| October 31, 2012

No, you're not getting sick and there's nothing wrong with your vision — those spots you've been seeing lately are very real. Polka dots are back in style, and they're showing up on everything from scarves to shoes to iPhone cases.

"Polka dots are a fun print that adds whimsy to any ensemble," says Gretta Monahan, the style guru from "The Rachael Ray Show." Having performed over one thousand style makeovers, Monahan is an expert on wearing trendy prints and patterns (especially polka dots) with style and flair.

For the average shopper, however, peppering a wardrobe with polka dot prints can be a bit daunting. But as Monahan says, "There's something for everyone with this trend, whether it's a piece of clothing or an accessory." And, according to her, there's certainly no shortage of polka dot items to choose from. This season, Monahan has seen "coats, pants and even hosiery" adorned with the trendy print, so there's a vast array of choices for those who want to dabble in dots. "I'm loving the proliferation of clothing options," she adds.

But before you start draping yourself in polka dot prints, Monahan has a few words of warning. "If you're self-conscious about a particular body part, avoid wearing large polka dots on that area, as this print definitely calls attention to itself." She also cautions against "going polka-dot crazy, head to toe." Monahan explains that because polka dots are extremely eye-catching, "one item is enough." Otherwise, your outfit might appear too harsh and loud.

But like Monahan said earlier, the polka-dot possibilities for that "one item" are almost endless. "If you're not one to wear lots of prints, start with accessories," she says, suggesting polka dot scarves, handbags, pumps, umbrellas and mobile phone cases. For a bolder look, "Wear a polka dot jean with a solid sweater or blouse in a corresponding color," suggests the expert. Monahan recommends incorporating a multicolored polka-dot print too, as it's "vibrant and youthful, and can add a kick of life to dreary winter palettes."

Monahan also notes that some women have a tendency to feel dated in dots, but that's no reason to think polka dots can't be cutting-edge and contemporary. "These days the trend is not just for retro or vintage looks," she says. "Adele wore polka dots in a very modern way by going with a sheer-topped dress," she adds, recalling how the singer's Grammy gown (pictured above) was subtle yet sophisticated. "You just can't go wrong with a fluid polka-dot blouse that can work from day to night," Monahan says. "Choose a flattering color that you'll want to wear again and again. I really like mine on the sheer side for a look that's both a little sexy and sweet."

According to the style guru, men, too, can get in on the polka dot trend if they're looking to spice up their blah business attire. Monahan suggests pocket squares, bow-ties and neckties ("a great polka-dot skinny tie is always a classic and stylish choice"), although guys don't necessarily have to limit themselves to small accessories. "Men in more casual work environments can also pull off smaller print polka-dot dress shirts," she says.

Monahan also says there's nothing wrong with pairing polka dots with other patterns and prints — just as long as you know how to do it correctly. "When done well, the look is fun and eclectic," says Monahan. Likewise, it can be downright messy when done wrong. "Pick up on an accent color in a plaid or floral pattern that's also in your polka dot print," she first suggests. "Also pay attention to scale — If your floral pattern is large, go for smaller dots and vice versa." And don't worry — if you're not a fan of this technique, Monahan suggests mixing textures instead. "A slim-fitting denim shirt worn with a flared polka dot skirt is unexpected and unique," she explains.

But above all, Monahan only recommends wearing polka dots if it makes you feel good. "I say go as bold as you're comfortable with," she says. "If you're not comfy with this trend … avoid it. Your uneasiness will show through, which typically ruins any look."

Scroll down for a look at some of Gretta Monahan's favorite polka-dot items:
Emporio Armani Polka Dot Coat, $947.98
Polka-Dot Tights, Cream

Neiman Marcus, $13.50
Polka-Dot Sweater

Mango, $49.99
Splendid Polka Dot Voile Top, $78.00
Splendid Polka-Dot Skinny Jeans, $158.00
Polka Dot Loafer

American Apparel, $95.00
Kate Spade New York La Pavillon iPhone Case

Saks Fifth Avenue, $40.00
Polka Dot Skinny Tie

Barney's New York, $70.00
Polka Dot Chiffon Secretary Blouse

American Apparel, $60.00