Get the Backstory: A Stripes & Polka Dots History

Stripes and Polka Dots

Stripes and polka dots. Without a doubt, they’re two of the most well-known patterns around. But their backstories? Those might not be so familiar.

Today, stripes are considered a wardrobe staple, but the pattern has not always had such a great reputation. In his book, The Devil’s Cloth: A History of Stripes, Michel Pastoureau shares that a small group of monks known as the Carmelites wore the pattern to Paris at a time when striped clothes were thought to be a sign of evil. Let’s just say – the pattern was not happily met.

With time, though, stripes came to be considered exotic (perhaps due to ever-fashionable zebra stripes) and made their way into the fashion lexicon.

Polka dots, though, are a different story. Using dots as a pattern really took off during the French Revolution, when newly invented machines made it easier to create repeating designs. These dots became all the rage alongside polka music in Europe in the mid-1800s, and the trend came stateside in the 1950s.

The pattern is still closely associated with the cheerful charm that era was known for. Today, they just scream happy.

Two different patterns with two distinct backstories. Now that you know them, explore our Polka Dots & Stripes: Play with Spring’s Patterns Boutique, which opens Wednesday, April 3, at 11AM ET.

By Anna Kuchinsky, Staff Writer

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April 3, 2013