The sexy maid outfit is an image deeply ingrained in our collective erotic consciousness – feather duster in hand, a wasp waist cinched by a tidy apron, and a skirt that leaves dangerously little to the imagination. She may be a symbol of domestic seduction now, but she has her roots in 19th-century high society as a fixture in wealthy houses.
Hiring a young, beautiful French girl in the 1800s was a sign of class and wealth, and these girls were in high demand as live-in nannies, housekeepers, and cooks all at once. These ingenues and their connotations of service to a wealthy employer quickly became fodder for fantasy and fetish; over time, her uniform – a high-buttoned, starched and floor-length affair – became heavily parodied by American burlesque performers. The typical routine involved an attractive, confused (and scantily dressed) young French woman finding herself in a risque situation with an employer. The fantasy of a French maid as a beautiful, inexperienced, submissive girl began to take form and approach the basis of what we now know as a sexy maid outfit.
Today, the French maid occupies a space in fantasy as a figure invited into the inner sanctum, the home – and whose purpose is to provide services and ease the burdens of life. It is an easy logical jump that these services would include titillation and pleasures of an erotic nature. The sexy maid character is a thrilling combination of the Frenchwoman’s allure, the corruptible innocence of the ingenue, and the obedience of an employee, all buttoned up into a frilly, scanty package. Her reputation as a temptress, bending over to wipe a spot clean or offering to cook a favorite food, lends itself not only to burlesque skits but to play within the modern home.