(By Robert Firth)
A Victorian-obsessed graduate has ditched her 9-5 life to pursue her dream of living like a 19th century duchess in a country mansion…
Jacqueline Brown, 25, from St. Louis City, Missouri always thought she’d take an office job after university, but decided to pursue her passion for the Victorian era after coming across the opportunity to be the live-in caretaker of a 19th century manor house.
The graphic design graduate, who estimates she has spent over £4,000 (R86,000) on period clothing in the last three years, wiles away her days showing guests around the 1853-built Oakland House and tending to the property’s upkeep.
And her time staying at the house has made Jacqueline re-think her ambitions and she now hopes to move to the home of the Victorians themselves, Britain, to work in a museum devoted to her favourite period in history.
“Living her dream”
She said: “Living in a Victorian mansion was never my original career plan, but it has allowed me the opportunity to live my dream.
“I’ve been the caretaker here for just under two years and I don’t want to leave. I’m in love with everything about the Victorian era. The clothing is my favourite thing. I love the shape of the dresses. I love that women were feminine, and I love the romance of courtship. I try and dress in a historical way whatever I’m doing and I almost never wear trousers.”
“Obviously I can’t go to out shopping in town in a ball gown dress, but I wear skirts every day and usually wear a hat influenced by the period.”
Jacqueline previously styled herself on the renaissance era, which she got into through performing in historical re-enactments, before developing a new passion for the Victorian period.
Her interest in all things Victorian snowballed while studying at university, where she accidentally acquired a minor in history, after picking up so many courses on the side about the era.
Clothing worth over R86,000
Today, Jacqueline has a collection of 20 Victorian dresses in her wardrobe, some that she has bought online or had tailor-made for around £400 (R8,600) per garment and others that belong to the Oakland House, which she is allowed to wear in her role as caretaker.
The Oakland House was built in 1853 by French banker Louis A. Benoist as a country retreat to escape the cholera epidemic plaguing the nearby city of St. Louis, where the financier had his main residence.
Jacqueline said: “It’s not just the clothes from the Victorian period that I’m a fan of.
“I also love the fact that the Victorians had carriages instead of cars. I’m not a fan of cars and I would love to go around in a carriage.
“I like the designs from the period too and even before moving into the mansion all my bedding and curtains were Victorian-styled.
“I love the literature as well – particularly the Brontë sisters. Wuthering Heights is probably my favourite novel of all time.
“My sister is really into the 1970’s and the 1960’s and I used to go antiques shopping with her. I think that’s maybe where this all started.
“We both like old things but we’re at different points on the timeline.”
Breakdown of spending:
- Ball gowns: £2,009 (around R43,600)
- Day dresses: £1,205 (around R26,000)
- Hats: £402 (around R8,600)
- Victorian accessories: £241 (around R5,200)
- Corsets & hoop skirts: £161 (around R3,500)