Polka dots are this season's fashion must-have -- as an allover pattern on a dress, as a flattering pattern on one piece of an ensemble, or on your accessories. Fashion runways have been alive with dots and spots, and top-name designers say they drew their inspiration from some unexpected sources. Cynthia Rowley, for instance, says she was inspired by Candy Buttons, those little candy dots on long strips of paper. This season's signature style is being fresh, youthful and fun, so it's no wonder the dot is the new hot spot in fashion.
On TLC's "What Not To Wear," fashion makeover experts Clinton Kelly and Stacy London often have shown the fashion-challenged that a dotted pattern can be immensely flattering, even on full-figured gals. You just have to choose the right size of dot. The editors of StyleList.com agree, advising, "If you choose to go for this graphic look, then consider your size. Don't pick a pattern that will overwhelm. For example, petite women should opt for small to medium polka dots while bigger ladies should feel free to experiment with bolder pieces."
Here are some ways to wear polka dots this spring and summer to step out in colorful spotted style:
--The allover dotted dress. You may remember the cappuccino-colored dress with white dots that Julia Roberts wore in "Pretty Woman" after her Rodeo Drive makeover. That style is back, and the brown-and-white motif is just one of the top color combinations of the warm summer months, an ideal choice to wear to an afternoon garden party, a bridal shower or a wedding. White dresses are all the rage this spring. Why not choose your white dress with this season's hot red polka dots? Black and white is another top color motif for spring, but be sure your black dots are large enough to avoid the "Dalmatian" look.
--Vintage-style shirts. Many celebrities wore dark-colored vintage-effect blouses with tiny white dots to fashion week shows, displaying the ideal transition into spring fashion with a sophisticated flair. Pair these vintage-style dotted shirts with classic black pants or skirts, or wear this season's white skirts or pants.
--Modern blouses. A soft and silky blouse pops with color in a polka-dot pattern. Wear it with a stylish cardigan paired with an office-smart pencil skirt. Many designers, including Kate Spade, show dotted blouses as part of their smart spring ensembles.
--See red. Red is also a big trend for spring and summer, softened with large white or cream polka dots, and designers' cruise collections and vacation wardrobe collections especially are filled with vibrant tops and white dots.
--Dotty cardigans. A solid-colored dress or outfit gets a splash of dotted accents in spring colors, such as purple and blue, as well as this season's soft pinks, and can be found in designer labels on such discount sites as Bluefly.
--Dots and stripes. "Mix thin stripes with polka dots for a 'quirky-chic' look," says Julie Sarinana, a fashion blogger for Glamour and on her own blog, "Sincerely, Jules." Sarinana's suggested look is inspired by finds at vintage stores and thrift shops, bringing '70s-era and bohemian looks into the modern spring and summer trends.
--Go big. Dots that are as big as salad plates have taken their place on spring and summer fashion lists for a dramatic (also '70s-inspired) look. Keep in mind that dots don't have to be white. Go for big discs of color for an artsy look.
--Overlays. Create a soft, sheer, spotted look fresh off the runway by wearing a subtly dotted sheer jacket or cardigan over a solid-colored dress. Rowley's candy-inspired dots show in her line just this way, with a feminine and romantic flair.
--Accessories. If you'd prefer to keep your dots to a minimum, carry a dotted clutch or handbag in summery reds, aquas, oranges or other brights. Dots also lead the trend in fabric headbands. Try a navy blue headband with white dots to pair with your stylish navy blue shift dress or navy blue sweater set worn with summery white capris or a white skirt.
Isaac Mizrahi, an icon of fashion, suggests that you avoid getting overwhelmed by dotty looks on fashion sites. "It looks a little crazy on the Web," Mizrahi says. "But I just love these dots!" Follow Mizrahi's style and shop in person for your dotted, spotted spring clothing and accessories to find the size and style that work best for your body type and personal style.