Hand-Painted Knees

On July 21, 1925, the same day as the St. Petersburg, FL, newspaper headlines featured the John Scopes trial (he was found guilty of teaching evolution in a Kentucky science class), there was also an article on the latest flapper fad: painted knees.

6ade6db95341a66ac19572a3a7d2534a“What is more appealing to the eye than a hand-painted knee? The answer, of course, is two hand-painted knees. And the world may expect from now on to see Flapperia’s dimpled knees exhibiting a painted pansy or a bleeding heart, or any other design of their choice.

This painting of the epidermis in the region of milady’s knees is predicted and advocated by Mrs. Ruth J. Maurer, beauty culture expert who has brought the question up for the approval of 500 beauty specialists meeting in Chicago. ‘It is an odd and beautiful fashion,’ Mrs. Maurer declares. ‘Hand-painted pictures on the knees are intriguing. Some of the designs are simple, some elaborate. Some girls prefer a flower or a group of blossoms of startling colors. Others like a portrait or a little landscape.”

I have my doubts as to how popular this was . . . I found only one image online that showed painted knees (and these, as you can see, are actually painted shins). Still, I think I’ll make a brief mention of this in the mystery I’m currently writing. Nothing big, maybe just a line where Jessie notices someone in New York with painted knees. If it happened anywhere, it would have happened in New York!

Here are some photos readers submitted:

1926 flapper

1926 flapper



Published in: on August 20, 2016 at 8:09 am  Comments (9)  

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  1. I hadn’t realised this was a fashion. I have found pictures of this online, but I thought is was the stockings be painted, not the skin.
    I hope you don’t mind if I post the link here

  2. Same here! Heard about it some, but never found much to actually prove it was a big thing. I would think this would require some speciality, like nail art today – most people can’t do their own nail art. And where would one go to get their knees painted? The design on the girl in the photo is pretty elaborate. Not a simple heart or flower. I’ve seen more to support rouged knees than painted pictures…

  3. I, too, always assumed these were painted stockings. Would she have gone bare legged? Interesting.

  4. There are at least a few images found online by searching google iimages for “painted knees.” IN this one both women appear to be wearign stockings rolled below the knee and paint on the skin itself. http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/detail/news-photo/the-painted-knees-of-two-of-mario-sgambatis-subjects-news-photo/515951014

    • You’re a better detective than I am. That’s a great picture. Unfortunately, I can’t post it here, but readers can view it themselves.

  5. Terry Evdokimoff says in his Facebook account in Jan ’16 “My father Mario Sgambati was an ecclesiastical artist who decorated many churches in and around the Philadelphia area.”

    He also decorated knees.

  6. two more urls last two images here: https://mimiberlinblog.wordpress.com/2012/06/13/tainted-shoulders-and-knees/

    mostly about prison tattoos.

  7. and last but not least: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/406942516303482202/

    • Thanks! I’ll post those images on the blog.

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