Lifestyle

What is Cottagecore?

Cottagecore is a design aesthetic and lifestyle that idealizes cottage living and a return to agrarianism.

The hashtag “cottagecore” has been all over social media recently. Featuring idyllic images of country life, homes full of shabby chic décor, and young women frolicking in the woods, cottagecore is a design aesthetic and lifestyle that idealizes cottage living and a return to agrarianism.

Coined as “cottagecore” on Tumblr in 2018, the movement has become a community for young people, particularly women and the LGBTQ community. The subculture has been growing steadily in the blogosphere, but it has gained momentum over the last year as so many people spent more time at home than ever before.

Although embraced by Millennials and Gen Z on TicToc and Instagram, this aesthetic has components recycled from previous design aesthetics, including Shabby Chic, English-cottage, and French Provencal. 

What is the Cottagecore Aesthetic?

Cottagecore’s focus is on a simple, slow, and sustainable lifestyle. It encompasses all aspects of life, including food and gardening, fashion, interior design, arts, and crafts. Cottagecore also emphasizes self-care, caring for others as well as nature. 

Arts and Crafts

One of the main aspects of this subculture is the do-it-yourself and self-sufficient attitude. Whether sewing your own clothing, crocheting doilies, and knitting chunky cardigans, the culture is all about embracing the 90’s, the 1890’s, that is. 

Cooking and Gardening

Were you baking sourdough bread during the pandemic? You too may be into cottagecore. From baking apple pie from scratch to cultivating sourdough starter, what can be more self-sufficient and agrarian than baking your own bread?  

Fashion

Do you love flower-printed prairie dresses, paired with a chunky cardigan? You may be a cottagecore devotee. While the hipster trend fetishized the nerdy cardigan and upcycled fashion, the cottagecore movement places the cardigan into the context in which it belongs, on the farm. Well, at least it looks like a farm on Instagram.

Cottagecore is tapping into the growing trend toward more sustainable fashion with its vintage and do-it-yourself options. As more young people see how fast fashion trends hurt the planet, they are embracing upcycled, vintage, or homemade clothing options.  

Inclusivity and Community

Critics have charged that this vision of the serene pastoral life has been portrayed through a hetero-normative, Eurocentric worldview. In short, happy white straight people living on bucolic farms, leaving the LGBTQ community and people of color largely absent from the prevailing imagery of the idealized farm life.

That is changing, however. Women are dominating the online community and more Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and LGBTQ people are carving out their own idyllic pastoral corner of the internet too. 

Why is Cottagecore So Popular?

Is cottagecore a response to the topsy turvy madness that has become the world recently? What is it about the now that makes so many people want to return to an agrarian past?  

In a 2020 article, Escape Into Cottagecore, Calming Ethos for Our Febrile Moment, the New York Times correlated the hustle and bustle of modern life with the growth of the popularity of slow lifestyles like cottagecore. With so much uncertainty in the ever-connected, always-plugged-in world, is it any wonder young people are yearning for a simpler life?

A Cultural Reaction 

This isn’t the first time a nostalgic aesthetic or culture has emerged in response to a chaotic world. The last two centuries saw an emergence of cultural movements that hearken back to the “good old times.” As with those movements, including the 20th Century’s response to the Industrial Revolution with the Arts & Crafts and Mission Revival movements, fast change provokes anxiety, leaving some to crave the slower and “easier” life of the past. 

Is It All a Fantasy?

The irony is, of course, as critics of cottagecore point out, most of the actual “living” of this lifestyle happens in the bustling cities and on the very electronic devices that we love to hate on. All the while using them to create fantasy lives on Instagram and TicToc. 

The influencers peddling cottagecore have typically never actually lived on farms, where people have to wake up before dawn, do backbreaking work all day, treading through mud and hardship. It’s questionable if a real farmer would fetishize this lifestyle, but things always look much more fun on Instagram than in real life.

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