BRITISH COLUMBIA

Couple Booted From Victorian Gardens For Wearing Victorian Clothes

08/17/2016 06:44 EDT | Updated 08/18/2016 11:59 EDT

An American couple said they were "insulted" after they were shut out of B.C.'s Butchart Gardens because of the way they were dressed.

Sarah and Gabriel Chrisman wear 19th century-style clothing every day. Their garments are just one part of their shared mission to educate others about the Victorian era.

sarah chrisman

The couple live in a home built in the 1880s, and own a replica Victory bicycle from 1885. (Photo: Sarah A. Chrisman/Facebook)

The couple, who live in Washington state, had planned to spend the afternoon at the gardens near Victoria to celebrate their wedding anniversary last weekend. They booked a ferry north from their hometown in Port Townsend, and bought tickets to have high tea on the grounds.

But when they reached the tourist attraction, staff told them they had to change their clothes or leave.

Sarah wore a blue, handmade dress with a matching hat. Gabriel arrived in a three-piece checkered suit.

sarah gabriel chrisham

The Chrismans were Victoria, B.C. to celebrate their anniversary. (Photos: Sarah A. Chrisman/Facebook)

Butchart Gardens doesn’t allow guests to wear "historical dress" or "period style" on grounds. The concern, according to a statement on the gardens’ website, is that costumed guests will be "mistaken" for staff.

Sarah said she and her husband were asked to change out of their "costumes," and were even offered staff uniforms to wear instead. One worker offered a one-time exception to the rule if Sarah removed her hat, but she refused, the Butchart Gardens’ statement read.

Sarah said she and her husband were insulted, and published an essay on her blog about the experience.

sarah chrisman

"That sort of treatment is exactly why so many people deny their own beautiful individuality and simply move with the herd to avoid harassment," Sarah wrote in an email to HuffPost Canada, explaining what bothered her most about the experience.

"Everyone deserves the chance to be themselves and express their own individuality."

In the end, the gardens refunded the couple and paid for their taxi back into Victoria. The pair spent the rest of the day sightseeing, and said they were "welcomed" at other gardens and landmarks in the provincial capital.

"We [don't want to] let the experience at Butchart overshadow everything else in the wonderful city of Victoria," Sarah said.

"I hope that by setting an example of living by our principles and refusing to give them up, my husband and I can inspire others to likewise live their own dreams and be true to themselves."

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  • Wandsworth Prison, 1860.
    Alamy
    A diagram made as a part of Victorian record keeping shows the original layout of Wandsworth Prison, with four wings surrounding a central hall.
  • Wandsworth Prison, 2000s.
    Anthony Devlin/PA Archive
    And this image of the modern-day Wandsworth shows how little the prison has changed since its construction. The complex is still formed around a central core, with newer additions occupying former green spaces within the prison walls.
  • Pentonville Prison, 1844.
    Alamy
    This 1844 diagram of Pentonville - known as "the Ville" - shows the four main wings revolved around a central main building. Copious outdoor space includes fitness facilities such as running tracks.
  • Pentonville Prison, 2014.
    Sky News/Film Image Partner via Getty Images
    As this modern-day photograph shows, Pentonville retains its 160-year-old Victorian masterplan, although much of the outdoors has been developed into facilities and accommodation, reducing recreational space.