Monday, November 11, 2013

Caption: One of These Women

Even those who used to know Lady Constance as the belle of the ball would find it very hard to recognize her in the rough-looking scullery maid that she has become. It wasn't just her plain hairstyle or her unflattering maid's uniform or the calluses on her hands - an unmistakable sign that she was a member of the working classes. The change was deeper than that.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

How Vulgar: Maids and Their Low-Class Speech

I have to admit it: I am a fan of old etiquette books and household-management manuals. There is no shortage of them online and they offer an interesting glimpse into the life that is long gone. Even though I have a sneaking suspicion that much of what is in these books has little relation to real attitudes and behaviors, it is not hard to imagine a social climber of the time actually reading these manuals to learn how to dress, walk and talk like a real lady, or an inexperienced wife learning how to interact with her household staff. Or a lady's maid learning a thing or two about how to serve her mistress best.

One particular aspect of the social downgrade transformation I have always found exciting was adopting a coarser and less educated manner of speech typical of the lower classes. Our speech is as much a part of us as the way we look and is, arguably, even more important in determining how we are perceived by people around us. That makes it a powerful instrument in describing a social drop or rise. While most stories dealing with upper/lower class transformation ignore the topic or only mention it in passing, there are some excellent examples of writers paying a great deal of attention to that. Emma Finn's writings, in particular Criminal Record, come to mind. Monica Graz's Domestication of a Parisian Bourgeois is another excellent example: the main character actually learns how to speak with a coarse Portuguese accent to fully embrace her immigrant maid persona. Another great example, offering the most painstaking description of learning how to speak like a low-class character I have come across, is "A Certain Perception'' by Angel Charysse. While the story doesn't deal with maids, its description of the voluntary change from an upper-class man into a dirty-talking and uncultured transsexual hooker is among the hottest (as well as most detailed) in transformation fiction.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Caption: At Her Beck and Call

-- Your heels, miss.

When New York heiress Alice Vanderveer suggested to switch places with her maid Emma Smith on board a transatlantic cruise liner neither of them realized how far this charade would take them. Since they arrived in London, instead of switching back, the new Alice has taken to the lifestyle of a rich and pampered heiress like a fish to water: her new blond hairdo made her look like a Hollywood princess and she reveled in the attention that she was getting from the men around her. And letters from her prospective suitors just kept on coming each day even as the American heiress's engagement to the young Lord Willougby was the most talked-about - and scandalous - event of the season!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Maid For Diamonds: Vogue Japan 2012

Given that country's fascination with maids it is hardly surprising this was published in Vogue Japan. Clearly the mistress in the next to last photo was not amused!