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French maid refers to a strongly modified style of servant's dress that evolved from typical housemaid's black and white afternoon uniforms of 19th century France (and their later use by stereotypical soubrette characters in burlesque dramas and bedroom farces). The designs of the French maid dress can range widely from a conservative look to revealing. It is often used in cosplay, sexual roleplaying, and fetishism. Depending on design details, some forms can be classified as lingerie.
Though not strict to historically accurate uniforms, the French maid outfit has an easily recognizable pattern and black-and white theme that remains the template for other forms of the costume.
The typical French maid costume includes:
- A black with white trim one-piece dress with a full skirt at or above knee length.
- White half-apron, usually with ruffle or lace
- A ruffled or lace headpiece
- Long stockings or tights. These can be white or black and vary from design to design; might be white over the knee stockings, sheer or fishnet tights, or black long socks with white ribbons.
- High Heels
Optional accessories depend on design and context:
- white lace garter
- other forms of complementary jewlery
The outfits are frequently worn to costume parties, and also used in drama/theater. They are sometimes worn for sexual roleplay or by BDSM practitioners, either on brief occasions, or as a routine form of servitude to the dominant partner.
Among cross-dressing female-dominated men, there is also an extensive Sissy subculture with men roleplaying as submissive "sissy maids" wearing a feminine French maid outfit.
French maid outfits also feature in mainstream media from time to time. Notable films include:
- Joanne Whalley in The Man Who Knew Too Little (1997)
- Colleen Camp in the murder mystery spoof Clue (1985)
- In Friends with Money (2006), Jennifer Aniston, whose character is a cleaner by profession, dresses as a French maid for her boyfriend at his request
- In the Desperate Housewives series, Lynette (Felicity Huffman) wears a French maid outfit she bought at a lingerie store to spice up her marriage.
- Lumiere's girlfriend in Disney's Beauty and The Beast is depicted in enchanted form as a feather duster with a resemblance to a French maid
- Blair Wladorf's maid Dorota in all Gossip Girl seasons.
- Desperate Housewives", Season 1, Episode 21
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