I won't go into a long essay on the history of the design or the name. I wasn't able to find an exact answer, but you can go to this link and get an unofficial summary: The Word Detective. This has more to do with the name and not the design. My guess is that uniform dots in a uniform pattern is too generic to assign it to any one source; kind of like the stripe. I bet there were polka dot type patterns in Babylonia.
Anyway, what I do want to say, is that I love polka dots. I love the combination of the fun, cosmic, round dot arranged in an even, organized, respectable order. Usually it is printed in fun colors with white dots. But it is equally fabulous in black, pale pink, or even tan, and the dots can be colored on a white or different colored ground. The dots can be tiny, pin dots or gigantic, one inch dots.
I am thinking here of fabric and clothing but the polka dot pattern has been used on pillow, curtains, dishes, and toys. It is typically playful but has recently been used in post-modern design as an ironic, nostalgic backdrop.
I like the big dots that are in style now, but I have to say that my favorite is dotted swiss. Does anyone besides me remember what that is. My friend recently showed me a photo of a cactus and I said it looked like dotted swiss. She had no idea what I was talking about. I am planning on making a stuffed cactus sculpture out of dotted swiss (if I can get my hands on some). I will post a picture of it when it is done.
I guess it might not technically be a polka dot since the dots are not completely round. The kind I like best is round because the dots are printed on and flocked with some cheap polyester fuzz. Maybe that is not technically a dotted swiss. I like to make up my own rules in these and other matters so, I am sticking to this story. I wonder if I could make my own flocked dots out of natural fuzz on organic cotton. That would be really cool.