By Makenna Adams
Imagine yourself in a land far away, where your only responsibilities include foraging for flowers, baking bread, and crafting cakes. Your only concerns include determining whether or not that wild mushroom you just found is poisonous, making sure your carrots pop up in your vegetable bed this spring, and tending to your farm animals, if you have them. This is the idyllic world of cottage core—a fantasy that today’s generation of teens and young adults have crafted as an aspirational form of nostalgia.
Defined on Urban Dictionary as a “niche aesthetic based around the visual culture of an idealized life on a Western farm,” common themes within cottage core include sustainability, gardens, farm animals, rural living, and nature.
Cottage core lifestyle and fashion first gained its popularity on Tumblr, in the early 2010s, after various sources of media shined a spotlight on the aesthetic. One proponent of the aesthetic was the movie adaptation of J.R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit, which premiered in 2012. While the fantastical Shire first appeared in 1937 upon the book’s publication, scenes from the movie really brought the idea of cottage core to life. Inspired by the characters in The Hobbit, followers of the cottage core aesthetic spend their time with activities like baking and farming, while they live in small, cozy homes. Viewers channeled the film’s rustic aesthetic, with its emphasis on the natural world, and thus the trend of cottage core was popularized.
Also in the 2010s, documentary programs, like those premiering BBC historic farm series and The Great British Bake Off, examine cottage life through the lens of anthropology. Recreating traditional methods of farming, cooking, foraging, and other activities, the programs combine entertainment and education.
Recently, the cottage core trend has emerged on Tik Tok due to the COVID-19 quarantine over the past year. Stuck indoors, online users turn to cottage core accounts to get lost in aesthetic videos that showcase the fundamentals of cottage core—like its beautiful fashion, nature, rustic activities. Amassing a large teen following, cottage core has satisfied the popular desire for simplicity shared by much of today’s youth, who live in an ever-bustling, fast-paced world. The romanticization of the cottage core lifestyle allows followers to “escape from stress and trauma,” according to several Tik Tok users, as it emphasizes returning to nature and simplifying life.
Cottage core fashion draws inspiration from the scenery featured in the following images, which encapsulate the charm, nostalgia, and simplicity of yore. Popular items include, but are not limited to:
Off the shoulder tops
Prairie or colonial-style dresses
Prints like gingham, delicate florals, plaids
A mix of cozy and airy textures
Neutral and earth tones, pastels
Vintage floral jewelry
Now, the visuals:
A sweet cottage surrounded by lush flora and a window to the outdoors, where an artist sits and creates, inspired by the natural world. One might find this clothesline hung around a cottage core follower’s home, as they engage in rustic practices.
Next, the fashion inspiration:
This gorgeous bae is dressed in a tiered gown—a cottage core must. Flowing clothes that depict movement encapsulates this style of fashion.
Gingham is one of the most popular patterns within cottage core fashion. Traditionally-masculine styles of dressing within the cottage core aesthetic involve lots of layers. Thick, textured, vintage sweaters in muted tones are a staple. These outfits bear the hallmarks of cottage core with their neutral tones and simple accessories like leather belts, bags, and suspenders.
Loose, white, or cream-colored blouses can be found in the wardrobe of any follower of cottage core. Straight-leg pants, in textures like corduroy and denim, are also common. G
iving off farmhouse and gardening energy, overalls are a must for cottage core fashion! Pair it with a wide-brimmed hat for a look that’s straight out of the flower or vegetable bed. Perfect!
Gauzy dresses, both short and long, give major cottage core vibes.Delicately patterned dresses, in pastel colors, are consistent with cottage core fashion, as are puffy sleeves and lace-up elements.