Peace, quiet, and solitude: The very essence of Cottagecore lies in the romanticized interpretation of a rural lifestyle. To be surrounded by nature, all carefree and insouciant under the gorgeous blue sky, lounging with a period romance in a cosy cottage-like a dream come true. But is it truly as shallow and easy-going as Pinterest makes it out to be?
What exactly is Cottagecore?
The Cottagecore aesthetic is an appealing lifestyle popularised by Gen Z, key elements of which include a self-sufficient life of privacy, from growing and cooking one’s food to designing and stitching free-flowing clothing to wear, inspired by old traditions and fueled by nostalgia of the times without social media and smartphones.
The word Cottagecore is made up of two parts – The prefix “Cottage”, which is defined as a small village house, indicating the rustic dwelling of someone following the lifestyle, and the suffix “Core”, which is used to represent a new classification. But Cottagecore is much more than just a run-of-the-mill fashion and lifestyle movement.
The foundation of this movement is rejecting the fast-paced, social media-driven lives of young adults and finding comfort in dreamy farm life, finding joy in simply existing.
This aesthetic has a nature-inspired colour palette with shades of green, warm tones, and sunny hues. Although throughout the years, lighting has evolved, sunlight remains an integral part of rural life.
Different motifs appear in Cottagecore on several occasions, including delicious berries of all kinds, glorified mushrooms, pretty flowers, bees and butterflies, and other mushy plants.
Nature is a visual aspect essential to this aesthetic and can be found in more than just clothing. A diverse range of mediums, such as illustrations, printed textile, baked goods, tea bags, cottage walls, curtains and bedspreads, shoes and accessories, cars, mirrors, unusual dishware, and even the most mundane items such as staircases and bicycle baskets can be decorated to fit the Cottagecore aesthetic.
Key Components of the Cottagecore aesthetic
More than just floral prints and flowy dresses, Cottagecore aesthetics are wildly popular in the fashion world. Quaint and ethereal loose-fitting dresses with no defined silhouettes are running at the forefront of Cottagecore fashion.
Combined with pastel colours, puff sleeves, and floral prints, they provide comfort and style, which is why the aesthetic is immensely popular. Other popular patterns include polka dots, stripes, gingham, plaid, and paisley.
Overalls, long skirts, anything that old English peasants would wear, is fair game for the Cottagecore aesthetic. Even the humble blue denim jeans can be made to fit the aesthetic simply by adding some embroidery of flowers or insects. And while it’s fun to frolic in short skirts and rompers, layered clothing for the win arrives when winters arrive.
The vintage, nostalgic look comes from fashion that may not be considered trendy and is often found in thrift stores and yard sales or passed down from grandmothers. Oversized jumpers and sweaters with extra long sleeves to give the impression of a bulked-up top half combined with flared jeans or skirts complete the look. This, in turn, promotes sustainability since thrifting reduces wastage and encourages reusing and recycling.
Accessories and shoes are just as important a part of fashion as clothing. Quite similar to clothing, accessories are in pastel colours. Simple and light, necklaces are often just small pearls with a floral or butterfly pendant. Many statement Cottagecore aesthetic pieces are often made by simply suspending dried flowers in resin and attaching them to hooks or pendants.
Apart from just jewellery, satin hair scrunchies and bows, silky as well as hand-knitted scarves and headbands, macrame and tote bags, and the classic straw sunhat are also some accessories serve the aesthetic. These items, too, are often in warm colours and compliment the green colour palette.
While floral and butterfly prints are popular and well received by everyone, the humble frog motif has caused a stir. While its popularity is currently at an all-time high, people are often at odds when discussing if it belongs to the Cottagecore aesthetic, since amphibians aren’t often considered too appealing.
Cottagecore celebrates self-sufficiency, the ability to sustain one’s body independently. It embraces tranquillity in pastoral life. This means cooking from scratch, including growing and harvesting crops, baking bread, brewing tea, and not restricting one’s diet to calories and grams per day.
It also means making delicious food with the ingredients grown in rural areas and kitchen gardens. Freshly baked bread loaves, pie crusts, and honey buns are some of the more mainstream foods associated with the Cottagecore aesthetic. Here you can find the Recipe for Focaccia Bread –
Another understated skill of Cottagecore dining is the art of preserving. Pickles, jams, sauerkraut, and kimchi are some of the few things that can be preserved for over a year.
In recent years though, there has been a rising focus on the presentation of food. Loaves of bread are often subject to Foccacia art, which uses colourful vegetables to create petals, leaves, and sceneries on the top of the bread.
Ice cubes are made by freezing a flower in between the water, and people prefer to drink floral, natural teas rather than regular milk tea, which have pleasing aesthetics and provide a healthy dose of nutrients and probiotics. Miniature cakes whose decorative elements include flowers, leaves, and pastel tones are quite the hit with young people.
As for utensils, grandma’s vintage dishware with brightly coloured floral prints is perfectly suited to the Cottagecore aesthetic. People also like to use transparent tea cups and old-school jars, although ideally, all the utensils used should be made of natural elements such as wood and twine to help improve sustainability.
Cottagecore music offers comfort and tranquillity through soft vocals and acoustically balanced midtempo instrumentation. Often the lyrics refer either toward nature or gentle love. Most of this aesthetic appears from the hippie folk and baroque pop scene of the late 60s, heavily influenced by the Prephaelite movements.
Many artists embraced a soft pastoral prairie style and carried poems in their clothing, lacy skirts, and floral arrangements. Some such artists include The Carpenter and Dovan. Korean artists such as IU have songs that romanticize all things vintage and harmonious with nature.
Design and Decor
Cottagecore offers dreamy, whimsical designs and is quite popular on social media. It is now becoming renowned for its design aesthetic. The aim is to imitate romantic scenes of rural homes covered in vintage floral designs. The majority of the ladies would wear flowing dresses and ethereal turbans. Teacups, old chandeliers, and outdoor baths all boast a Cottagecore reputation.
Comfy, cosy furniture that gives off the vibe that the place has been lived in, combined with vintage home decors like rugs, lamps, curtains, and pottery.
A naturalistic colour palette brings the comforting vibe – warm tones with pops of pastels and large french windows that allow sunlight to stream through them, letting the innumerable plants placed strategically around the room bask in the warmth, punctuated by cutesy decor made out of natural materials.
The interior design of a cottage is quite hard to replicate in modern life. Still, the Cottagecore style can be achieved by imbibing traditional farmhouse elements in the smallest of things, such as cushions, curtains, and rugs. Lace, tulle, and wool are some of the abundant materials that help give the room an airy feel.
Walls are either stone or wood or covered in floral prints. Most of the furniture has some historical inspiration, be it the old English countryside or the extravagant victorian era. The idea is to be able to a cottage lifestyle, or at least have similar aesthetics to that of a rural space.
Living rooms often have stone or brick fireplaces, the texture of which is contrasted by the wooden and metallic botanical showpieces. Add some plants and flowers, flowy lace curtains, and some tastefully placed handwoven baskets to create an overlapping and layering of textures, giving the perfect Cottagecore aesthetic perspective.
The bedroom is where most people go to escape from the outside world, which is why it is often decorated to fit the Cottagecore imagery the best. Canopy or vintage iron frame beds are covered with botanical prints made of cotton and satin and are austerely coloured, giving a sense of peace and calm to the entire room.
The key is to strike a balance between saintly and overcrowded. Many of these bedspreads and cushion covers can be found in thrift and old vintage bedding stores.
Unlike the bedroom, where the entire room is based around a specific theme or texture, in the kitchen, the walls and cabinets can have contrasting textures as long as the fixtures have solid colours.
Too many prints in the kitchen can make it look messy next to all the fruits and vegetables one can find. It is best to pair countertops coloured a shade of green and metallic or matt black fixtures, which helps the taps and knobs stand out.
Cottagecore lifestyle and activities
Cottagecore celebrates simple living. Activities include picnicking. Looking for flowers to use in food and decor, baking, and of course, recording the entire thing to post on Instagram, for what is the modern era without boasting on social media.
One may be unable to imitate the Cottagecore posts seen on Tumblr and Instagram. Still, fundamentally the Cottagecore aesthetic involves making the best of what you have and finding the most joy out of it.
Using basic skills and creative ways to survive, earn, and pass the time is the key to the Cottagecore lifestyle. This could include knitting, embroidery, sewing, cooking, and gardening. Painting, drawing, brewing tea, and baking are other popular activities. Any activity that is a part of rural life falls under Cottagecore aesthetics.
Another popular activity of people of all ages is snuggling by the fire and reading a book, be it fiction or poetry. Simply taking the time to consume content offline helps improve mental health and gets rid of the stress that comes along with electronic devices and the responsibility they bring along with them.
Relevance of Cottagecore aesthetics
The Cottagecore lifestyle emphasizes the importance of a healthy body and mind. It forces a person to slow down and relax and disconnect from the hustle-bustle of real life, which is punctuated by deadlines and toxicity. It brings about a certain magic in a world left starved for wonder.
Initially coined in 2018 on Tumblr, Cottagecore aesthetics have slowly made their way into mainstream media. Books like The Tale of Peter the Rabbit by Beatrix Potter and Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Caroll have newfound admiration and demand amongst youngsters. Taylor Swift released two back-to-back albums, Folklore and Evermore, both of which utilize Cottagecore fashion and design elements.
Animal Crossing, the social stimulation video game launched by Nintendo, any Studio Ghibli film, and the strawberry dress designed by Lirika Matoshi are all historical beacons of this whimsy aesthetic.
Cottagecore has multiplied into several other subgenres, such as Grannycore, Grandfathercore, Light Academia, Nature core, Goblincore, Fairycore, Warmcore, and so on. Each of these aesthetics, while different from each other, share common elements with Cottagecore aesthetics, be it knitting and baking or using toad, mushroom, and butterfly prints.
Cottagecore fashion also allows the queer community to express themselves confidently. Rather than being set in the traditional heteronormative gender roles set by society, anyone, regardless of gender, can participate in Cottagecore activities. The soft aesthetic does not discriminate and has no rules for binary genders.
Its popularity also stems from the lesbian separatist movement of the seventies, where lesbian and bisexual women would move to the countryside to live a rustic lifestyle and form a community of women, disregarding all conservative values.
There isn’t exactly an organized political movement against the aesthetic, but Cottagecore enjoys niche popularity. Its acceptance amongst the youth and gen z is the perfect example of the radically different outlooks of directly opposed political groups, supported by either Millenials and gen Z or the boomers. Since Cottagecore aesthetics are totally against the capital consumerist society, it plays a prominent role in political conversations as the discussions around Cottagecore often revolve around opposing policies of the political spectrum.
Cottagecore has influenced more than just politics. It focuses on sustainability. It preaches that rather than relying on capital-hungry corporations, one should practise independence and autonomy and prevent waste and pollution.
It encourages thrifting, using second-hand clothes, and starting and tending to one’s garden to grow healthy produce. It inspires people to use natural and sustainable materials such as wool, linen, and silk.
The opposite of Cottagecore
In the literal sense, the opposite of Cottagecore would be Cottagecore itself. But instead of the joyful and healthy rural lifestyle, Dark Cottagecore, also known as goth Cottagecore, focuses on the misery of living alone and so far away from human company.
Rotten poisonous mushrooms, dead insects, and wilted flowers are some of the common motifs, and the colour palette is the exact opposite of pastels. It is officially known as CottageGore, and some similar aesthetics include dark academia, dark fantasy, and Cryptidcore.
On the other hand, since Cottagecore is a soft aesthetic, its opposite would be hard and sharp aesthetics such as the Steampunk aesthetic or Metallic.
Criticisms of Cottagecore
Cottagecore has many critics who say this would cause ill health and environmental damage from rural development. The huge numbers of settlers would overpopulate the region, thereby destroying Cottagecores practice.
For example, if a person can’t find food for a few hundred, it could cause quick exhaustion by a human population that has already exhausted its resources. In addition, berries can be lowered in quantity, which can disrupt ecosystems and cause ecological collapses.
Another valid criticism is the unrealistic portrayal of rural life in a fairytale. While Cottagecore adherents would argue that nothing in life is all sunshine and rainbows, one has to agree that the Cottagecore aesthetic contradicts itself.
People spend hours idling away their time and finding creative ways to spend the day while avoiding phones, only to turn around and post them on social media. So how much benefit are they truly reaping from this lifestyle?
Cottagecore is indeed an escape from real life, and there is a very progressive Cottagecore community. But at the same time, there are some negative aspects too.
Tiktok and Tumblr are oversaturated with slim white women wearing flattering Cottagecore fashion and showing off their picture-perfect Cottagecore lifestyles, which often causes insecurity and doubt. What was once a budding aesthetic movement has now become a competition to see who can be the object of everyone’s envy.
The Cottagecore aesthetic is the perfect solution to mental burnout. Nothing heals better than some quality time with nature. It also results in introspection and discovering hidden skills and talents. Whether intentional or not, it brings out the person’s individuality and creative spirit. At the same time, it cannot be viewed through rose-coloured glasses.
It has its disadvantages too, and the idea of what the Cottagecore aesthetic entails is also quite outdated. Why is it limited to just the European countryside? Why not East Asian rice fields, Australian savannas or Indian jungles, or even icy igloo communities of the Artic?
Cottagecore refers to a bucolic lifestyle, and there is no right definition of rural. Cottagecore can be modified to fit people of different regions. It can be more than just a Tiktok trend.