Young Couple Pretends It’s The 1890s To Enjoy Slower, Simpler Lives

by Laura Caseley
Laura is a writer, illustrator, and artist living in New York City.

It’s afternoon in Port Townsend, Washington. While the Pacific Northwest sky is classically gray; it’s warm and cozy in Sarah and Gabriel Chrisman’s parlor, thanks to the heat emanating from the gas-powered heater.

The couple sit by the window. He, in pince-nez glasses, reads up on the natural sciences while she, in an elegant but simple high-neck blouse and long skirt, sits in a sewing chair while working on her latest sewing project, maybe something warm for the coming winter.

If you didn’t know better, this sounds like a scene from the 1890s, and in many ways, it is. The handmade clothing, the gas heater, and the beautiful but cozy furniture and rugs all come from another time.

But this scene is happening right now.

The Chrismans have opted to live a Victorian life in the 21st century, cooking and eating the food, wearing the clothing, and using the technology (for the most part) of the 1880s and ’90s.

To them, the homemade meals and handmade clothing, as well as the slower pace of riding a bicycle over a car, represents a slower, more conscious, and mindful way of living.

But they don’t isolate themselves. In fact, they’re more than happy to share their lifestyle with the modern world, and they do have a website and Facebook so we can peek in on their lives.

And if you think the Victorian period, which covers the years between 1837 and 1901, was a stiff and dour time, think again. The Chrismans have plenty of fun, and there’s also plenty of historical evidence showing that just like today, people in the Victorian era loved to get silly.

Learn about how the Chrismans bring a little Victoriana into today’s world, and it might even inspire you to slow down and appreciate life in a timeless way.

[H/T: Messy Nessy Chic]

Sarah and Gabriel Chrisman live a Victorian lifestyle in Washington state.

Although they have an Internet presence, everything in their home — from furniture to appliances and clothing — would have existed in the 1890s.

Some of the furniture items are family heirlooms, while others have been carefully curated.

Heat comes from wood stoves and gas heaters, and light comes from candles, oil lamps, and lanterns. Food is kept fresh in an ice box.

They don’t have cell phones or TVs.

While their home might not have the modern “conveniences,” the Chrismans prefer living this way, which they feel is more mindful and frugal.

In addition to doing household chores the old-fashioned way, Sarah also makes much of the couple’s clothing — all by hand. No sewing machine needed!

Plus, they also have an extensive collection of actual antique clothing from the period, much of which can still be worn.

When she’s not sewing, Sarah works as a writer, and has penned multiple books on her and Gabriel’s unique lifestyle, along with all the challenges and adventures that come with it.

Her most recent book details how their lifestyle has grown and how it’s affected their relationship with one another and the world around them. Also, the book touches upon the echoes of the Victorian era that can still be felt today.

Gabriel is a bicycle enthusiast, and works in a bike shop. The couple’s lifestyle also comes with financial considerations.

“Our household income is considerably below average,” they explain on their website, “and that’s a restriction we have to work within.”

“We set our priorities carefully, decide what’s really important to us, and work from there.”

Luckily, a lot of frugality and thriftiness was part of the Victorian lifestyle.

Also, a lot of the food we enjoy today came about during the Victorian period, so they can enjoy things like root beer floats and shredded wheat.

Sarah cooks and bakes a lot, and the couple also takes advantage of their location and forages for berries when they’re in season.

Even the town of Port Townsend works for their Victorian style, with plenty of architecture and history from the era.

The couple can be found riding their bicycles through the picturesque town, stopping at the general store, and taking in the scenery.

The Chrismans are also avid cyclists, using, of course, the latest in 1890s cycling technology.

That means a high-wheel bicycle, called an Ordinary, for him…

…and a tricycle for her.

This three-wheeled version was designed for women, and allows them to ride without getting their skirts tangled in the wheels.

Cycling was popular during this era, as it still is today, and was considered to be a great way to get exercise and see the world.

Thanks to the many different styles of bike, both men and women could enjoy the activity.

The scenic port town offers the Chrismans a lot of beautiful views and natural beauty to explore, and the couple can often be found walking or cycling around, sometimes collecting plant or fossil specimens, in keeping with the Victorian fascination with the natural world.

And sometimes, it’s nice to just take in a book and some fresh air.

While the clothing may look cumbersome, Sarah’s grown accustomed to it and finds the fashion items both practical and comfortable. And because she makes them herself, everything is tailored to fit just right.

In case you were wondering, yes, she does wear a corset every day. She thinks that it’s helped improve her posture and finds them comfortable.

The Chrismans also offer educational services for the community, as well as historical consulting services for writers, filmmakers, and theaters.

Obviously, this kind of lifestyle requires a lot of dedication, but the Chrismans seem to know how to balance their love of the 1890s with the realities of living in the 2010s.

And for them, it’s helped them appreciate the world in a unique way.

You can learn more about their lifestyle, as well as what you might find in an upper middle class Victorian home in the 1890s, on their website and on Facebook. You can also check out some tutorials on their YouTube channel.

Would you dedicate your life to living in the style of another time period? If you could choose, would you go back to a certain era, or do you prefer the present?

Let us know in the comments, and SHARE to see what your friends think!