Early spring last year, right as all the lockdowns and stay-at-home orders were being put in place, an internet fashion aesthetic spread quickly across the nation.
The aesthetic, termed “cottagecore,” thrives upon soft color pallets and filters and is inspired heavily by a strongly romanticized idea of early western agricultural life. Think soft meadows, cute farmhouses, prairie dresses, and home-baked goods. Items previously disregarded as old, became highly sought after such as vintage teapots, picnic baskets, embroidered art, and those strange animal figurines that grandparents always seem to have too many of. If it looks like it came from your grandmother’s house, chances are it is cottagecore!
This fashion subculture first emerged around the early 2010s on Tumblr, yet was not named until 2018. Despite its slow start, cottagecore has grown immensely and now has a large range of influence. Instead of just being an inspiration for clothing and decoration, this aesthetic developed into a whole lifestyle.
The growth of the cottagecore aesthetic in early quarantine was no mere coincidence, but a direct result of the changing world.
Cottagecore was the gateway to improved mental health and stability over quarantine. Starting a garden, spending more time baking, picking up more “traditional” hobbies such as knitting and sewing, all became trends online, and with much more spare time on everyone’s hands, was easy to pick up. These activities teach patience, dedication, and worked well in feeding into the escapism many of us turned to during this period of unrest.
At the beginning of quarantine, my mental health was way lower than it should have been. Burnout was hitting me hard from the school year, and other personal issues weighed heavily on me mentally. Yet as I started to learn about the cottagecore community growing online, I found myself getting out of bed more, going outside, journaling, baking, and starting to feel a bit better. I planted seeds and patiently watched and cared for them while they grew. I tended and cared for these plants more and more every passing day, and realized I needed to tend to and care for my own mental and physical health the same way.
Early quarantine also saw the rise of the Nintendo Switch game, “Animal Crossing New Horizons,” which is all about growing and maintaining an island filled with animal villagers waiting to be your friend. This video game added to the rise of cottagecore with dozens of players planning their island theme off of the newfound aesthetic. This game also helped me and many other people with their mental health over the years. It is something you can play every day and rewards you for simple tasks while also encouraging you to explore your own creativity and dedication. The game as a whole is soft and cute, and much like cottagecore is another escape from reality.
Cottagecore works as escapism from our real world, meaning that instead of worrying about homework, people could pretend they lived a simpler life, free from our normal everyday struggles. They could go outside and pick some of the spring flowers growing around the neighborhood to make into some tea, have a photoshoot at sunset in a large overgrown field, have a picnic, or go on a walk by the creek looking for plants and other forageable goods.
During this period, I found myself often daydreaming about living in the woods in a cottage like the ones I’ve seen online, with a big garden with plants that I grew all on my own, and farm animal companions by my side. These daydreams felt light and happy and did not lock me into any of society’s norms. In this fantasy world I built I did not have to worry about any viruses or rude people, it was peaceful. And that was the entire theme of cottagecore, a peaceful more simple farm life. Cottagecore introduced an old way of living to a new group of people, and in doing so gave them a new perspective on life, and that was to take everything one day at a time.
The world all moves so fast and time travels too quickly. No one ever could have known what our lives would be like now, and it is increasingly difficult to take a break from the fast-paced world with the rise of technology. Cottagecore influenced people to take these breaks and immerse themselves with something good for the soul, like baking, gardening, reading, sewing, and many more.
Suddenly, so many cottagecore-inspired recipes were being shared online by dozens of people. The app TikTok gave rise to foods such as dandelion-honey, edible flower cookies, and countless artisan breads. This furthered the immersive experience that is cottagecore. Not only were people dressed as they came out of early rural America, but they were eating like it too.
The isolation that came along with lockdown and social distancing also added to the rise of cottagecore. All of the main cottagecore activities could be done by yourself and can make you feel good when completing on your own. The internet community that existed because of cottagecore gave people a sense of belonging and comfort while having to be confined to their own house.
The simple fashion trend that turned into a lifestyle has helped improve quarantine for many people. Taking time for oneself and slowing down to enjoy nature was what Cottagecore encouraged people to do, and also became a way for people to escape from our changing reality. Elements of cottagecore can be seen across many stores’ fashion and home design departments and will continue to influence artists, designers, and people looking for a break from the real world.
Cottagecore helped me find peace and comfort over quarantine and continues to remind me to slow down every now-and-again in order to give my mental health a break. I advise every person to take more time for themselves, as we are still living in a period of much unrest, and perhaps let cottagecore inspire you to try something new.