Out of all the available adjectives in the English language, “escapism” would probably be the best one to pick to describe the past year. Turns out living through history does not necessarily have to be outside the comfort of your own home. From being out and about, to being inhabited 24/7 in the places we were residing in, it might be sure to say that we are now familiar with every hidden cupboard in the places we live in. When the world outside seems to stand still, your mind is hungry for a change of place, surroundings, another place to hide. Our homes, that used to be our hiding spot, are now where the action, the magic and the sadness of our lives take place. Naturally, our mind desires to escape and dreams itself into another reality, a reality outside cramped city-centre flats, skyscrapers and early curfews. We are dreaming ourselves into places with less noise, more fresh air and sunshine. We are creating our cottage core in the comforts of our minds. Like a Holly Hobbie illustration coming to life, is how you can simply imagine this trend, according to the New York Times. In terms of lifestyle, cottage core reinvents what people used to consider as boring in the pre-pandemic age: the simple pleasure of rural life, accompanied by a breeze of fresh air and the sounds of the birds every morning.
Fashion gives us the ability to wear our inside out, and whether we choose to do this consciously or not, we all do it in our ways. A frilly dress might not directly scream that you have been training to become the new sourdough baking champion during the lockdown, it can express a variety of things, from a simple appreciation for the garment to a deep devotion for a trend.
Cottagecore’s fashion aspect, as mentioned, is all about dreams, frills, and femininity. To me, it looks like a cross of Vintage Gunne Sax and a stylish grandma frock. I have been a devoted fan of Vintage Gunne Sax for half a decade now since I discovered that Lana Del Rey used to wear upcycled Gunne Sax dresses to her live shows. As long as I can remember, I have been dreaming of having a full-on wardrobe, filled with those frilly frocks and tiny waists, but as someone who rather fits in modern sizing, the Gunne Sax dresses won’t fit my body shape in this world. Thanks to brilliant designers such as Bathsheva or The Vampire’s Wife, who also collaborated with H&M in the past year, a modern version of the Gunne Sax Grandma frock is ready to move into our wardrobes. I won’t lie, I do own some Batsheva dresses, but I did not purchase them because of the cottagecore trend. So, what makes the farm aesthetic so desirable? A pandemic, terrible falling outs with friends and family over several lockdowns perhaps. Maybe the fact, that our whole going out wardrobes have been in an exile status since last March. Or maybe they desire to dress up, but appropriately- honestly nobody wants to wear a super tight bodycon dress on a day-to-day basis.
But even in a fashion context, the cottagecore trend feels rather like an ideal fairy tale than a strain of reality. As someone who grew up in a rural area that embodies just the cross between rural and suburbia, I can confirm that absolutely no one would think of wearing a dress that has the slightest connotation to cottage core.
So, why, if this trend is nothing but a lavish fantasy has taken over our lives in the past year? The answer is neither Folklore, evermore nor Bathsheva, that would be way too easy. The answer is deeply rooted in culture and is more than an obvious response to the pandemic.
Cottagecore is a lost strain of nostalgia, that now, blossoms between vintage vinyl records and worn-out cardigans: it is the desire to brew oneself a cup of coffee, instead of buying an overpriced one in the coffee shop around the corner, it is the longing for the rural life, which oneself abolished for a shoebox-sized city centre apartment. Cottagecore, a trend decorated with frilly sleeves, is the seeking of peace, even if the world, right now, is unable to give anyone peace. Cottagecore stands for an ideal world, where Facebook does not ping us every two seconds, where we are not chained to our messy working from home desks 24/7, where we can be happy and content with ourselves. In the cottagecore universe, we don’t have to impress anyone with our looks and what we wear, because in this universe, every look equals a sugar-coated reality, having idyllic illustrations telling fairy tales on the torso of the dresses we wear.
The revival of the countryside and its attached aesthetics, a revival that nobody saw coming. But is cottagecore, the trend that is lusting for the simple pleasures of life, away from social media, the way into a conscious future of fashion? Will all fast fashion retailers now retrain their designers from sketching bodycon dresses to sketching the dreamiest countryside inspired frilly garments? The rather devastating answer to the never-ending dreading question is probably no. Once this is “all over”, a sentence as hopeful as nothing else ever created in the world of literature, people will go out again. The bars will be full again. The cities will live again, and then cottagecore will turn into citycore. The mundane pastoral life is the current escapism lived through social media, music and fashion- but as soon as the cities will get their excitement back, people will be more than willing to swap a cottage for a shoebox sized city centre apartment with no daylight.
And then, the frilly dresses will enter their afterlife, away from the comfort of the online subculture. They will be detached from the cottage you’ve never had and the Taylor Swift stories that never happened in your life.
The dress will always come to life once you wear it- if you let it do it’s magic.