It’s a truth well–known that history has a tendency of repeating itself, and in the dynamic world of fashion, trend cycles have proven this to be true.
Yet in the deep corners of design history lie some of the most eccentric and practical styles that modern wardrobes are missing out on. From fragrant head cones to knee paintings, here are some of the most extraordinary fashion trends that should be brought back.
At first glance, the peculiar cone shapes atop the heads of Egyptian women appear to be some sort of hat—maybe a ritualistic or spiritual adornment. A deodorant may have been the last idea to come to mind, but these elongated cones were a surprisingly effective way for ancient Egyptians to maintain a pleasant smell on long, sweltering days. The exact purpose of these accessories is still up for debate by historians. However, it can be concluded that the perfumed beeswax that made up the objects could’ve released sweet scents of oils as they melted under the hot Sahara sun.
If you’re feeling bold, a wax cone could be a great way to liven up or freshen up your next Monday lecture. The concept of incorporating fragrances is a practical and innovative styling choice—but some aromatic earrings or vanilla–scented necklaces may be a better place to start.
While makeup can undeniably be a form of artistic expression, can you imagine it as a form of literal communication? Well, welcome to the secret language of beauty marks, where every dot placement, size, and quantity can be used to scrutinize or celebrate you. This trend originated in the mid–1600s and increased in popularity during the 18th and 19th centuries. These beauty marks, also referred to as “mouches” or “flies” in French, could indicate economic or relationship status, appearing as hearts, birds, or the traditional rounded freckle shape. If a woman was single, she could attend balls with a single heart on her left cheek. If she got lucky enough to find a suitor, she would move the heart to the right to show her unavailability.
On a more scandalous note, these marks were created as a way to cover up smallpox and syphilis scars, similar to a modern–day pimple patch. This also meant that beauty marks could be associated with promiscuous behavior unless, of course, you were from the upper class—then it was elegant. Hulu’s The Great uses the beauty trends from the era of Catherine the Great by having the eccentric nobles Aunt Elizabeth and Georgina adorn birds, stars, and bugs on their cheeks. In the 1700s, the more detailed your outfits, the more lavish you were—a standard that's still applied to even the most delicate features on your face.
So if you look in the mirror and find that your outfit needs an extra touch, consider adding an elusive beauty mark—just not too many.
Have you ever been going about your day, only to realize you inconveniently left your scissors and needlework at home? Well, it might be time to whip out the forgotten accessory that is the chatelaine. The chatelaine is an addition to your belt that contains carriers for sewing kits, thimbles, writing utensils, and even a light vinaigrette for the road.
For the modern 18th–century woman, this meant you could have any supplies for work or studies right at your hip, while also accessorizing your waist with gorgeous metal engravings of stucco weaves, dainty flowers, and familial crests. For purposes of this millennia, chatelaines are the perfect way to add a detailed touch to your outfit while carrying school supplies. Forget being a tote girl—chatelaine women can now go hands–free while holding necessities at the ready.
In 2019, Kim Kardashian released a divisive line of body makeup from her KKW Beauty brand. While the ethics of encouraging the concealment of any bodily “imperfections” remain controversial, it was less than a century ago that body makeup was used as a source of rebellion to highlight once–discreet features: the scandalous knees. During the flapper era of the 1920s, shorter dresses emerged despite much disapproval, and the knees became a newly freed aspect of the female body. To push the limits, flappers would throw away the stockings and powder their knees in rouge, a trend that would become known as “party patellas.” Knee rouging eventually evolved into knee painting as watercolor and oil paints elevated dull legs into canvases for young beauty artists.
Maybe you want to see a pristine countryside every time you look down? Paint it on your knees. Fighting the urge to get the whimsical fairy tattoo you saw on Pinterest? Paint it on your knees. Want to declare your love for someone without cliched flowers or love notes? Paint their portrait on your knees for all to see. In fact, it can be used to declare all kinds of sentiments, including disdain. In a 1925 feature by American Weekly, housewife Clarice Wilson told the story of her husband's hatred of her new dogs. In an artistic display of passive aggression, she painted her two canines on her knees—one for each leg.
Knee art could be used to express subjects too difficult to put into words. Verbal breakups can be difficult—writing both your initials next to a frowny face on your legs can be a clean way to get the message across. There's no need to anonymously declare your hatred toward a class or person on Sidechat—wear your hostility proudly on your body.
Although, it should be noted to pick your knee battles carefully; a wrench was put into the Wilsons' marriage as Mr. Wilson retaliated by painting two younger women on his knees—you never know how far knee art can go.
By now, you've likely had that unfortunate moment where a peaceful slumber is disrupted by the harsh abrasion of your own coughs. To make matters worse, you have to attend an economics lecture surrounded by another couple hundred sickly individuals. So instead of hacking all over half the first–year class, consider the sleek vintage look of plague masks. These crow–shaped masks may appear as though they crawled out from the crevices of your deepest nightmares, but their function couldn’t be more wholesome. Used during the 1600s cycle of the bubonic plague, they were a way for doctors to help patients without catching the disease themselves. Fashioned with the finest leather and glass and decorated with the lovely smell of roses and spices, N–95s could only dream to be this stylish. From one plague to another, it only seems natural that we revive a trend that’s both health–conscious and fashionable.
As fast fashion dominates 21st century attire, the utility and sense of purpose that styles used to have is quickly lost in the endless cycle of micro trends. Some of these trends from centuries ago certainly seem bizarre for a modern audience, but every accessory, article of clothing, and beauty mark held a higher function or statement. The next time you're scrounging through your closet with nothing exciting to wear, consider digging up an archival trend.