Fresh flowers, hand-embroidered dresses, and less screen time. Here’s what you need to know about cottagecore and how to spot it in the wild.
Perhaps you have a Gen Z niece who dresses like an extra on Little House on the Prairie, or you live next to a young couple with an exceptionally impressive garden and seemingly no employment to speak of. Or, maybe you’re just curious about cottagecore, a lifestyle and aesthetic centered around the simple rituals of rural living. But no matter what has brought you here, getting to know the ins and outs of cottagecore is a fun and useful way to understand why a slower, back-to-nature, (mostly) unplugged lifestyle is so popular right now.
The term “cottagecore” came about in 2018, long before the pandemic forced people into their homes to bake sourdough. Even four years ago, it was a way for people (mainly women) who didn’t want to grind or girlboss to experiment with a lifestyle free from capitalism, dating apps, and diet culture. “Take modern escapist fantasies like tiny homes, voluntary simplicity, forest bathing, and screen-free childhoods, then place them inside a delicate, moss-filled terrarium, and the result will look a lot like cottagecore,” wrote the New York Times in 2020.
But cottagecore isn’t just about recapitulating a time before cell phones—it’s also about filling one’s time, tiny home, and family memories with delicate homemade quilts and the scent of rhubarb pie. It’s an idealized, cozy fantasy that’s as wholesome as it is unrealistic for most people.
Here are five reasons and lots of photos to help you understand why cottagecore is so appealing to younger generations.
1. Cottage Core Is Natural
To fully embrace cottagecore, one must fully embrace nature, as well. Everything from precious picnics to plucking wildflowers is fair game as long as it’s done while wearing an A-line dress and a darling little hat.
Folks who identify as cottagecore live, eat, and celebrate nature and the way it intersects with domesticity. Many forage for mushrooms, bake their own bread, and raise chickens for eggs.
And, while many do keep plant-based diets, for the most part, those who live the cottagecore lifestyle cook with butter, cream, and meat—likely made from their own cows, or purchased at their local farmer’s market.
2. But It’s Definitely Not Minimal
Quilted patterns, miscellaneous textiles, and an abundance of macrame, lace, and patchwork create a tableau that’s a far cry from the ubiquitous white-on-white minimalist style that dominated the last decade. And, that’s a relief to many.
Because cottagecore also has a rustic, “old-fashioned” look, it can be quite sustainable. Thrifting, trading, and reusing is a huge part of the cottagecore lifestyle, as it eschews abundance or gratuitous consumption.
Though people, in general, are unpredictable, it’s unlikely that someone who identifies as cottagecore would drive a brand new sports car or carry a designer purse.
3. Cottage Core Is Floral
Floral prints are one of the prime components of cottagecore, specifically prints that hearken back to a different time. Think dresses dotted with tiny daisies (also known as calico), and wallpapers dizzy with violets. Cottagecore homes often have freshly picked flowers in every room, napkins with floral embroidery, and charming tea cups and saucers with floral embellishments. This love of flowers extends into the farm-friendly culture of cottagecore, as well. Gardening, harvesting, and enjoying the literal fruits of one’s labor is a daily pleasure for the cottagecore set.
4. Cottage Core Is Tactile
Hobbies are a huge part of cottagecore. In fact, it almost seems wrong to call them hobbies, as attending to certain tasks, like embroidery, baking, and writing letters are essential to maintaining the life of a true cottagecore convert.
Those living the cottagecore life don’t usually have corporate or high-stress jobs, and instead, make and sell their goods, create art and music, and find other ways to make money that don’t involve putting on a suit, signing onto Slack, or asking for time off.
The freedom to create at one’s own pace is a big reason why so many people love cottagecore.
5. Cottage Core Is Simple
Perhaps the most appealing aspect of cottagecore is that it’s primarily offline. Yes, those that adopt the cottagecore aesthetic use their phones and the internet (they’re primarily Millennials and Gen Z, after all), but many of the daily routines center around being fully present—in nature, in the kitchen, and definitely in delightful bubble baths.
As the New York Times put it, “Things that do not exist in the cottagecore universe: frostbite, jobs, and toxic masculinity.”
Image via Joe Schmelzer.
Cover image via Iryna Imago.