A young woman on TikTok kneads and shapes dough covered in fractions of rainbow light. She douses the dough in flour, places it in the oven, and takes out a perfectly rounded Coburg loaf. This video has over 750k views on TikTok and is part of the internet trend #Cottagecore—a visual microgenre of a Western rural-aspiring agriculture lifestyle. From the start of April to the beginning of September the Google search term for “cottagecore” has increased by a significant 493 percent.
Cottagecore (also known as Farmcore or Countrycore) as its name would suggest is a romanization of a remote rustic cottage life. It is centered on the idyllic of a simple life that lives in harmony with nature. Themes include caring for the environment, food, and people. The pastoral reimaginations live on TikTok, Instagram, Pinterest, and notably Tumblr. Visually, think jars of honey and preserves, bouquets of wildflowers, fresh produce, and stretches of woodland and meadows. Ultimately, it depicts someone literally enjoying the fruits of their labor.
Although Cottagecore predates the pandemic, for many of its dwellers it has taken on a new resurgence. Between social distancing, the inability to plan for the future, and globally spread general anxiety—many of us have sought solace in nostalgic pursuits. At its heart, Cottagecore is the purest form of escapism. Its proponents consist of self-care in wholesome activities such as knitting, baking, foraging, and fruit picking in punnets. Cottagecore is also often compared to aesthetics such as Grandmacore, which seek to invoke a similar sense of nostalgia, as well as Fairycore and Dark Academia. The time emulated is notable as it is pre-internet and pre-social media. It is an interesting blend of a range of westernized eras from the 18th century to the 1950s. Primarily, the aesthetic is of a stripped-back lifestyle and a return to nature. During the pandemic and long periods of stay at home orders, the Cottagecore aesthetic has grown due to its representation of an ideal remote and quarantine life—where a connection to nature is strived for and everything a person needs can be made and produced at home. This idea has found its way into many peoples’ lives, with larger investments in cooking, gardening, and DIY activities.
The aesthetic’s ability to fluctuate between different periods of time informs its fashion aesthetic. The clothing style consists of smocks, puffed sleeves, overalls, flowy skirts, big pockets, ruffles and laced bodices. Fabrics include yarn, wool, broderie anglaise and cotton. Colors emulate those which naturally occur or are muted including browns, maroons, olive greens, creams, dusty rose pinks, as well as paisley and gingham patterns. The trend has particularly resonated with Gen Z and associated artists include Bon Iver, Hozier as well as Taylor Swift. Notably, Taylor Swift’s new album titled “Folklore” has become the featured soundtrack to many Cottagecore videos on TikTok—with her appropriately titled “cardigan” being the current highest streamed song from the album on Spotify.
To the untrained eye, Cottagecore may appear to emphasize the dainty, gentle, and feminine. But while it is reflecting the era when a gendered division of labor was being carved out by capitalism in society, there is a fluidity of gender roles being expressed by the individuals partaking in Cottagecore.
This can be particularly seen in Cottagecore’s a niche popularity among lesbian and bisexual women who express a rejection of the roles placed on them within a heteronormative society. In this space, an environment is created where young people can express their queerness in a rural setting, which contrasts the homophobia/transphobia many face when living in a small town. For example, ID interviews 27-year-old Reid in Arkansas, who expresses this idea as a form of liberation: “Unfortunately, my hometown, like many rural areas, is very anti-LGBTQ+,” Reid told the magazine. “Even now when I go back I can’t help but feel watched and judged all the time for how I look or dress. It especially makes me feel like the things I loved in childhood, like having farm animals and picking blackberries in the fields and getting lost in the woods, are cis- and hetero-coded. So for me, cottagecore is an ideal where I can be visibly queer in rural spaces.” In short, Cottagecore emphasizes a space for both inclusivity and gender fluidity.
At a time where people feel trapped and isolated in a myriad of ways; the Cottagecore trend allows those who feel bound to one space to reimagine and celebrate a different reality. Despite these unsetting times, through a shared ethos of sustainability and creativity, a community has been visualized that allows its inhabitants to escape to a new world of greener pastures.