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Upstairs/Downstairs: The Lady’s Maid

In her best interest, the lady’s maid first priority was to study her mistress’ temper. The astute lady’s maid was keenly observant of the most minute changes in mood and disposition because only then could she step in with her services and become indispensible to her mistress.ladys maid

Indispensability was the status every lady’s maid strived for. As can be akin to many jobs today, by anticipating, she subtly created the dependence between the two, establishing her position in the household. Beyond that indispensability, she must always present herself in a professional manner with proper etiquette and agreeable appearance.

Always ranked as an upper servant, she was accorded a room to herself and in some homes, a very lavishly decorated one. Expected to read and write, she was given The Duties of a Lady’s Maid published in 1825 which, among other things, told her how to chose a color that best fit her lady’s complexion. There were 6 descriptions: carnation, floride, fair, pale, sallow, and brunette.

Some of her duties include: dressing, changing, and undressing her lady; the care of her lady’s wardrobe; mixing and making up of cosmetic potions and cream. She always received her lady’s castoffs, and upon her death expected (if she was good enough) to receive her entire wardrobe.

“The lady’s maid was warned, in particular, to have neither eyes, ears, nor understanding for what your mistress tries to conceal from you. There is nothing will sooner make you feared, distrusted, and ruined.” The Duties of the Lady’s Maid, 1825

I even have recipes for making things (perfume, dyeing leather, etc), but that’s for another blog.

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5 Comments

  1. cmkempe says:

    I love those kinds of handbooks that give insight into this lost time. How wonderful to have that kind of pampering, but also what a strange job to have. These female Jeeves were doubtless just as indispensable. Hmmm, that suddenly gives me an idea for a sweet comedy romance!

    Can’t wait to see the recipes!

  2. Isabel Roman says:

    You know, you’re right! You NEVER hear about the lady’s maid, only the valet! I knew this but never really thought about it, Hmmm

  3. Your blog is so informative … ..I just bookmarked you….keep up the good work!!!!

  4. Danielle says:

    This one was first to come up and is just the information I was looking for to help me prepare for a small role! Thank you.

  5. Anonymous says:

    This is very informative and i will hope to look at your other blogs. It is by wonderful luck that i clicked on to the link. I have read book where they had a lady’s maid in a side romance that was very good. I find this era very interesting and their ways of life. Can’t wait to look at your other blogs.

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