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This Victorian Life/Victorian Secrets
by Sarah A. Chrisman

This Victorian Life/Victorian Secrets by Sarah A. Chrisman

Victorian Secrets: What a Corset Taught Me about the Past, the Present, and Myself

On Sarah A. Chrisman’s twenty-ninth birthday, her husband, Gabriel, presented her with a corset. The material and the design were breathtakingly beautiful, but her mind immediately filled with unwelcome views. Although she had been in love with the Victorian era all her life, she had specifically asked her husband not to buy her a corset—ever. She’d heard how corsets affected the female body and what they represented, and she wanted none of it. However, Chrisman agreed to try on the garment . . . and found it surprisingly enjoyable. The corset, she realized, was a tool of empowerment—not oppression. After a year of wearing a corset on a daily basis, her waist had gone from thirty-two inches to twenty-two inches, she was experiencing fewer migraines, and her posture improved. She had successfully transformed her body, her dress, and her lifestyle into that of a Victorian woman—and everyone was asking about it.

In Victorian Secrets, Chrisman explains how a garment from the past led to a change in not only the way she viewed herself, but also the ways she understood the major differences between the cultures of twenty-first-century and nineteenth-century America. The desire to delve further into the Victorian lifestyle provided Chrisman with new insight into issues of body image and how women, past and present, have seen and continue to see themselves.

Sarah A. Chrisman was born in a suburb of Seattle and graduated from the University of Washington in 2002. Alongside her husband, Gabriel, she gives presentations on nineteenth-century clothing, dress, and culture. The couple lives in Port Townsend, Washington, in one of the beautiful nineteenth-century homes they once coveted on visits to Washington’s Victorian seaport. http://www.thisvictorianlife.com/


"In a personal account of the social and historical evolution of the corset, Sarah Chrisman provides a distinct and revisionist analysis of Victorian attire. This book encourages us to put aside our assumptions of the oppressive nature of fashion. Chrisman thoughtfully focuses on the ways women of many classes within society sought to create impressions, still critical in today's political economy." — Christine Ingebritsen, professor, the University of Washington

"Reading this book reminded me of just how much what we wear shapes us—both figuratively and literally. . . . Chrisman’s experience pushed me to be not only confident in what I choose to wear, but knowledgeable as to why and how I am choosing to wear it." — WORN Fashion Journal (Toronto)

"In Victorian Secrets, Sarah Chrisman shares what it’s like to live a Victorian life in today’s modern world. In an attempt to further understand the nineteenth-century lifestyle and truly connect with the past, she began wearing a corset on a daily basis—and now rarely takes it off! A stately lady with the twenty-two-inch waist, she uses her experiences to teach others about the past, the present, and the future. You won’t regret—or forget—reading this book." — Hilda Meryhew, treasurer and historian, Neely Mansion Association

"Wherever Sarah Chrisman goes, she turns heads. Now, you can turn pages to find out why that is. What has been viewed as restrictive has freed her to live a life of her choosing—that elusive thing we all seek. In her fascinating book, whether you agree with her or not, Sarah captures the essence of living a truly authentic life." — Terry Murphy, Seattle TV Producer/Writer

"While it seems these days everyone is trying some sort of personal challenge or experiment to blog about it, Chrisman's experience is much more genuine. She didn't challenge herself to 'a year of corset wearing' to advance her fame and fortune. Her memoir of her transformation into a twenty-first-century Victorian lady is candid, funny, and offers new perspectives on the assumptions and biases of our own era and astute observations on timeless human tendencies." — Debra Alderman, The Woman’s Century Club

This Victorian Life: Modern Adventures in Nineteenth-Century Culture, Cooking, Fashion, and Technology

Part memoir, part micro-history, this is an exploration of the present through the lens of the past.

We all know that the best way to study a foreign language is to go to a country where it's spoken, but can the same immersion method be applied to history? How do interactions with antique objects influence perceptions of the modern world?

From Victorian beauty regimes to nineteenth-century bicycles, custard recipes to taxidermy experiments, oil lamps to an ice box, Sarah and Gabriel Chrisman decided to explore nineteenth-century culture and technologies from the inside out. Even the deepest aspects of their lives became affected, and the more immersed they became in the late Victorian era, the more aware they grew of its legacies permeating the twenty-first century.

Most of us have dreamed of time travel, but what if that dream could come true? Certain universal constants remain steady for all people regardless of time or place. No matter where, when, or who we are, humans share similar passions and fears, joys and triumphs.

In her first book, Victorian Secrets, Chrisman recalled the first year she spent wearing a Victorian corset 24/7. In This Victorian Life, Chrisman picks up where Secrets left off and documents her complete shift into living as though she were in the nineteenth century.

“A journey to the past through the eyes of the future, both educating and enthralling with Chrisman’s oftentimes humorous adventures with the Victorian Era.” —Grace Gold, beauty and wellness expert and journalist

“The Chrismans give our shared history a shocking tangibility and help us see that the past is much more present, everyday, than we might realize.” —Britt Sondreal, host of BreakThru Radio’s Sew & Tell

"Sarah Chrisman's foray into a lifeway of Victorian foods, furnishings, an technologies deftly avoids romanticizing this 1880–90s era while presenting pleasures and challenges. . . . These are fascinating reflections on how each Victorian object shapes understandings of everyday life." —Jeanne E Arnold, lead author, Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century