Out of a total population of 29 million, an estimated one and a half million people worked as domestic servants in England and Wales during the period 1850 to 1914. Till 1921, more than a million women were still in service as house maids and other household help. Wages were very low in those days but boarding and lodging were usually provided. Schedule was tight and housemaids seldom socialized.
One of the earliest known training centers for maids was a government training centre in Market Harborough, where potential maids were trained in skills related to domestic household. They were also taught how to create their own maids uniform.
It had become customary for wealthy households to employ domestic help like butlers, maids, cooks, gardeners etc in the 1920s. It was during this period that clothes manufacturers started incorporating fashion into maids’ uniforms, advertising them in women's magazines. Different varieties of maids’ attire for certain times of the day were introduced. For example, it was customary for the maids to wear more formal attires in the afternoons and evenings (mostly when serving tea or dinner), while they wore more casual uniforms for household chores.
The afternoon uniform during this period mainly comprised of a taffeta, crepe, moiré, or poplin dress in dark blue, green, brown, burgundy, or plum. Darker shades of Gray or black were preferred by some households, which were considered more conservative and formal for occasions such as evening affairs.
The standard collar, cuff, apron for the maids uniform were mostly white in color and the headpiece, worn over the area between the crown of the head and the forehead, was either gathered or pleated. It was tied in the back with an attached ribbon. The materials to be used for these components depended on the occasion. For example, they were to be made of lace for more formal affairs. The waistline remained predominantly in its natural position.
Different Types of Maids in History:
Lady's Maid: The lady's maid was normally the senior-most maid in the household who reported directly to the lady of the house, and represented the other maids under employment. Her duties included maintaining the wardrobe and accessories of the household lady. Lady’s maids were also generally expert needlewomen and hairdressers. Though the job could be challenging sometimes, they enjoyed a higher social status than the other servants and earned more money.
Chambermaids: Chambermaids performed a number of duties which included typical domestic chores such as cooking, ironing, washing, cleaning the house, grocery shopping, taking care of household pets and children etc.
Parlor Maid: The main function of the parlor maid was to take care of the parlor, or reception room and the table, and to answer and welcome the door when the butler was not around.
Nursery Maid: The nursery maid reported to the nanny or the children’s nurse and her main duties included chores related to the cleaning and maintaining of the nursery. She was also to assist the nurse in other chores when needed.
Kitchen Maid: The kitchen maid reported to the Head Cook and ranked below the cook in the household help hierarchy. She could also become the assistant cook depending on experience and expertise.
Scullery Maid: As an assistant to the kitchen maid, the scullery maid was the lowest ranking maid in the household. Her duties included cleaning of the floor, stoves, sinks, pots and dishes. They are more commonly known as “Hall Girls” in the United States.