Cottagecore can be classified as an aesthetic, style, or fashion. But the roots of cottagecore go deeper — as a movement.
As a movement
This movement began during the late 2010s, and really picked up by the start of the 2020s. It can be classified as a counterculture, like the modern-day hippies, as a pushback against capitalism and “hustle culture.”
The start of the millennium brought a technological boom in which advancements of the internet and smartphones would change the course of humanity entirely. With all the perks of this progression, also came the crushing pressure to earn and spend more money, to keep on climbing the corporate latter, and to blur the line between work-life balance. Social media swiftly morphed into a popularity contest as a tool to prove that your life is better than everyone else’s.
Cottagecore is the fight against society’s glorification of overworking, overspending, and overstimulation. It strives to repair the damage of seeking instant gratification. Alongside, it is also an act of environmentalism in response to the devastation that hyper-consumerism has done to our planet.
How it spread
While the term “cottagecore” is new, history is full of similar movements. The best example is the hippie era of the late 60s and early 70s. But just as unique as each era is, cottagecore has its own differences.
The start of the early 2010s saw the popularization of Tumblr, which itself was its own social media rebellion. Unlike other popular social media platforms that focus on building one’s identity and outward appearance, Tumblr was focused on a dreamy aesthetic of escaping from reality. Most users on this site would share their photography or re-blog photography from others. Many of these photos had cottagecore aesthetics — forests, old homes, farming, etc. Thus, the romanticism of country-living was revamped.
The boom in cottagecore truly happened during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. As all public places shut down, and people were forced to work from home or fired, humanity was forced to adapt into a new way of living. Unable to go out anymore, as well as the fear of shortage supply and economy crash, the entire world morphed into slow-living. People took on new hobbies — learning to make bread from scratch or starting their own backyard gardens.
We also saw a burst of cottagecore in the media. Taylor Swift released twin albums “Folklore” in 2020 and “Evermore” in 2021 in which she promoted this aesthetic in both her music and her album artwork. New TV shows and films took on themes of country-living and nostalgia. Nature-themed bedroom decor became the new trend. Women’s fashion changed to flowing dresses and skirts, smocks and prairie-style clothing.
How to get involved
Some see cottagecore strictly as an aesthetic. They may choose to fill their homes with plants and nature-themed decor. They may decide to wear it as fashion, vintage dresses typically inspired by the 70s, sometimes as far back as the 19th or 18th centuries. Of course men can get involved in the cottagecore fashion too.
A lot of people have chosen to move to the countryside because of this movement. But if you live in the city, you can still get involved with houseplants and indoor gardening. Surrounding yourself in nature is important.
Forgoing extra machinery and modern conveniences — ditching your microwave and frozen foods, cooking things by scratch, doing laundry by hand, etc. — is another way to go. Doing things the slow way can feel more calming and de-condition your mind from instant gratification that technology brings.
However, there is certainly a sense of irony in the cottagecore movement. Social media is a huge aspect, because people use it either to learn more about cottagecore or to spread their knowledge, tips, and opinions on cottagecore. You’ll find many on TikTok or Instagram, making videos and photos of living the cottagecore life. Some argue that the use of social media takes away the entire concept of the movement. But in my opinion, these people are still genuinely embracing nature and slow-living, the only difference is that they have a camera to show people.
Criticisms of cottagecore
There are many criticisms of this movement. While cottagecore enthusiasts argue that society is romanticizing fast-paced city living and hustle culture, others say that cottagecore is doing just the same — romanticizing the hard work that goes into farming and the struggle of country-living. They say that cottagecore takes modern conveniences for granted, while ironically using social media to promote a hypocritical message.
Cottagecore has been accused of being anti-progressive, as celebrating colonialism and denying feminism. Despite promoting traditional gender roles and hyper-femme fashion, cottagecore is still very much a feminist. The movement is strongly associated with the LGBTQ+ community, with an emphasis on women who love women having a safe space away from the discriminatory corporate work-force.
It is true that many aspects of cottagecore are over-romanticized. There is certainly a “fantasy” aspect to all of it, which is where much of the appeal comes from. But morally, the point of the movement is to improve mental health by combating burnout, and heal the environment through sustainable living.
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