Amidst the chaos of quarantine, one corner of the Internet has turned to tranquility and nature to revive its spirits. Instantly recognizable for the prairie dresses, freshly baked bread, and home garden tours dotting TikTok and Tumblr feeds, this budding aesthetic is best known as cottagecore, and anyone familiar with Taylor Swift’s new album Folklore will get the gist.
Also known as farmcore or countrycore, and stemming from similar micro-genres including fairycore, goblincore, and the enigmatic dark academia, cottagecore is a movement that serves as an escape from the hustle and bustle of modern life, resulting in the glorification of pastoral imagery and summer camp-like activities such as foraging, baking, and pottery-making. Straw hats, flower crowns, and vintage flowy dresses line the wardrobes of dedicated cottagecorers, while artists like Hozier, Dodie, and Mitski hum in the background, preferably from an old-timey record player.
While this checklist might seem mockable, resembling cosplay for Picnic at Hanging Rock or The Virgin Suicides, the roots of cottagecore stretch far beyond its Gen-Z aficionados. Its historical antecedents and modern translations prove that cultural nostalgia and the yearning for simple life prevail in every era, not just during a global pandemic.
In the 18th century, no one was more criticized for a decadent lifestyle than Marie Antoinette. The French queen commissioned the building of a rustic retreat on the grounds of Versailles known as the Hameau de la Reine to host intimate gatherings with friends. There, she dressed up as a milkmaid or shepherdess and pretended to live a rural life, roleplaying while her servants tended to the real working farm out back. Because of the queen’s influence, ornamental farms became commonplace on the country estates of European nobility as an escape from reality.
The 19th century saw the rise of the Arts and Crafts movement, a new approach to art, architecture, and design that ran counter to industrialization. To revamp the quality of homes and furniture, reformers favored the workshop style of production over factories and machinery. This focus on traditional craftsmanship made medieval, romantic, and folk decorative aesthetics popular again. Hand-in-hand with the Arts and Crafts movement, architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright belonged to the Prairie School, a style that emulated the flat plains of America’s natural landscape and emphasized handcrafted techniques.
This longing for a retreat from mass production melted into the 20th century, manifesting particularly in children’s literature. Writers among the likes of A.A. Milne and Kenneth Grahame conjured up the fantasy worlds of Winnie the Pooh and The Wind in the Willows, whose dreamy settings like the Hundred Acre Wood and anthropomorphic protagonists like Rat, Toad, and Badger represented a collective longing for the ease that comes with existing in the natural world. These depictions of turn-of-the-century English life gave way to pastoral havens like The Shire in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, now a popular tourist destination in New Zealand, or Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie as depicted in the 1974 TV series.
It comes as no surprise, then, that these stories and fairytales steeped in folkloric imagery serve as the inspiration for countless modern cottagecore enthusiasts. Courtney Fox, owner of the popular farmcore Instagram account @thefoxandtheivy, cited Anne of Green Gables and The Secret Garden as her childhood literary inspirations. Users like Fox manage to capture the homespun essence of cottagecore with a modern twist, sporting on-trend brands like Dôen and Christy Dawn.
The blossoming cottagecore movement, first coined in 2018, gained traction on social media at the onset of COVID-19 in March. Coupled with the wildly successful release of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, a video game centered on activities like fishing, gardening, carpentry, and cottage upkeep, cottagecore became an unlikely source of comfort for quaran-teens who took to TikTok to cultivate at-home bliss. It also found a place in the heart of queer and lesbian teens, stumbling upon a community that welcomes creativity and self- expression. For many, the lifestyle symbolizes a reclaiming of gender identity, stripping traditional domestic tasks of their binary framework, thus rejecting the male gaze. As women tend to be over-sexualized in the media, cottagecore offers a refuge from those tropes. The comfort that it provides translates to fashion that is likewise soft and gentle. Forgiving silhouettes and feminine florals comprise the wardrobes of many cottagecorers, who want to be enveloped in the bucolic bliss of the lifestyle.
On the visual front, the rippling effects of cottagecore have touched film and high fashion. Ari Aster’s 2019 sun-drenched horror flick Midsommar outfits a Swedish cult in flower crowns and white peasant dresses. On the runways, folk influence has reached fashion’s most elite circles, similar to the witch craze that cast a spell on designers in recent years. Kate and Laura Mulleavy continued to pull from the Coppola canon for Rodarte’s dreamy looks in the Spring/Summer 2019 collection, while Sarah Burton’s peasant dresses and abundance of lace for Alexander McQueen Spring/Summer 2020 toyed with a prairie punk look.
Other designers have brought natural elements into the shows themselves. Models for the outdoor garden-fest thrown by Kate Spade for Spring/Summer 2020 carried potted plants and woven blankets, seemingly on their way to a picnic. At Collina Strada’s Fall/Winter 2020 show, the turf runway was complemented by floral print fashions and bedazzled landscaping tools, like a watering can and garden hoe. A pair of picket fenced sneakers even went so far as to display a miniature lush, landscape.
Cottagecore shows no sign of stopping anytime soon. On July 23, Taylor Swift announced her surprise album Folklore and posted a series of promo photos featuring cottagecore imagery: self-styled braids, a white lace dress, and poses under trees. The singer’s 16 latest tracks with nature imagery aplenty and even a song about an old, forgotten cardigan, signal nothing less than peak cottagecore aesthetic.
If you’ve ever dreamed of running away to the forest and moving into a cottage a la Snow White, now is the perfect time. Don’t forget your flower crown!
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createdAt:Tue, 28 Jul 2020 21:53:30 +0000
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