Polka Dot Clothing

Polka dot clothing was such a popular fashion trend in the 1980s due to the polka dots’ association to childhood, cuteness, innocence and playfulness. This era saw a shift away from the baby-doll dresses of the 1960s towards something more childlike yet sophisticated which was reflected in many trends such as toy jewelry and oversized sunglasses.


Though Polka dot pants did exist, typically during the 1980s if you rocked any polka dot clothing it was usually some sort of blouse or dress for the ladies, and a button up shirt for the men.

Polka dot clothing really became an 80s fashion as more and more celebrities started adding it to their wardrobes. Some well known celebs known to rock polka dot clothing during that era included Madonna, Princess Diana, and Molly Ringwald just to name a few.

Princess Diana Rocking Polka Dots In The 1980s

The following are some of the reasons why polka dot clothing was such a popular fashion trend in the 1980s:

1. Childhood association

This era saw the popularization of designer brands like Strawberry Shortcake and Disney which were associated with childlike innocence. Mickey Mouse, Barbie and other ‘kiddie’ themed designs were also very popular at this time.

2. Playfulness

The 1980s had an upbeat, dynamic, energetic feeling to it so mostly gaudy bright colors were used in designs which were meant to add instant buoyancy and cheerfulness.

3. Gaudy colors

Gaudy bright colors such as hot pink, canary yellow and shocking blue were used in polka dot outfits because they are the most attention-getting colors. Plus, this is a time when clothes with loud patterns were very popular.

4. Bold patterns

As previously mentioned, bold patterned clothing was very popular in the 1980s so polka dot prints were also used despite the fact that they are not even close to being gaudy or bright. They are classic yet fun at the same time!

5. 80s fashion trends reflection of pop culture

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This was the period when mass media fully took over fashion trends. Fashion magazines, TV shows and music videos all played a part in dictating what the latest styles are so designers began to look for inspiration from pop culture.

The polka dot trend was very much dictated by pop culture in this era, especially by the British band The Beat which used lots of polka dots and other kitschy patterns in their music video.

6. Another reflection of pop culture

Another main reason why polka dot clothing was such a popular fashion trend in the 1980s is that many Hollywood actresses at that time that adopted this trend which further influenced everyone else. Madonna, Phoebe Cates and others all sported polka dots which made it look cool to wear polka dots.

7. 80s fashion rejection of 70s style

In a way, polka dot clothing was also influenced by the lack of popularity of 70s styles such as shaggy hair and bellbottom jeans. Dressing up like you came from the ’70s does not look cool anymore so there were alternative ways to make people remember the 70s such as collecting old toys and other knickknacks, which was also very popular during this era.

8. Fashion after the disco era

Polka dots were very much in vogue right after the disco era thus no one really wants to wear clothes that reminded them of disco, so this era was a nice alternative to that.

9. Retro fashion revival

This is also another way why polka dot clothing was such a popular fashion trend in the 1980s because it brought back the look of decades past which made it very fashionable at that time.

10. 80s fashion trends were all about irony

As mentioned earlier, there was a shift towards something more childlike yet sophisticated in 80s fashion which is ironic because the decade itself had a very bold, daring and dynamic feel to it. This meant that polka dots were used not only by children but even women in their 20s and 30s who wanted to look young and playful.

The above are just some of the reasons why polka dot clothing was such a popular fashion trend in the 1980s. As seen, it had something to do with pop culture and childhood memories which is why this trend continues to be associated with 80s fashion.

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