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Crazy for Polka Dots: Minnie Mouse’s Evolving Style

Over the years Minnie Mouse has transformed from sassy flapper girl to sweet style icon.

Known for her bright bows and polka dots, Mickey’s forever gal has inspired major fashion designers to create their own line of Minnie-inspired frocks over the past decade. And she continues to update her look — and gain new outfits — as Disney creates new adventures for her across the media landscape.

“I always tell people that she’s as much an actress as Meryl Streep,” says animator Rob LaDuca, executive producer of “Mickey and the Roadster Racers,” in its first season on Disney Channel and Disney Junior. “Like any other actress, she’s given a part to play and wears an outfit for that character.”

On “Mickey and the Roadster Races,” for example, Minnie has an everyday outfit of a pink dress with polka dots — a traditional look for the famous toon character — plus a garage outfit and racing duds.

“Like everything else, fashion changes,” says LaDuca, who began drawing Mickey and Minnie as a boy in his family’s Gramercy Park Italian restaurant, and doing so professionally for “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” a decade ago.

When he was a kid, part of those characters’ appeal was how easy it was to draw them — all those circles! — but nowadays he appreciates how sweet and helpful Minnie is.

The toon character, who is getting her star Jan. 22 on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, first appeared on the big screen with Mickey in the seminal 1928 short “Steamboat Willie,” wearing a polka dot outfit with a flower-pot hat. Befitting the era, she evoked flappers from the Roaring Twenties.

She soon got a bow, which has been a mainstay through the decades, and her character became a bit less sassy than she was at the outset. Her outfits have evolved, too: During the 1960s, for example, she wore a sporty hat and coat with a dash of red lipstick. 

But polka dots have always been a staple of her wardrobe — prominent not only on her onscreen outfits but licensed merchandise Disney sells around the world. It’s no coincidence Minnie will receive her star on National Polka Dot Day.

“Polka dots have always been a key characteristic of Minnie’s image, along with her bow and signature black, red and white color palette,” says Josh Silverman, executive VP, global licensing, Disney Consumer Products. “She has sported polka dots since her debut in 1928 and helped to make the iconic print a noteworthy fashion trend.”

Marc Jacobs, Anna Sui and Comme des Garcons are among the designers that have created Minnie wear during the past decade.

“The look of Minnie is so graphic and iconic that people want to play with it and interpret it themselves,” LaDuca says.   

He credits long-time Minnie voice actress Russi Taylor with helping to bring the character to life and inspire animators.

“She really embodies Minnie,” he says. “She’s a gem.”

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