I love thinking about what different decades were like and imagining what it would be like to live in them. I geek out over Downton Abbey along with the best of them. I think about the hair I’d have as a 1920s flapper (probably not a very flattering style considering my curls), the ways in which I’d get from place to place in the 1860s. I live in Gettysburg, PA, so the Civil War is never far from my mind.
But when I came across Sarah Chrisman and her partner Gabriel’s story, I was fascinated. The married couple lives as if they were in the late Victorian era—everything from wearing the clothes, to storing their food in an icebox and bathing with Castile bar soap from a company started in 1839. Basically, this couple is living history. And it’s awesome.
Their story was published on Vox this week and it already has 74K shares on Facebook. People are fascinated by their way of life. But that’s not why they initially started this project. “It’s hard to say who started it. I was the first to start wearing Victorian clothes, but Gabriel, who knew how I’d always admired Victorian ideals and aesthetics, gave them to me as presents, a way for both of us to research a culture we found fascinating,” Sarah writes.
It began with the couple collecting clothing from the period as a way to connect with history, and blossomed into a full immersion into Victorian culture. When their modern appliances broke down, for example, they would replace them with objects from the late 1800s.
“Everything escalated organically from there, and now our whole life revolves around this ongoing research project,” Sarah continues. “No one pays us for it, but we take it more seriously than many people take their paying jobs.” Part of their research project was buying a home in Port Townsend, Washington, that was built in 1988. Together the couple man the house as if it were still 1888 and they were its original owners.
They even research their trips using primary source documents from the Victorian era:
In many ways, the couple is doing research by living it.
The couple doesn’t have phones, but luckily for us, they keep a blog and have written several books on their lifestyle and the things they’ve learned by living the way they do.
Unfortunately, the couple often receives unwanted attention from people who don’t understand why they’d want to live the way they do–everything from rude comments to death threats, and physical contact. When they go on outings, they have to come up with plans for how they’ll eat their lunch in peace and how they’ll block people who try to be disrespectful.
In her blog, Sarah writes:
Well, Sarah and Gabriel, we’re speaking from the other side: keep doing what you are doing. Keep educating people about history through practice. You are awesome.
See more photos and check out more historical materials on their website.
(Photos published with permission by Estar Hyo-Gyung Choi, Mary Studio)