Does cottagecore live up to the hype? We investigate

Written by Hannah Cole

Photography Supplied

We’re searching for the simple life, but not as Paris and Nicole knew it.

Social media has a funny way of illuminating global phenomena. The analogous imagery as you scroll through Instagram feels a little like the chicken and egg situation: Where did this all start? Did I want to bake sourdough before it became peak quarantine behaviour, or was I so immersed that my desires were no longer my own? All this pondering could lead to an existential discussion (or crisis), but this is not the time nor the place for a half-baked philosophical conversation. 

The way that trends ebb and flow via social platforms will endlessly fascinate me, though. In the last however-many-months-the-pandemic-has-seized-us, the one that captured me with its exponential takeoff is ‘cottagecore’. More than just a way of dressing, this is a lifestyle — or at least one that is glossily filtered and staged for Instagram purposes. Baking bread, punnets of berries, baby goats, toadstools, picnics and poetry. Add a sprinkle of embroidery, dappled sunlight and a billowing dress, et voila! Some form of cottagecore.

Take the arts and crafts movement of the 19th century as inspiration. In retaliation to the new world of industrialisation, followers turned to decorative arts — such as jewellery, ceramics, and textiles. As familial cottage industries were updating to money-hungry factories and mass production, the believers in craftsmanship took their stand. 

It’s timely then, that as the modern world implodes in many ways — one dreadful event after another — that we emulate the revolution of the past. Only this time, we’re taking it digital. 

While I dismiss most trends as fading crazes, with this, I have few complaints. Whether the growing social influence has incepted me or not, the dreamy landscape of frolicking and pottering seems a lifestyle worth pursuing. It’s a distraction from the greater distress; maybe it will even bring some good. Before I know it, I will start dressing the part too. 

The correlating fashion styles are replete with oversized collars, ruffles, laced details and overtly ‘girly’ tendencies. Nostalgia and beauty all wrapped up. 

Batsheva has been honing in on this aesthetic before cottagecore even became a thing. The namesake label from Batsheva Hay is a celebration of these simpler tendencies. Prairie dresses in modern fabrics (lamé!) meet puffed sleeves, tiered skirts, and a touch of gingham. While Batsheva has been spruiking the aesthetic long before COVID-19 made it exponentially cool, the addition of the ‘house dress’ during lockdown was borne of the time. With nowhere to go but home, the Batsheva house dress is a simplified take on the overarching aesthetic. There are no oversized collars or sleeves; practicality takes pride of place. Instead, it’s a patchwork dress made for living in, going through the mundanity and all.

Par Moi is the local label that sprung to mind immediately as the trend exploded but, as designer Ashiya Omundsen told me, she had never heard of the concept before I had reached out. As a believer in doing what you love, this was an unexpected delight to hear; Omundsen designs for personal style, not a trend. When asked on her thoughts regarding the looks’ newfound popularity, she had this to say: “With the year we have had so far and the shift in the way we live, I do think we are all looking for more relaxed and comfortable pieces to wear on repeat over ‘special occasion’ fashion.” The Par Moi aesthetic is one of daintiness and refined beauty. Whether at home or gearing up to re-enter society, the dresses and blouses are an easy throw-on for instant satisfaction. 

Omundsen mentioned Bettunika as another label at the helm of the aesthetic, although this time in the interior space. The ceramic darling is a strong competitor for Breakout Star During Coronavirus. With the onset of COVID-19, Betina Jørgensen (a teacher and the mother of influencer Marie Jedig) began to sell the ceramics she had formerly shared with friends and family. Her quirky collection of mugs and vases, with a pastel palette, floral inclination, and element of imperfection, have the Instagram-savvy captive. (Apparently, each piece sells in less than a minute). 

As with the original cottage industry concept, the labels that appear to truly satisfy the aesthetic are those that adhere to limited runs, made-to-order, and the use of deadstock or surplus materials. We’re searching for the simple life, but not as Paris and Nicole knew it. Fast fashion can try to compete; silhouettes are replicated, and collars continue to grow, but they are entirely missing the point. This is a fashion trend that extends far beyond aesthetics and triggers something more profound, whether nostalgic or anticipatory, for a better future ahead. As Omundsen notes, “Any fast fashion company can make a prairie collared blouse or a billowy dress, [but] consumers should be aware of the impact of their choices no matter what style or trend they are looking for.” Indeed, the most authentic form of cottagecore is also a sustainable one. 

cottagecore

Crop Top by Batsheva.

cottagecore

Housedress by Batsheva.

cottagecore

Midi Dress by Par Moi.

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