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French maid refers to a strongly modified style of servant’s dress that evolved from typical maids’ black and white afternoon uniforms of the nineteenth century (and their later use by stereotypical characters in risqué burlesque dramas of the bedroom farce variety). It is now mostly associated with fantasy play and sexual fetishism. Depending on design details, they can be classified as lingerie.
Commonly included in the costume now associated with the name is a push-up bra to enhance the female bust, and a short, revealing skirt. A wide variety of costumes are manufactured and marketed under the “French maid” description today. These range from comparatively modest dresses extending well down the thigh or above the knees to transparent chiffon nightgowns or outright lingerie ensembles that cover almost nothing.
The classic French maid costume, however, is a short and clingy dress—ideally silk, satin, or a fabric closely resembling it—trimmed with shirred white lace with a revealing neckline. Typically, they include a tiny white apron attached to the dress. The skirt area of the dress is usually pleated.
Common accessories include a frill worn in the hair, or a tiara, a feather duster, and sometimes white lace cuffs and collar. If the dress has sleeves, they are usually short and puffed shoulder puffs. If the dress has an apron, sometimes it is shaped like a heart with white lace fringes on the hems. If knickers are worn with it, they are usually white and ruffled, and the dress is sometimes short enough to display them, especially when the wearer bends over. A corset or a layered white petticoat may be worn under the dress. The ensemble is almost always completed with black fishnet stockings and black high heels.
The costumes are sometimes worn to costume parties. They are also sometimes worn for sexual roleplaying or by BDSM practitioners, either on brief occasions, or as a routine form of servitude to the dominant partner.