Hand-Painted Knees – A Forgotten Beauty Trend of the 1920s

Knee makeup isn’t really a thing today, but a century ago it was the hottest trend in the beauty industry. It started out as knee rouging and eventually turned into full-on knee painting. Knee rouging became just another way to attract attention to an area of the female body that had never been as visible before. By the mid-1920s, the knee rouging trend had evolved into an art form that saw women get hand-painted artwork on their knees. Some did it themselves using watercolors or oil paints, while some relied on talented artists. Designs ranged from simple letters — like the initials of their boyfriends — to floral motifs, landscapes and even detailed portraits. Some women had pictures of their sweethearts painted on their knees, while others had expansive water views with full-rigged ships sailing into the broad harbors. The hand-painted knee fad lasted only about a decade, and has since been forgotten, but it remains a noteworthy stage in women’s emancipation, a way to assert their independence, and also have a bit of fun.