Posted by: allisongran | December 18, 2011

Last night, as I was getting ready to go to work, I ended up thinking about the discussion we had in class one day about the public vs. private sphere in today’s world relating directly to the idea of Hannah Cullwick and the issues she ran into while wearing her slave band.

It made me think about rules still complied with in particular job settings today, particularly that of serving. I work as a waitress in what’s considered a “fine dining” establishment. I guess you could say it’s a modern upper-class place, being that it’s a set menu per person automatically without drinks. On average, a four-person check will be upwards of $400 if they don’t get after dinner drinks, which most do, and most of the guests are “regulars”. It undeniable that there is a set social group that comes in, whether anyone who works there wants to admit it or not. And because of this “fine dining setting” there is a very specific set of rules adhered to by all staff.

Dress Code:

Black button down shirt, black Slacks, black lace shoes

Hair in Pony Tail for Girls, combed back for guys

Makeup- foundation allowed, no other makeup to be worn

Clear chapstick only

Only 1 post earring allowed per ear

No other jewelry at all, wedding rings only exception

No nail polish of any color including clear

No perfume, non-fragrant deodorant only
Other General Rules:

No cell phones to be seen in dining room (obviously)

No conversation between servers on floor

Avoid conversation with guests if possible

Excuse yourself by answering I’m very sorry but I’m needed in the kitchen

Never answer personal questions about the chefs

I’m sorry, the chefs only talk to us about the food.

“Be friendly, but not familiar”


These are a few of the rules which are abided in the restaurant. There is to be no understanding of the staff as people. Our main goal is to provide “invisible” service, seen and heard only in connection with the dishes being presented. Drinks and bread are to be refilled automatically and without notice, as is all silverware and napkins. But the world of fine dining is kind of an entity all on it’s own, but I just think it’s really interesting to compare these two worlds, when so many people think that kind of thing ended.


  1. I really like this comparison betwen today’s waiters’ outfit and Cullwick’s slave band. It’s true that both are farily arbitrary, yet carry such imporatnce and people get so fussy about these servantude costumes. Like, in order for us to comfortably ‘use’ people, they must have some marker to differentiate them from ourselves. Its perverse, because they are still humans even if they are getting us water, but its like we need a visual cue to use people.

    Also, this highlights the different clothes we are expected to wear in certain positions, when we are in certain occupations or societal positions, and must wear the clothes (“the clothes make the man”). Also, the acceptable clothing between public and private. Conventionally, the servant outfit is a public outfit, and we associate it with people working and public life. However for Munby, he seemed turned on by the intrusion of public life into his private sphere, and got off on the blurring of seperation between the two, the quick cross-over. This is not unlike the modern fasination with the maid outfit, as a sexual kink. It seems the intrusion of the public in the private, or vice versa, is an allluring concept that we are uncomfortable with, and thus fascinated by.

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