Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Maids Should Wear Uniforms

I believe that employed domestics, whether maids or manservants, should wear uniforms. What exactly constitutes the uniform can be decided between employer and employee, but I think it is entirely reasonable when employing someone in your house that you require them to wear clothing that conforms to what you believe is appropriate for the position and environment.  In my house, that means a uniform.


In today’s society, where all manner of structures have broken down, many people who employ domestics either don’t know that they can require them to wear a uniform or think asking them to do so is hopelessly old-fashioned and stuffy, or even humiliating to the domestic forced to wear such a symbol of oppressive servitude.  Not I.

Employment as a domestic is, I believe, an honorable profession.  Many people in professions in this country are proud to wear the uniforms of their field, such as police, military, medicine, etc.  In my field, investment banking, I too wear a uniform, mostly suit and tie, and I’m expected to conform to my employer’s requirements to do so as a condition of employment.  To that end I believe it is reasonable that I, as well, require our housekeeper to wear a uniform.

I grew up in a household where the domestics (maids, actually) were required to wear uniforms, and it seemed perfectly natural that they did so.  When it came time in my life that I was on my own and could afford to employ a domestic to clean my apartment, uniforms weren’t part of the deal since the housekeepers that rotated through my place only came once every other week or so.  In other words, they were independent contractors in a position to set their own conditions of service employment.

Over time, though, I was able to employ someone on a more regular basis, at least a couple of days a week, and at times would find myself at home during the day with housekeepers whose sartorial choices were at best dubious and at times appalling.

We once employed a woman at Darlington House named Luanne who was a crackerjack housekeeper but who came to work dressed like someone you’d expect to see in the bleachers at a NASCAR race.  Not that I’ve ever been to a NASCAR race, but I have a pretty good idea of the type I’m thinking about from what little I’ve seen of them on television or the covers of magazines in convenience stores.  In any event, Luanne would show up at our house wearing Timberland boots; skin-tight, cut-off jean hot-pants; and a "wife-beater" or a tube top sufficiently cropped to reveal the Harley-Davidson "tramp stamp" tattoo on her lower back.  I’m not exaggerating.  Plus she had a mean bleach-job and spent way too much time at the tanning salon.  The thing is, she was a really marvelous housekeeper and had what appeared to be limitless energy.  So we put up with her rig, at least for a while.

Logo courtesy of Harley-Davidson

Ultimately, though, it became too much for me to bear, and while I couldn’t do anything about the bleached hair or the fake tan, I was determined to do something about the clothes.  Luanne was perennially short of cash and routinely requested that we provide her with advances on her pay, or loans so she could make ends meet.  To reward her for her good work over the years we decided to give her a lump sum of money (to cover her pressing bills) and also to provide her with more employment, including weekends, when we would be at home.  As a pre-condition, though, I took her to a local clothing store and bought her khakis and a polo shirt for her to wear for daily chores when we were there and a black skirt and white button-down shirt to wear when we'd have guests.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see much of Luanne in her new uniforms because shortly thereafter we had to fire her and change the locks, as we learned that she had become a meth addict.  In retrospect it certainly explained her limitless energy and ever-present need for more cash.

So when we hired our current housekeeper, Karyn, a condition of her employment was that she had to wear a uniform when working at Darlington House.  She arrives at Darlington wearing what she chooses and then changes into the clothes that we provide.  This includes two uniforms: one of basic khakis and a polo shirt plus bib apron for daily wear during the week, whether or not we're there, and the other a classic maid’s uniform of grey dress with white cuffs and apron for use when we are there on weekends.  At first she was a bit “iffy” about wearing the maid's dress and apron, but she says she has come around and actually enjoys wearing it.

Photo courtesy of http://www.llbean.com/

photo courtsey of http://www.landsend.com/

photo courtsey of http://www.apron.com/

I like having Karyn wear a uniform when she’s working at Darlington.  Having her do so means that I won’t find myself unpleasantly confronted by what I might consider to be her unfortunate or inappropriate clothing choices if I happen to be at home when she is there.  It also means that she isn't wearing out or soiling her own clothes when working for us at Darlington.  And it clearly identifies her as an employee rather than the “lady of the house” when deliverymen or strangers or guests come to our door.  In the end, I know what to expect when I see or spend time in the house with Karyn, and so does she.

Do your maids wear uniforms?

79 comments:

  1. I am in total agreement. In Phuket where we employ many immigrants from Myanmar (old Burma) they routinely send almost every penny home so a uniform is great for everyone!

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  2. You must be joking. You are pompous and insufferable. Shame on you!

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  3. I absolutely agree but would add the following sentiment: Working in a home as a domestic could feel to some a bit too comfortable. There is an inherent lack of formality when one finds themselves outside a customary place of business (office, restaurant, police station, school). This casualness could manifest itself in the form of laziness or disrespect. Providing a uniform supplies your help with guidelines and order. There is no confusion that your home is their place of business and they are to conduct themselves as such.

    MT

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  4. Reggie --

    Thank you for reminding me why I was once, long long ago, a leftist.

    I have several houses, each with the staff that we've acquired through trial and error over the years.

    The spit-shine girl in the country who lived with the 400-pound trust fund baby was lost to us after she borrowed a mink coat for a trip to New York on New Year's Eve.

    The pot-addled artist in Boston, who cleaned toilets as if they were devotional objects, had to be let go when she was found half-naked, barking like a seal, on our rooftop. (Admittedly, this was long ago.)

    The arrogant and chronically discontent unmarried mother lost her job when some diamonds went missing.

    But my sainted city housekeeper of thirty years is allowed any number of dress infractions, and occasional outright screwups, because: 1) she does everything I ask her to do, as best as she can, and 2) when my doctors were all persuaded I was about to die, she went to Fatima and said ten thousand Hail Marys on my behalf, all the time doing the ritual pilgrimage on her knees.

    Life is short, so do what makes you happy, but how is what you're doing any different than turning these people into an object of entertaiment -- or worse, a fetish object?

    All the best.

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  5. FINALLY! Someone stuck out his nose and said what some of us have been wanting to say for a long time! Yes!

    Picture this, beautiful table, fine linens, great grandmother's silverware, flowers throughout the house, everybody's all dressed up and the maid shows up in jeans?!

    What is it with maids and uniforms?.

    Until very recently, when I lived in Florida, I had a maid who came twice a week and although she didn't wear a uniform, she came appropriately dressed. When I had dinner parties, she wore the traditional grey maid's uniform with a white apron which was kept for her at home. Throughout the years I managed to accumulate several sizes which I still drag around from house to house.

    As you well said, firemen, policemen and even we in the corporate world have to wear a uniform. Waiters and waitresses also have to wear a uniform so why is it too much to ask the maids to wear one when they work a dinner party? Employees of MacDonalds and cleaning and cafeteria people at hospitals also wear a uniform. What IS the difference?

    I have had service for most of my life, from full time to once a week. There is no reason to feel apologetic and somehow, I think that is were the problem lies. The newly affluent who have never had domestic help just don't know how to handle it and unfortunately, that is the majority of employers today. Most don't know what to expect or how to treat domestic service. The employers want to be democratic and the domestics want to be liberated and not wearing a uniform is a good place to start.

    There is a fine line between employer and employee that needs to be maintained at all times(and still be democratic) and there is no better reminder than a uniform. It is a service job just like any other and at $15 - 20/hr, the average rate nowadays, not a bad one.

    I actually like the solution you have provided for everyday and dinner party wear. I think it is a fair and appropriate compromise for the times we live in.

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  6. Most food service workers wear uniforms (especially the fast food establishments) and I don't think it is unreasonable to ask staff to wear them.

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  7. You omitted something from your description of your uniform...a dunce cap..I guess I should not have expected anything better from one who refers to a part- time household employee as a domestic(a household servant). Smug in your superiority, you are unavoidably inferior. And no, I do not watch and have never been to a Nascar race. Your thirst for maintaining a class system relegates you to having no class. Your blog just lost one of it's followers. Deleted from favorites as of now! I'm sure you won't post this but I hope it will be on your conscience..

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  8. Well, Reggie, that created a lot of bile and I suspect there's a lot more coming your way. You are the employer and your expectations are to be met.

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  9. That was perhaps a bit elitist-sounding for our modern world, Reggie, but you do have a valid point in there somewhere (and not on top of your head lest readers get any smart ideas). Whatever arrangement is reached should suit employer and employee, and often boils down to practical considerations. Some people in that line of work prefer to have a uniform provided instead of having to wear out their own clothes, particularly when the primary task is cleaning. It also helps at a large party to keep guests from asking the eccentric professor or the "Gray Gardens" cousin to get them a refill for their drink. And I do understand - the woman you described would look peculiar dusting all my 18th century mahogany, and would probably shock some of my genteel Southern relatives, but much you articulated could have gone unsaid. Some of us are fortunate enough to live surrounded by beautiful antiques and art from the 18th and 19th centuries, but the world has changed, and we must change with it or be thought some ugly anachronism. Otherwise, I quite enjoy your blog. Thanks for the interesting insights.
    Mike in SC

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  10. a word about uniforms generally- no one likes to be told what to wear initially, just as no one likes to be told what to do, especially as adults. also, it could be construed as a person exercising their power over you. but once a person gets beyond the initial distaste they might feel for it, and i can see that it has roused some emotions here on this comment section, in practice, it actually makes life much easier for the employer and employee (provided the employer provide the uniform). it is rather unfair to tell someone what they have to wear and expect them to pay for clothes they might not already own.
    -the employee who may have at first chafed at the idea may be pleased to see how much time they save getting ready for work when they know what they will be wearing every day. a simple and consistent routine shaves an unbelievable amount of time off of your morning routine. also, they won't have to worry about ruining their clothes or wearing them out at work. The employer wins because it is a neater look for their house. Something simple always looks neater. I think in the end, people won't even mind, they'll see that it's easier and they won't ruin their own clothes, what's to be upset about? anything that makes life easier sounds good to me.

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  11. There is merit to your argument that you are saving the employee wear-and-tear on his/her own clothes. I teach, which is quite hard on the shoes.
    In LA, many households with full-time staff purchase nice-quality "sweat suit"-type outfits for cleaning activities. Not sure what they do for more formal activities.

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  12. The last time I spoke to the Lord Chamberlain he informed me that all our staff are properly attired, including footmen wearing the full household livery, of scarlet with gold braiding. I understand there has been a concession made recently, and that is wigs are longer worn. Whilst I may find some difficulty adjusting to this slip in standards, I am prepared to live with it for the time being.

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  13. CJ: Thanks, I agree supplying a uniform relieves domestics of the costs of supplying their own clothes, also the wear and tear on them. Seems a win-win situation to me.

    Anon 9:04: Always nice to hear from you, too. And under what authority, may I ask, do you speak?

    MT: Thank you that is an excellent observation you make.

    Ancient: Yes, indeed I am grateful for the Karyns and others who work for us. How fortunate that your city housekeeper is such a dear, and trusted friend. Our city housekeeper has worked for me for over 20 years and we are also very fond of each other. I don't associate politics of the left or right with whether one's domestics wear uniforms or not. I think it is, rather, more culturally-driven. Finally, I do not believe that requiring someone to wear a uniform either makes them an object, nor a subject of fetishism -- at least not in my house. I leave the "naughty maids uniforms" to others' bedrooms.

    Lindaraxa: Clearly we are kindred-spirits on this issue. Since when did having a service job become considered demeaning? As I said in my post, I consider it to be an honorable profession for those who choose it.

    Martha: Indeed. Far better to work at Darlington House for what we pay than at McDonalds or WalMart at minimum wage, I would think.

    Dear Anon 11:14: I suggest you put a call in to your Doctor to get your meds dosage upped, it's clearly not working.

    Blue: Indeed. I'm not forcing anyone to work for me, here.

    Mike from SC: Thanks for your comment. I believe a uniform of khakis and polo shirt for "every day" wear recognizes the times in which we live. As far as the more formal uniform goes, this was standard issue in the house I grew up in, is routinely seen here in NY on the Upper East Side where I live during the week, and is standard-issue wear for housekeeping staff in better hotels nationwide. Thanks.

    Lulu: Thank you, I believe it is more considerate of the employee's circumstances to supply them an honest and plain uniform than to expect them to wear, and soil, their own clothes.

    Anon 3:11: Thank you, as I wrote in my post the form of the uniform can be decided between employer and employee. While LA is responsible for exporting many good ideas, I am afraid, though, I must draw the line at sweat-suits worn by adults, under any circunmstances.

    Columnist: How do you adjust to such laxness? Next they will be asking to dispense with corsets for the ladies in waiting! What has the world come to?

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  14. When I lived in San Diego , I had live-in help. Never thought to ask her to wear a uniform, she may not have objected though. We had a more casual lifestyle. (most people do)

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  15. A brilliant post! So very brave of you to cross this threshold these days.
    Your best yet. Do think of more topics that might be considered politically incorrect to entertain us with your sharp observations.
    If I may say so you are finding a voice and a point of view, the two things required to make a truly successful column.

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  16. The only thing that I can add is that I would prefer to see my household help dressed for formal dinners in today's standard for catering and restaurant wait staff--either a black skirt or pants and white blouse/shirt.
    A bit more modern, but everyone has to do what they are comfortable with and what fits their social set. I have lived on the Upper East Side, and worked for famous old interior designers who insisted on being addressed as Mr. ______ at all times, but who were the warmest, most caring designers I have ever worked for. On the other hand I have worked for a supposedly socially conscious liberal Democrat interior designer who tried to coerce staff into working on Christmas. Formality is just a style, it doesn't necessarily denote a lack of humanity.

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  17. As an inhabitant of Los Angeles - the land of perpetual "casual Friday"- I must say that although I can see what upsets some of your readers, I am in complete agreement with you. I think that a proper uniform elevates a profession that is often looked down upon. I travel constantly for work and often stay in mid-level hotels where the housekeeping staff are primarily attired in khakis and polos - however we spent a weekend last August at the Waldorf Astoria where the housekeeping staff are traditionally attired in what I think of as a "proper" maids uniform. Not only did this enhance the air of elegance in this grand old hotel - but somehow changed my perception of the housekeeping staff and elevated them above their more casual counterparts in professional terms.

    I have often lamented the "dressing down" of our society in so many ways. I was a registered nurse who graduated just as the iconic white uniform and cap with a black stripe was being exchanged for baggy, non-descript scrubs that are worn by everyone from housekeeping to physicians - making it confusing not only for patients but anyone who comes in contact with them. Don't even get me started on the non-medical people who appear wearing scrubs in public - I just lump them in with the teenage girls who swan around publicly in pajama bottoms and tank tops . . .

    This last comment may be as inflammatory as your post for some people - but so be it - I salute you for voicing something that more people believe than are willing to admit . . .

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  18. Reggie - Did my comment disappear into cyberspace, or was it in some way unsuitable?

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  19. Domestics absolutely should wear uniforms. I have been a an estate professional for over 10 years and I have worked in many different environments. I have found that homes that require a uniform keep their employees longer and there is a more clearly defined employer/employee relationship. In the first home that I worked in, it was very casual. The line was blurred between friendship and a more professional relationship. The Mr. would often want to hang out with me on my day off! Sorry, but I don't want to see you when I'm not working, I'd like to pursue my own interests. The housekeepers that I manage (14 of them) all wear a uniform and they like to. The Mrs. doesn't like her house to be too formal, so the housekeepers uniforms have been navy pants with white polos and black shoes. I changed from the uniform shop uniforms to Land's End uniforms and they really like these.
    It all goes back to formality (see my post on my blog about Formality). In order to create a professional environment in the home, uniforms are necessary! I wear a suit and tie everyday and I love it!

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  20. DocP: Please resend, as it never made it into my inbox. Thanks!

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  21. My cleaning lady wears a muffin top and a push up bra. She is discreet,well- groomed, speedy and impeccable and always on time.
    If she'd be here every day, I probably would offer her a uniform of khakis and a simple navy t-shirt from J.Crew.
    A maid outfit might drive my boyfriend crazy, I am not taking risks. :)

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  22. Quite frankly, I never thought about uniforms. My housekeeper of 20+ years is an independent contractor and only works a few hours a week. She is never here when I have guests. She normally arrives wearing her uniform from her day job - housekeeper at an assisted living. Between her being an independent contractor and the fact that her dress is appropriate, I never considered anything else. I do agree some sort of uniform seems more appropriate. I suppose I'm another one of your overly formal readers.

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  23. I can't help but chime in again for I couldn't agree more with Anon Feb 4 9:54 This is indeed the most entertaining blog I've yet to encounter and the only one where those who comment are just as sharp and witty as the writer (that's you Reggie)It takes great courage to express your ideas in public particularly when they might be construed as politically incorrect, but then again that's what makes for a great repartee. By the way, Ulla, for those of us of a certain age, what is a muffin top?

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  24. Department of Amplification and Clarification:

    1) The people who work for me, at least when they are underfoot, do dress, more or less, as Reggie thinks they ought to dress. (Who really cares what they wear when one is not around?)

    2) I laughed out loud at Reggie's NASCAR joke, because one of my housekeepers had Dale Earnhart slipcovers in her truck. (She is still with me, as is her father, her daughter, and her grand-daughter. Don't ask. It is feudal. When you are in the the real country, you make do.)

    3) Reggie asserts that there is a difference between left/right politics and how one interacts with ones staff. I don't begin to believe this. But this is a style blog, not a political one, so I will stop there.

    4) When my ggg-grandfather made it a habit to call his footman "George," regardless of the poor fellow's name, and required him to wear grampa's new shoes and boots for a week before he himself would sink his toes into the shoemaker's work, well, just what was he doing there, then, at Washington Square?

    5) Reggie -- The naughty maid joke was passingly funny, but the question still stands: Do we take (the wrong sort of) pleasure from dressing our servants as Other? You do it, I do it (sometimes, when there is a crowd), but if we want the world to be better than what was left to us, what's really right?

    6) Jefferson, of course, took an entirely different view. He designed his two principal houses to function in a way that made his slaves entirely invisible. Food and wine would rise up through the dumbwaiters, leaving Red Tom to play the perfect host.

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  25. Karena: I doubt that I would have felt compelled to institute a uniform at Darlington if I had been as lucky as you with your housekeeper's attire. As I wrote in my post, Luanne's equippage was what broke this camel's back.

    Anon 9:54: Thank you very much for your kind words and encouragement! I am working on another post that I believe may ignite another firestorm of comment, so stay tuned...

    Anon 10:29: When we have large dinner parties (8 or more) at Darlington House we almost always have it catered or hire help. Our caterer's staff wears black trousers and white shirts, we supply white waiters jackets and bowties (see "It Takes An Army to Throw A Party" post). We own a dozen white waiters jackets in various sizes and half a dozen black (pre-tied) bowties for just this purpose. This ensures uniformity of appearance and the utmost of professionalism. Second thought: I agree, formality does not in any way equate with one's emotions or political beliefs. It is a style, not an expression of one's inner-being.

    Harlean: I couldn't agree with you more. Your comment on those who believe it is appropriate to wear pajamas in public (or ass-clinging Juicy Couture velour sweats or similar for that matter) is right on point, drives me nuts.

    Butler 2880: Thank you for weighing in here from the profession's perspective. It is a great pleasure to read your validation, indeed.

    Ulla: Sounds to me your housekeeper would benefit from a uniform. I'm not advocating ones that incite sexual appetite, but rather promote the professionalism of the staff...

    DocP: Thanks for re-posting. It sounds to me that your housekeeper is already doing a fine job of dressing as a professional should. Our former housekeeper Luanne did not, hence prompting us to institute a uniform requirement.

    Lindaraxa: Thank you, I blush!

    Ancient: Thank you for your clarifications, I loved reading about your ggg-grandfather! I do note, however, that your #3 and #5 missed my point. I do NOT believe there is a connection between one's politics and one's interaction with one's employees, a point well-documented by Anon 10:29. Also, I believe providing an honest and plain uniform to one's housekeeper (or in your case staff) promotes professionalism and mutual respect, a point affirmed by a number of other commenters here. Please keep commenting!

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  26. "Do your maids wear uniforms?" This irony-free sentence with its assumption that your readers all have maids forces me, with all due respect, to ask whether what you write is real or a clever creation?

    Please don't misunderstand. I enjoy your Blog whether it's an accurate reflection of a hilariously anachronistic lifestyle or a literary invention complete with people & places named as if for a Merchant Ivory film. In either event, it's a lovely way to begin one's day. In the chinoiserie breakfast room, served by my Man, Fenlington, with my dog Pookie at my feet, and the snow falling on Boyington Hall.

    Cheers and congratulations on a blog well done!

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  27. to lindaraxa: I think you should google that one, words fail me.

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  28. Anon 10:41: Thank you for your kind words and encouragement, I'm so happy that you enjoy my blog. Reggie endeavors to always be truthful, and the way I live, while perhaps considered anachronistic by some, is presented as accurately as possible such that, perhaps, it may be a beacon of inspiration for others to seek to maintain the semblance of standards in our quickly degrading world.

    Ulla: One is frequently and alarmingly confronted by the ghastly sight of such muffin tops when out in public. I wonder, doesn't anyone look in a mirror these days?

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  29. This seems like a good opportunity to remind future employers of maid services to set this expectation at the interview. Perhaps even as a qualifier before the interview. At least you weren't asking for a French maid outfit... thank you. LOL!

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    1. Love this post and I am quite astonished but pleased to hear that many people feel maids should be formally attired, not only to reflect who they are but to maintain and secure the separation of the lady of the house and her high station in life from that of the help, while being treated as humans, they must obey, serve, be loyal and meticulously precise and willing to take commands in an obsequious manner without questioning the lady of the house, who is most demanding and strict when it comes to servants.

      I have a friend, who has just lost her home to foreclosure and her husband is a chauvinist by every stretch of the word and she has given him a direct order to leave as it was is inability to maintain the budget properly so they could retain the home. He is in the begging stage and she has him on the ropes. She will divorce him but if she agrees to allow him to stay, I suggested conditions and now I've got my mind set to insist that he, soon-to-be SHE, will have to work a minimum of one full year as a housekeeper, not a male housekeeper but learn to be a FEMALE housekeeper. This would be the ultimate painstaking situation for the dear boy, I mean girl and teach her that men and women are equal. It's just finding a position for him/her to work at even if it's live-in, where he/she would be graded and for every demerit given, another month would be added to the contract term, yes contract with all language stated, mostly implied until signed and then the gory details can be disclosed.

      The trouble is, my lifestyle does not throw me into the crowds of high income individuals with the money to hire formal maids and butlers.

      If you have any idea for someone that would hire an inexperienced maid but who is willing to train the person to be the best, well groomed, FEMALE maid that has ever worn heels. lol

      I will mention to my friend about this blog and have her look and tell her what I'm asking for help with-she will fall over laughing for sure and I know she would be in strict agreement and would demand he sign a contract with anyone that seeks a formal housekeeper.

      We will make plans immediately and if someone offers, he will have to answer the request for an interview. He will be sure, however, in his/her mind that no one would ever consider hiring someone with not much experience and I'm positive he would also say, that he's not a female and that's who is born to be a housekeeper. That's crap in my book.

      God bless all of you for this great brainstorm idea.

      Regards,
      Misty

      Sara R.

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    2. Hello Sara,
      Thank you for your comment, most entertaining. I do not believe a housekeeper needs to be female. I know of people who have male staff, and are quite happy with it. I perfer male waiters when we have dinner parties, actually. I believe domestic employment is honorable, and I would suspect far preferable than minimum wage service employment in retail and restaurants. I know that I pay the people who work for us a far better wage than what they can get elsewhere, and I treat them with respect. It is a two-way street, after all. Yours, Reggie

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  30. I don't have a maid, but my b-i-l has household help and they all wear uniforms. Mostly khaki pants and polos with the name of the farm on them. At dinners, they dress appropriately.

    Here is a great uniform.

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  31. I have been reading with such interest this post and comments-I can only speak for what worked for me-each must make their own decisions concerning how they regard people they entrust their homes and possessions to. Thank God my judgment of G. was sound and I never was faced with wardrobe thoughts. G. was a great daylady starting in 94 and only had one other person in the house for the 12 years I had the big house. Both of these ladies were older,dedicated, serious about their work, the best cleaners-G. hands down- Old school.She took immeasurable pride in her work- money and loans swapped hands many times over the years and friendships developed, we both preferred that-but neither lady ever forgot why they were there and took on their work with more care and love than I could ever have done. They also commanded top dollar and deserved ever penny. How does one pay maids in the city are employers required to pay SS on them, or provide other benefits? pgt

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  32. I have been on both sides of this, having learned my skill set managing parties; while my "uniform" at the time did not come from a uniform supply, my neat black dress or gown was indeed one nonetheless. Beyond that, I wear both the uniform and the scars of catholic school and paramedicine (in which I served prodly while in grad school). The uniforms were essential to removing both nonsense and competition. I wore all of them happily.

    I expect the people hired in the house to attired appropriately. As the lady of the house, the distinction you note between she and I is important.

    But frankly, Reggie, all that aside, I will always have your back: If the requirements of being employed at Darlington are to stand on your head naked while removing edamame from pods with one's teeth and balancing a tray of champagne on the balls of the feet; then that is how it will be. Within the four walls that belong to you, you will neither be denied nor questioned by anon's. Period.

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  33. LA: I have had the great good fortune and pleasure of developing good, mutually-respectful, and at time humorous relationships over the years with people who work for me inside the house, outside it, and on it. I fully appreciate that my life would not have the quality that it does were I to do it without the able, friendly, and professional support of those who not only assist me but who make it possible. I am fortunate indeed. I pay my staff well, at above-market rates, with bonuses and paid vacations, and abide by the requirements of both the state and federal government authorities in these matters, which are complicated enough that it doesn't bear going into within the comments section of this post, I am afraid.

    BH: I can count on you to provide thoughtful, level-headed, and informed views and appreciate hearing from you, whenever you choose to comment. Thank you for your support and being at my back, as you say. I enjoyed publishing the anonymous screeds because it is clear they completely misunderstood this post, and were shouting at me from some very remote and weird place, known only to them...

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  34. It's the formal uniform on the weekends that says it all: gauche.

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  35. Anon 1:56: And what makes you think so? I am--and other readers surely will be--curious to learn under what authority you speak on this matter. Do please elucidate.

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  36. There is nothing wrong with either having or being a maid. My grandmother was a maid before she got married. It was during the depression and she helped her family survive. It is honorable work.

    I had a maid when I was working before I got married. Heck, I had a maid when I was a Peace Corps volunteer. My only complaint was that she was not as good a housekeeper as I was. But there is nothing, absolutely NOTHING wrong with paying someone else to clean your house. The only wrong part is when she doesn't do a good job.

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  37. TGD: I couldn't agree with you more. Thank you for commenting, I look forward to reading through your blog, it looks most interesting, indeed.

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  38. Thank you to everyone who took the time to comment here, at least those who had something thoughtful or constructive to add or share. As of now I am no longer accepting any further comments on this topic, as I believe it has been most thoroughly vetted.

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  39. I have been employed as a maid for about 9 years. In that time I have had 5 positions, 4 were live in. In all but one I have been required to wear an employer supplied dress and apron. I don't see what all the fuss is about. I don't think there would be as much controversy if we were asked to wear a space suit!!!! Has anyone ever done a survey on what maids think of uniforms? I am fairly sure most would prefer to wear a nice uniform supplied for them than their own clothes, I know I do. I think any reluctance on the part of maids comes from the "cap and apron" days when household staff were called "servants" and had no choice but to be strictly and some times inappropiatly uniformed.
    The thing is, a maids clothes are (technicley) not a uniform anyway. Clothes can only be termed a "uniform " if more that one person is wearing the same clothes. Therefor a maid working in a home by herself does not, strictly speaking, wear a "uniform". On the other hand maids working in hotels etc. do wear a unifprm as usually they are all dressed alike. The term "uniform" is used to describe a group of people dressed the same.
    My current maids clothes consist of a grey dress for day wear / cleaning and a black dress for serving/evenings, both have white trim and are calf length. My day aprons are either light blue or white plainish bib aprons. My evening apron is a white full apron with some ruffles. I think it is very much ok for employers to request their staff to wear a uniform of some sort to denote their place within the house/buisness etc. I don't see the difference in a maid wearing a uniform or a policeman or nurse or even buisnessmen who have to wear a suit and tie. All the same.
    Maid = dress and apron.
    Buisnessman = Suit and tie.

    Regards,
    Kim.

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  40. Kim: Thank you for your comment. Your perspective being on the "inside" is invaluable. Please come back often and comment!
    Reggie

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  41. Reggie, which clothes were the domestic maids required to wear when you grew up?

    I think it's up to the employer what requiring a maid or nanny to wear, just like a waitress.

    When my friend worked as a live-in maid/nanny when she was around 20, she had to wear a white blouse, a black skirt, white apron and a name tag. She was also required to put her hair into a ponytail.

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  42. I have a maid and I'm quite strict. She is required to wear a uniform at all times. I designed the uniform myself. She is required to wear a blue skirt, a white shirt, a blue tie and a white apron. Hair must be tied back in a net. No heavy makeup, jewellery or nail varnish. Smart black shoes. The uniform must be clean and neatly pressed. Tie must be worn properly around the neck with a heavily startched colar. My maid looks imaculate all times and this is how I like it. I treat her well and pay her very well. But she is not my friend. I'm her boss and I require her to behave in a formal way and do a good job. I'm quite fussy....... She has been with me for two years and seems happy. But she always knows her place. She lives in my home and I pay her wages so she must abide by my rules.
    I have made her uniform very strict and formal as I feel it makes her take her job more seriously. I have no time for laziness or non-sense and want a good job to be done at all times.

    I am rich and don't have to work. Yes it is unfair........my maid's life is very different to mine and that is one of the reasons I have kept our relationship so formal. Because if we were friends, our different lifestyles would soon become obvious and she would probably become resentful of my luck in life and there would be conflict between us.

    But she is treated as a human being, with good pay, healthcare, holidays, bonuses, use of one of my cars. So she has a good deal.

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  43. Anon 2:18: The maids in our house when I was growing up wore a variation on the gray and white uniform shown in my post. Some years they wore pastel yellow dresses with white cuffs and aprons, others times pale blue. Sometimes white, too, as I recall (see what Regina is wearing in my "How Reggie Got His Name" post). But that was for daytime wear. At night they always black, with a dressier white apron.

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  44. Hello again, it's Anon 2:18. Thanks for your answering. I also want to say that my friend hated wearing a uniform, but as I said, it's up to the employer.

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  45. I am Nathalie, a 23 years old french girl and I've been working in the USA as a maid for 10 months. Please, forgive me for my english mistakes. I read your comments about if a maid should wear uniform. At the beginning, I was wear with an apron only. But, during last Christmas time, my employer bought me a classical costume, black dress and white apron for the service during the Christmas diner. I was very fine.
    I like a lot my job for many reasons. I consider that my uniform is a mark of my job and I think that if you like your job, you should wear for that. A policeman likes his job, and wears an uniform.
    My employer bought me others dress, red, green, blue, yellow, many others apron and I cannot wear others clothes. When I go food shoping, I wear my uniform.
    Sincerly, I think that for girl likes their job, wearing an uniform is not problem. We should do it. Forgive me for my bad english, I promise you to make progress.

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  46. Anon 2:30 -- thank you for your lovely comment. Beautifully expressed, and the English is perfect! Thank you, Reggie

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  47. Apropos to nothing: A parable of sorts has been passed down in my family from my great-grandmother, who worked as maid in a very large household at the end of the 19th century (the story is that the house employed 60 people, with cooking, cleaning and gardening combined, but I find that hard to believe). She was asked to iron silks during the summer, an unpleasant task even today. Apparently she hated this, and proceeded to do a very poor job -- purposely burning, waterstaining and further wrinkling every garment that came her way. She performed all other duties to the highest standard, and rather than being fired, (amazingly) was removed from ironing duty. She was also said to be exceptionally beautiful, which might have had something to do with the lenience.

    It's always been unclear just what to take from this. Mixed messages were a hallmark of my family, who demanded precision and excellence in all things and would themselves never accept this type of behavior, but in a way she was a master of her own destiny. Was that the message, here? Was that the point of this story, passed down 120 years? Do what you do well, and screw the rest? It was a small victory.

    Sometimes I think of the House of Worth fancies destroyed by my conniving great-grandmother and sigh!

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  48. Don't think that maids should wear uniforms. But dress appropriately for the job. Just ask yourself as the employer: would you feel comfortable wearing what you ask your employees to wear. If not, do otherwise. If you don't know, then try wearing the outfit you ask them to wear for a time to see what you think, include wearing it out in public.

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  49. Anon 3:20: I respectfully disagree. So long as an employee understands the uniform requirements of their profession or terms of employment, then they are free to choose whether they find it acceptable to engage in that employment, or not. Many professions require honest uniforms, particularly service ones, which are well-known. If wearing a uniform is abhorrent, then choose a form of employment that doesn't require one. And by the way, I frequently wear khakis and polo shirts out in public, the uniform we supply our maid for daily work, but as a man would find it ludicrous to appear in public wearing the dress that our maid wears on more formal occasions.

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  50. I have posted here before and would like to comment further. Having read some of the later posts (especially from those purporting to be employers, I feel there maybe a little lack of realism here. On the subject at hand, maids and any other domestic staff should be required to wear a uniform. If for no other reason than to be immediatly recognisable as household staff. I am a maid and prefer to wear a formal uniform. I have seen maids wearing khakis and polo shirts and find this sort of "uniform" not in the best interest of either party. A maid should be instantly recognisable, and not mistaken for a family member, friend or guest of her employer. This stops any embarasment due to mistaken identity for either party. A suitable dress (mine is standard calf length grey with white trim) and a large blue/white work apron for day wear and a more formal black dress with a pinafore apron for evening wear.
    Regards,
    Kim.

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  51. Hello Kim,
    Thank you very much for your comment, it is greatly appreciated, and welcomed. I believe many of the commenters on this post who object to the wearing of uniforms by domestics are likely unaccustomed to either employing them or living in a house that does (or has in the past). Your comment -- from the trenches so to speak -- provides a very useful and informative perspective that, far from being considered "demeaning" as some of my other commenters opine, uniforms are a sensible form of dress for many professions, including household domestics. Thank you.

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  52. I found this blog by chance. I admit that I love parts of it (the Vassar story was nice) and the design elements, but this post bothers me.

    This post -- and other elements of this blog -- is so insufferably condescending. I can't tell if I'm more shocked by the pretentious attitude or the fact that someone can write this and not laugh.

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  53. Dear Anon 1:32 -- What makes you think there isn't an element of humor here?

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  54. I employ a very part-time cleaning young Asian lady for whom I provide a couple of Japanese Maid uniforms. She looks quite cute and does like wearing them but I had to stop my boyfriend coming over when she is around...
    Jen_Ryouku

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  55. I have been a auto mechanic for 10 years and had to wear uniform coveralls as a condition of my employment. It had my first name as well as the company I worked for on my chest left and right pockets.The coveralls wear very comfortable and told everyone that I was a blue color worker. Anyhow, I wore my uniform with pride. Quite frakly I realy dont understand what is so wrong with wearing a uniform.

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  56. As a member of the Air Force, I love wearing my uniform - not only for the pride it evokes, but also because it keeps my nice slacks and pretty sweaters clean! Imagine if I had to remove an A-10 gun system in Lilly? Perish the thought.

    -Brin
    eiwc.blogspot.com

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  57. I use to be employed as a bank teller and at that time we had to wear our own cloth.During that time I spent a lot of money on keeping my cloth clean.I therefore decided to join a supermarket, which paid a lot more money. As women employees we wore a pale blue wrap around cotton dress and dark blue bibapron. I love my uniform for many reasons. It saves me money in cleanng as well as having to buy my own cloth from time to time. Also it takes me less time to get dressed in the morning to get to work.I wear my uniform with pride and tells me who I am! Which is a supermarket clerk. Anyhow, I love my new job.

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  58. Wow, too many passionate comments to read through!

    Great post Reggie, although I couldn't stop laughing.

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  59. hallò from italy hour 23.03

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  60. Hi Reggie I am a maid for 20 years I have several uniforms mostly dresses a few skirts and blouses also I love to and rather clean wearing a dress / uniform. It is very comfortable and easier to move in . She gives me choices on shades of hosiery and provides diffent color flats to wear which are very nice and comfortable. I have worn them for many years once in a while she will try a new color but usually the same style . I have no complaints about wearing a uniform as a maid / housekeeper. Mandy

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  61. Hello Mandy: Thank you for your interesting and informative comment. Your perspective is much appreciated!

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  62. i agree that even maid wear uniforms so that the master or the head of the house can distinguish what the maid duties are.

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  63. what would be appropriate for cleaning help in a upscale Caribbean villa?

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  64. White blouse and black skrt?

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  65. Until this domestic labor force is Unionized with a contract and a liveable pay scale and insurance hired from a bonded agency The 400,000 dollar a year mommy lawyers with Guatemalan day care help (with nothing paid into social security) will see a turnover unless the employer learns money talks but a contract something lawyers know about a contract broken is grounds for a suit

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  66. Well?.....just for the record?

    Having just read your posting, I expected you'd be in for some flack, given that the overall tone wavered somewhere between that of Nancy Reagan and early Ronald Firbank. I'll admit that I probably couldn't pull-off that tone with any sort of winning charm, either (not that I'd be inclined to try doing it). To be honest, I still haven't quite-yet figured out the degree of irony with which you've named the house you've bought "Darlington House" (as in "Montague House" and other ancestral/family seats).

    I also noted that your link to/discussion of the yardman concentrated on his indispensably sterling qualities, whereas your link to/discussion of the "maid" was about nothing but the need for her (or any such female-employee)to wear a uniform (and, yes, it IS a uniform)that won't offend the delicately calibrated sensibilities of the masters of Darlington House. I assume you were being deliberately provocative, in a sort of presumably self-amusing, arch way. I suppose that comes with the territory.

    That said?...

    Our cleaning lady (I'd call her a "maid", but that would pretentiously imply that there's a housekeeper supervising her..not to mention the incongruency of her being 60-something years old) in this big,220 year old, rambling & quirky house comes about twice per week. She's the no-nonsense (but VERY funny, in a country way I grew up with) mother of the yardman.

    I'm from the upper South and from a readily-indentifiable background. If there's one woman working in (or running, for that matter) the house, she's generally referred to as "the housekeeper" (unless she's the cook). In the deep South, of course, they LOVE self-congratulatorily referring to such women as "maids", and they love having as many as possible while paying them as little as possible, and referring to them as "the help"....and, yes, they do generally insist on the foolishness of a pristinely-pressed, little grey skirt& white blouse (ever tried to scrub a bathtub in one of those get-ups?). Such folks (who are inevitably & irretrievably bourgeoise to the core) also tend to run through "maids" at a predictably unproductive (for all parties involved) rate. They also make a point of referring to such women as "My maid" or "OUR maid", rather than simply referring to "the housekeeper".

    The first time Mrs. Wilkins showed up for work at this household, she re-introduced herself to me and asked "Now, where's my closet?" (over the years, she's worked in several of the best houses in this tiny, old town). I told her that 18th century houses don't exactly HAVE "closets", but I could reserve the big armoire in the hallway for her. So, I emptied it out....and that's where she keeps her "work clothes". Occasionally, when she's here and working with bleach or other chemicals, she wears perfectly unremarkable "pantsuits". When she's merely vacuuming/dusting, she wears the skirts&blouses that she wore when she worked at a nursing home. She LIKES it that way, and I don't ask questions. As a general rule, she changes clothes when she arrives...sometimes twice during a day....depends on what she's decided to do. She's known (and introduced) as Mrs. Wilkins (although I call her "Nadeen", and she calls me "David"). It's never even occurred to me to worry over the matter of some UPS man's mistaking her for the owner of the house. If he did, I really wouldn't care, and neither would she. We'd probably laugh over the matter afterwards.

    She's never served at one of my dinner parties. She's been a GUEST at two of them, however. She's a very funny lady.

    Well, enough from me, I suppose.

    Level Best as Ever,

    David Terry
    www.davidterryart.com

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    Replies
    1. Hello David,
      Thank you for your thoughtful and thought-provoking comment. As you say, one can develop close and caring relationships with those in one's employ. We recently had our city housekeeper of 25 years to stay the weekend with us at Darlington House, where she was a guest and not there to attend to us. We all had a lot of fun, and I look forward to her return visit later this year. Our handyman here at Darlington House, whom we like immensely, has been working for us for 15 years, and is someone who has entertained us, and who we've entertained as well. I suspect that many of the angry commenters on this post don't understand or appreciate that developing a positive relationship with someone in one's employe is a possibility, much less something worth aspiring to. Reggie

      Delete
  67. I was just watching Downton Abbey. Funny how much this post makes me think of it. I do agree that high school football uniforms, military uniforms, police uniforms, etc, all lend honor and respect to the profession of the wearer. However, I am not sure about domestic uniforms... food for thought!

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  68. Nice Blog. Really enjoyed while reading. I agree with your content that maids should wear uniforms while working. As uniforms reflect positive image in front of other.

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  69. Came across this blog while researching maid uniforms for an art assignment. What a bunch of elitist snobs you are. Must be nice to be in the 1%. Your time will come.

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    1. Well, at least I'm giving someone honest employment. And I pay them substantially more than what I suspect you get at your part-time job working in a hipster coffee shop. Have a nice day!

      Delete
    2. And, yes, I agree my time will come, but probably not in the way you meant it. According to actuarial tables I have about thirty more years ahead of me. And I fully intend to employ a maid or housekeeper for each and every one of them. Thanks, Reggie

      Delete
  70. I have been a uniform maid for the last three years and appreciate that my employer was kind to buy me all my uniforms for day and evening duties.They consist of grey dresses,white bib aprons and caps.I enjoy the comfort of waaring them with pride.I even wear my uniform,when I have to do the shopping at the supermarket I even met my boy friend there,who is a uniformed clerk wearing his apron with pride.He looks real cute in his uniform and aprons.We dont feel like servants. So what is the fuss about having to wear a uniform.

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  71. I don't think that house keepers should have a problem with wearing uniforms. Unless they are hard to clean with or kinky.

    However you come of as an arrogant narcissist who only responds politely or at all to people who agree with you. You also seem to delete posts that don't agree with you or call you out on your snobby attitude.

    Not to mention you indulge in bad stereotypes. That NASCAR comment was completely out of hand and no humor was found in it. I my self do not enjoy the sport but I won't judge those who do.

    "No amount of vintage dresses gives you dignity"

    -Samus

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    Replies
    1. To each his own. So, how is it that you know I delete comments that disagree with me? I generally publish negative comments (to whit, yours), although I refrain from publishing ones that are outright nasty or vulgar. Bless your heart.

      Delete
  72. This blog is old, but I only just found it and thought I would comment on it... I used to be a maid, for a year, to save money for college. I worked in a formal household, with a mistress who I had to call Madam, a uniform, and strict protocols like never sitting in her presence. My friends all ask me how I put up with it. However, it wasn't all bad. She had old-fashioned views about looking after servants, and gave me a lovely room with ensuite, VERY good pay, always said thank you, etc. There was never any question about who was the mistress and who was the maid, but I still don't think I was unfairly treated. It was better than working in a shop, living in a flatshare with lots of strangers and earning minimum wage.

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