If you’re wondering why Generation Z suddenly seem very into wearing kerchiefs and idealizing rural living, you’re not alone. Cottagecore is a new trend, especially popular on TikTok and Instagram, that sees primarily teens and 20-somethings fantasize about leaving it all behind to live in the countryside. While it’s got some similarities to cottaging, cottagecore is its own sepia-toned beast.
The origins of cottagecore
As with any internet-born trend, it’s hard to know exactly where it started; its aesthetics have been circulating for a long time in different online communities. “Cottagecore” first appeared on Tumblr in June 2018, with a subreddit appearing two months later. It made the leap to TikTok in January 2020, where the trend really took off as young people shared videos of themselves making rosewater, having picnics, or doing embroidery. To date, #cottagecore has more than 4.5 billion views on TikTok.
Cottagecore follows the naming of other aesthetic trends such as normcore, where the important features are summed up in the first part of the name. Normcore is about reclaiming “normal” clothing—plain cuts, neutral colours, sensible fabrics—as a fashion statement. Cottagecore does a similar thing, but with a rural, bucolic focus.
Cottagecore is based around cottages in abstract. It’s an aesthetic inspired by grandparents’ cottages, mixing tranquility and countryside practicality. There might be doilies and exposed wood, countless houseplants, and a fresh tray of cookies on the counter. Fashion tends towards long skirts, flowy shirts or elven waistcoats. Colours are often inspired by nature, green, brown and cream are preferred over bold shades. There’s also an implicit rejection of modernity and contemporary work culture: you might play board games and grow your own food rather than eating takeout in front of the television after a long day at the office.
The movement was originally spearheaded by young women and LGBTQ people, who envisioned a rural utopia where they could raise chickens and frolic in fields or forests. Traditionally feminine pursuits, such as cooking and crafting, are celebrated. It embraces the nostalgia of home crafts and twee porcelain figurines, without being nostalgic for historical discrimination. The countryside, in cottagecore, is a place to be free from the modern grind—the same way many Canadians view cottaging as a way to escape their day-to-day lives.
Cottagecore gained a lot of popularity in spring 2020, coinciding with COVID-19 lockdowns. Lots of people took up old-fashioned hobbies during this time, such as knitting, baking sourdough bread, or going for long walks. This fed into cottagecore’s popularity, as people all over the world yearned for a break from endless screens and digital doom.
Crucially, you don’t have to live in a cottage to be cottagecore: fans can embrace its aesthetics in smaller ways. Swingtop glass lemonade bottles are cottagecore. Taylor Swift’s Folklore album is cottagecore. Homemade jelly is cottagecore. Cottagecore embraces natural tranquility—which any fan of the cottage can relate to.