The New Victorians

Then there are the models. In the 1980’s, we had brash, muscular super-mannequins like Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista, who boasted that they wouldn’t get out of bed for $10,000 a day and pelted the help with cell phones; in the 1990s we had vacant-looking, heroin-snorting waifs. Now we have wide-eyed pragmatics like Calvin Klein “face” Natalia Vodianova, 25, from whose loins two children have already sprung, with a third on the way. Her husband, a British aristocrat named Justin Portman, is the Victorian definition of a “good match,” even appearing with her in her magazine spreads, as he did in the July Vogue, clutching a litter of white poodles. (The couple have just put their Tribeca townhouse on the market—Tribeca is not very New Vic—and are moving to London for the remainder of her confinement).

“I have a young group of models who come in here and they really know what they want, and they don’t go out and go crazy,” said Ivan Bart, senior vice president of IMG, which represents Estée Lauder mannequin Liya Kebede. (“Her career actually took off after her first child,” he noted, with the air of a proud godparent. “And after several years of modeling and being successful she had her second child.”)

In the business for over two decades, Mr. Bart has also sensed a change in the fashion industry’s party landscape. “It’s about home and hearth and eating, versus dancing all night,” he said. “A lot of people like to go out to a mid-evening dinner and then the evening’s over at 11 or 12 and then they’re home.”

Back among more mortal New Vics, life may be less glamorous, but it is no less charmed or precious. To clock the type, one need only visit the aisles of the now ubiquitous cookery store Williams-Sonoma. At the Time Warner Center branch on a recent evening, the male half of one young couple examined a stainless steel asparagus steamer only to declare that he preferred his asparagus prepared “the old-fashioned way.”

The current obsession with food preparation—I absolutely must have that Le Creuset casserole!—is totally New Victorian. So, too, the current rage for blousy, maternity-style tops, mutual funds and bathroom renovation. “One of the biggest things I talk about with my friends is home improvements, how best to invest your money, and family planning,” said Jerilyn Dressler, a 28-year-old native New Yorker and account manager for Ernst and Young who recently moved to Philadelphia—how much more New Vic can you get?—with her husband of two years, a professor at Villanova, where they acquired a two-story rowhouse. “We’ve saved some, so we’re thinking of home renovation,” she said.

And then there is gardening—or, at least, joining a community-supported agriculture collective; in New York City, the first indelible step, perhaps, toward becoming landed gentry. “I was at brunch with another couple the other day where all we talked about was farm shares,” said the Williamsburg editor.

Such concerns tend to occupy a good plot of space in the New Victorian mind, crowding out more troublesome notions like “Why are we in Iraq?” or even “Why I am attracted to my best friend’s husband?” (The adultery-filled pages of John Updike’s best novels now seem like dispatches from a foreign land. One need only mention the word “affair” in the chatroom pages of to get quickly excoriated as a “slut” and a “home wrecker”; the New Victorian morality is not one that permits nuance or discretion.) Single people are to be pitied—that is, if their existence is even acknowledged. “My wife said she doesn’t really know many people who are single anymore,” declared John Gannon, 29, a Columbia business school student who has been married to Holly, an art therapist who is also 29, for a year (they began dating seven years ago) .

In the bustling age of the New Victorians, there just isn’t much time for messing around, personally or professionally. “Everyone’s very focused,” said Ms. Dressler (nee Keit) of her close-knit coterie of friends. “We’re all kind of heading in the same direction …. We own houses, we own cars, and probably starting within the next year, some of them will start having kids.”

Ms. Dressler, a model New Victorian specimen, said that she and her husband plan to delay child-rearing for at least a few more years, to give them time to travel (most recently to Greece) and enjoy their time barbecuing at friends’ houses and watching Lost. But, no doubt, when they time comes they will be prepared. Before getting off the phone with The Observer, she announced that her next call was going to be to her lawyer for the purpose of finalizing her will, power of attorney, and health care proxy.

The New Victorians