The grand experiment started with the couple's interest in Victorian fashion. At first, Gabriel started giving Sarah pieces of Victorian clothing as gifts, but Sarah found herself so fascinated with the clothes that she wanted to wear them herself.
Just like the Victorian women she admires, Sarah wears a corset every day. At first she was hesitant to try one, but after some research, she learned that a lot of the stereotypes associated with corsets aren't true. According to her research, corsets are not unsafe, nor have they ever been responsible for any broken bones. On the contrary, corsets often provide a lot of support and improve posture. While it took some getting used to, corsets are now a staple in Sarah's wardrobe.
The city of Port Townsend, Washington (where the Chrismans live) has many Victorians houses and buildings still standing today, so it was the obvious place for the Chrismans to start their search for a home. The house they settled on and moved into five years ago was built in the late 1880s by Henry Lake.
Although their home is wired for electricity, Sarah and Gabriel typically rely on natural light and oil lamps. In a recent article for Vox, Sarah writes: "When we started using period illumination every day, we were amazed by how much brighter the light is from antique oil lamps than from modern reproductions."
When the Chrismans have guests, they do sometimes use electric lights, although not modern bulbs. The light bulbs in their home are made of hand-blown glass and based on designs by Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla.
When Sarah and Gabriel first moved into their home, there was an electric fridge in the kitchen. They sold it as soon as they could, opting instead for a period-appropriate icebox. In order to keep the icebox functional, Gabriel has to buy 10 pound blocks of ice from a store and transport them home in a cooler. Every evening (sometimes twice a day in the summer), Sarah empties the meltwater tray beneath the icebox.
Sarah cooks many of the couple's meals following authentic Victorian recipes, and bakes all their bread from scratch. However, she and her husband also forage for many healthy foods from the land around their home ””her favorite fruit is thimbleberries!
Due to their unique lifestyle, neither Sarah nor Gabriel has ever had a cellphone, and Sarah hasn't ever had a driver's license, either. For fun, they ride around town on replica high-wheel cycles (what else?). On these outings, they often draw a lot of attention, but they enjoy taking the opportunity to answer people's questions and teach them about history.
Unfortunately, the Chrismans deal with more than their fair share of adversity. When asked about the greatest challenge about living as modern-day Victorians, Sarah says it's dealing with other people's reactions. "We live in a world that can be terribly hostile to difference of any sort," writes Sarah, who has been repeatedly prodded and groped by insensitive onlookers.