From the history of the maid’s uniform of XIX – early XX centuries

uniform of XIX

The classic maid’s uniform, known to everyone, consisting of a modest closed dress with long sleeves, a white apron and tip on a hairstyle made of white fabric or lace, was formed only in the XIX century.

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uniform of XIX

Simple servants’ dresses, whose only decorations were white collars and aprons, contrasted sharply with the outfits of masters. The maid could not be mistaken for a family member because of the specific clothes.

uniform of XIX

In the XVIII century and in previous periods, there was no strictly regulated form of clothing for female servants. Often maids were either wearing their own clothes, sewn on more than feed, or were wearing dresses from the “bar shoulder”, out of fashion, anything spoiled or simply tired of wealthy ladies.

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Rich house maids changed their dresses during the day: a light dress was worn before lunch, a dark, often black dress in the afternoon. Such “forming” frame elements as crinoline or tournament, which are necessary for a fashionable silhouette, were not allowed in the servants’ clothes, however, in photos and illustrations of the 19th – early 20th century it is noticeable that the shape of sleeves, bodice cut and often the shape of the skirt corresponded to the prevailing fashion.

uniform of XIX

If there were many servants in the house, the duties were distributed. The senior maid carried out personal tasks of the mistress, the junior maids cleaned the rooms and did a variety of work around the house. But often all the duties lay on the shoulders of a single maid.

Such images are depicted, for example, in French literature of late XIX – early XX century. In the seven-volume epic of Marcel Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time,” there is Francoise’s maid, who did all the housework: cleaned, bought food, cooked, washed, watched the children … She had only a shipwash in her assistant. During her long years of service, Francoise became a real member of the family, gentlemen especially admired her culinary art, but when she received guests, she was forbidden to show her face.

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uniform of XIX

The series of novels about Claudine by French writer Sidoni Gabriel Colette traces the touching story of the maid Melie, who also performed all domestic duties. Initially, she entered the service as a breadwinner and remained in the family as an indispensable assistant: maid, cook, nanny… Melli worked till her deep old age and her pupil was attached to her as a relative.

uniform of XIX

Images of maids are found in genre painting. Girls in the uniform of maids can be seen on the paintings of such artists as Charles Léon Cardon, George Lambert, Franck Antoine Bail and others.

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uniform of XIX
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