Cottagecore is an Internet fashion aesthetic promulgated by teenagers and young adults celebrating an idealised rural life. It was developed throughout the 2010s and received that name on Tumblr in 2018. It values traditional skills and crafts such as foraging, baking, and pottery, and is related to similar nostalgic aesthetic movements such as grandmacore, farmcore, goblincore, and faeriecore.
Some sources describe cottagecore as a subculture of Millennials and Generation Z. Because this lifestyle can be adopted by virtually anyone, the cottagecore community is highly diverse.
Aesthetic and lifestyle elements of cottagecore
The ideas of cottagecore can help to satisfy for its proponents a desire for "an aspirational form of nostalgia" as well as an escape from many forms of stress and trauma. The New York Times described it as a reaction to hustle culture and the advent of personal branding. The Guardian called it a "visual and lifestyle movement designed to fetishize the wholesome purity of the outdoors." It emphasizes simplicity and the soft peacefulness of the pastoral life as an escape from the dangers of the modern world. It became highly popular on social media during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While homemade clothing is a feature of cottagecore, products including the 'strawberry dress', a $490 tea dress by Lirika Matoshi contain features commonly associated with cottagecore, including a full skirt and sleeves, flounces of tuile, and strawberry embroidery reminiscent of both nature and jam-making, parts of cottagecore's philosophy of self-sufficiency. Due to the high price of the Matoshi dress, a number of people opted to use their own skills to create their own versions of the product. Cottagecore clothing often includes lengthy and layered dresses. Floral patterns are also common with cottage core fashion.
Analytics company Edited identified that besides floral prints and stripes "Old-world, feminine shapes and details are integral to this aesthetic—milkmaid necklines, puff sleeves, ruffles and prairie-inspired midi dresses."  Marketing commentators noted that the trend fits with already available '70s inspired dresses, lace trim, and denim, and complemented the slow fashion trend.
Food and gardening
Growing one's own food in one's own garden and baking one's own bread all reflect the philosophy of self-sufficiency of cottagecore. Living in the countryside is not necessary for this lifestyle. Cottagecore gardening is intended to be environmentally friendly. For example, the cultivation of a variety of plants helps attract insects, including bees, and as such promotes biodiversity.
Adopters of cottagecore typically purchase second-hand or vintage furniture; they like to live slowly and spend more time for self-care. Those to adhere to this way of living avoid the use of electronic gadgets and read or watch the news less often.
Antecedents and cultural context
While cottagecore arose as a named aesthetic in 2018, similar aesthetics and ideals have a long cultural history. The ancient Greeks had seen the geographical Arcadia as a savage and inhospitable place but as the drawbacks of urban habitation became increasingly obvious they came to see an idealised Arcadia as a representation of an untainted rural life and spiritual haven. Greek poet Theocritus wrote poems about shepherds and shepherdesses in the third century BC, leading to him being often cited as the inventor of pastoral poetry. The market for Theocritus’ work was primarily the educated urban class of Alexandria, Egypt, seeking an escape from the filth, crowding and disease of city life. In the first century BC the Roman poet Virgil’s pastoral poetry was written in response to the violence and chaos of war. However, he expanded the genre by acknowledging contemporary moral and political issues such as war whilst maintaining a distance through the pastoral trope. Pastoral escapism continued to be produced for the courtly audience of the Roman Empire in the format of novels such as Daphnis and Chloe from the second century AD.
Pastoral escapism returned as a theme of the arts during the Renaissance through the fourteenth century Italian poet Petrarch who was known for his hill-walking and gardening as well as his poetry. English playwright William Shakespeare wrote two pastoral plays, As You Like It and A Winter’s Tale. They reflect the inherent tension between the subject of the pastoral theme compared with its intended audience in that although aristocrats are featured in these works as play-acting shepherds and falling in love with shepherdesses marriage only takes place only when it is revealed that both are of high social status.[note 1] Shakespeare’s contemporary Christopher Marlowe’s renowned poem The Passionate Shepherd to His Love inspired poetic responses from poets such as John Donne and Dorothy Parker with Walter Raleigh’s response from the beloved being to point out that Arcadian ideas were fallacies.
In eighteenth-century Europe, it was fashionable among nobles to build ornamental country houses in the style of rural villages. The Arts and Crafts movement of the nineteenth century was an approach to art, architecture, and design that embraced 'folk' styles and techniques as a critique of industrial production.
There have been similar aesthetics in different countries, such as iki, or detached elegance, from Japan, fernweh, or being somewhere far away and mysterious, from Germany, or hygge, or satisfying comfort, from Denmark.
Cottagecore is an ideal. It creates a warm feeling when one thinks about how wonderful it would be to live a simpler, more bucolic existence. I started thumbing through my book on Thomas Kinkade, poring over his paintings of cottages and small-town life. I think his tremendous success was related to the feelings these paintings evoke in us.— Corky Pickering, "The cottagecore dream during the pandemic"
The movement gained further traction in many online spheres and on social media in 2020 due to the mass quarantining in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Networks such as the blogging site Tumblr had a 150% increase in cottagecore posts in the three months from March to May 2020. It spread on Pinterest, a platform for sharing visual ideas. It became hugely popular on TikTok as well, with numerous cottagecore enthusiasts sharing videos of themselves living in rural areas, bathing in the forest, or baking bread. The New Yorker asserted that such videos had "evoked a mood of calm, enlightened, prettified productivity." Vox characterized the trend as "the aesthetic where quarantine is romantic instead of terrifying." Living in the style of cottagecore or simply looking at others doing the same on the Internet was seen as something that could help people de-stress. Speaking to CNN, psychologist Krystine Batcho noted that it should be no surprise nostalgia in general and cottagecore in particular was in vogue during such a stressful time. "Longing for simpler situations, simpler time periods or simpler ways of living is an effort to balance out and to counteract the effects of high intense stress," she said. Indeed, this was a time when many urban residents questioned whether it was worth living in the cities, and rural life stood up as an appealing alternative. A New York Times article compared cottagecore to the social simulation video game series Animal Crossing being acted out in real life.
In July 2020, American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift released her eighth studio album, Folklore, a critical and commercial success featuring songs written during lockdown. The album's prominent use of cottagecore in its visuals and lyrics has been credited with increasing the aesthetic's popularity and notability. She continued using the aesthetic with the follow-up album, Evermore, and employed it in her performance at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards. The music videos for "Cardigan" and "Willow" also highly derive from the cottagecore. Other public figures who have embraced this lifestyle include British actress Millie Bobby Brown, English musician Harry Styles, and English footballer David Beckham.
In the United States, cottagecore became a decorating trend for the 2020 holiday season while the sales of needlework kits skyrocketed. According to the Royal Horticultural Society of the United Kingdom, cottage gardening is a trend for 2021. China has her own version of cottagecore. Even though the country is rapidly urbanizing as part of economic development, many young people have decided leave the cities after their university studies for their hometowns in the countryside, where the quality of life has improved thanks to, among other things, the availability of fast Internet access, new roads, and high-speed railways. Among the returning youths are cottagecore-minded architects.
Critics have noted the contrast between idyllic depictions of rural life constructed by the cottagecore aesthetic and some of the realities of such spaces. Some of the people who promote this lifestyle also pointed out that it might be viewed with rose-tinted glasses by those who lacked prior experience with rural life.
- Arcadia (utopia)
- Dark academia
- Queer anti-urbanism
- See assortative mating.
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