French maid was a term applied in the Victorian and early 20th century periods to a lady's maid of French nationality. A lady’s maid was a senior servant who reported directly to the lady of the house, and accompanied her mistress on travel. She helped her mistress with her appearance, including make-up, hairdressing, clothing, jewellery, and shoes, and sometimes served as confidante. A maid of French nationality was considered likely to be more expert in current fashions, and was also able to apply her knowledge of the French language when travelling in Europe.
Erotic fantasies revolving around young French women later led to the appearance of French maids as desirable and stereotypical soubrette characters in burlesque dramas and bedroom farces, such as the 1897 British musical comedy The French Maid.
The term French maid is now often applied to an eroticised and strongly modified style of servant's dress that evolved from typical housemaid's black-and-white afternoon uniforms of 19th-century France, despite a housemaid occupying a lower position than a lady’s maid in the hierarchy of a large household. Some styles are conservative while others are revealing. French maid costume is often used in cosplay, sexual roleplaying, and uniform fetishism. Depending on design details, some forms can be classified as lingerie.
- The dictionary definition of French maid at Wiktionary