4 Ways to Update the Polka Dot Look

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Images: (Left) Anthropologie, (Right) ElfSacks

Who doesn’t love polka dots? They’re fun, youthful, and don’t take themselves too seriously. Polka dots have been hot for the last few seasons and they’ve gone through a number of variations. Designers have somehow managed to take the “itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny yellow polka dot” idea and morph it into something sophisticated and refined.

Historically, the polka dot was used only for clothing, and the pattern was created by spacing out each dot to the diameter of the circle. Since then, the pattern has been updated by manipulating the scale of the dot and negative space. Nowadays the pattern is used for everything from bathing suits to table linens to walls in a variety of colors and contexts. Let’s see how the polka dot has been updated.

1. Scale

Black and White Polka Dots
Images: (Left) A Bubbly Life, (Right) Media Cache

This interior (left) is a fantasy scene created by photographer Tim Walker who plastered black polka dots on the white interior everywhere from the ceiling to the floors. The dots are spread out twice as far as their diameter. In this context, the polka dots seem more ethereal and whimsical. The same type of spacing is used on the dress (right) making it seem more elegant than playful.

2. Color

Metallic Polka Dots
Images: (Left) ShopBop, (Right) Media Cache

The polka dot pattern on this door (right) was created in a shiny metallic bronze that elevates the playful polka dot. The polka dot skirt (left) is combined with bronze shoes to achieve the same look.

3. Technique

Mustard Polka Dots
Images: (Left) Desiree Casoni, (Right) StyleCaster

Polka dots are traditionally created by printing one color on top of another. Here, the polka dot pattern is created by shaping wood pieces and layering it onto the wooden hutch (left). It is complemented in fashion by layering several textures and patterns together (right).

4. Placement

Confetti Shirt and Room
Images: (Left) Wee Birdy, (Right) Etsy,

Polka dots have taken a chaotic approach when labeled as confetti. The order and placement of the dots is more random and feels more like a party. Here, a confetti wall (left) was created by placing a mix of colored dots on the wall. A similar technique is used with this tank top (right).

How do you use polka dots? Do you use them in your home or in your wardrobe?

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Brittany Watson Jepsen is an American designer and crafter who just returned to America after 2 1/2 years in wonderful Copenhagen, Denmark. Her motto is "a creative mess is better than tidy idleness" and she lives each day accordingly. During graduate school for interior design she spent one summer working for designers Jonathan Adler and Celerie Kemble and another summer studying textile design at the Danish Design School. She created her blog, The House That Lars Built, as a way to keep her designing and crafting. She currently runs her blog and her etsy shop, where she sells her home accessories and paper flowers.