Minnie Mouse. 

Elsewhere, “La Doña,” María Félix — the Mexican cinema icon — popularized the print, with notable appearances onscreen in films such as La Bandida and La Valentina (1965). The actress also took the trend offscreen, donning dotted shirts with capri pants, polka dot scarfs, and designer creations, including a Christian Dior multicolored dress.

While polka dots saw their heyday during the 1980s and 1990s, they’re coming back to style in 2023

Gowns, matching sets, and bodycon dresses are just some of the items spotted on the runways of the biggest Fashion Weeks, from New York to Paris. Carolina Herrera, for example, reprised the motif that grew attached to the brand’s aesthetics in the ’80s for their latest collection. 

Regardless of your personal style, polka dots make for a timeless and versatile addition to your wardrobe. 

If you’re going for a fun, playful take on the print, full looks, bigger patterns, and bright-colored pieces will be your go-tos — take a look at Valentino’s FW23 collection for inspiration. 

If you opt for a more elegant and sophisticated approach, smaller or spaced-out dots, simple-cut dresses, or sheer pieces are reliable options.

Meanwhile, if you’re in for a casual, understated twist, combine a polka-dot top with plain or denim bottoms, be it a skirt, pants, or even capris. 

You can layer the look with plain outerwear, preferably in the same color scheme as the dotted item. 

It’s all about experimenting

If you’re not ready to commit to polka dots, you can play it safe by adding only small accents such as silk scarfs, tights, bracelets, or even a polka-dot manicure.

With fall underway, don’t miss out on experimenting with this trend via muted colors, warm palettes, and the classic black-and-white combination. 

Whether you choose to go big and loud with statement items or you prefer to keep it quiet and classy, it will depend on your mood! 

There’s always room in your closet for polka dots, so take a page from the runways and don’t be afraid of playing with this rising trend.