STUYLE CORNER: Cottagecore
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Many believed that quarantine would kill the fashion industry, yet young people are proving that time in isolation can foster a period of self-growth—and closet growth. As people explore their identities away from the prying eyes of social norms, they begin to explore different aesthetics and post their fashion inspirations online, leading to the rise of many popular trends, namely Cottagecore.
Cottagecore is part of a group of fantasy-based styles which emerged in 2020. As people were forced to stay indoors during quarantine, fashion trends became increasingly escapist, drawing inspiration from older time periods and make-believe worlds. Other styles in this category include a gothic aesthetic inspired by vampires, a modern bohemian take on woodland fairies, and—with the recent popularity of the Netflix series “Bridgerton” (2020)—an opulent style reminiscent of medieval royalty.
The aesthetic of Cottagecore is best represented by the backdrop of a forest or meadow in a quaint home and a lifestyle where you garden, craft, go on picnics, and pick flowers. It emphasizes a connection with nature and models the old English countryside look, with elements inspired by Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales. The clothing is flowing and easy-to-wear, made with pale colors and delicate patterns, and features details such as eyelet lace and embroidery.
It’s impossible to talk about Cottagecore without mentioning one of the most famous garments of the trend: the Strawberry Midi Dress by Lirika Matoshi. You may remember this dress popping up on your Instagram feed last summer; to say the least, it took the social media world by storm, populating the homepages of influencers, TikTok videos, Pinterest inspiration boards, and the “shop” tab on Instagram. The reason it became so popular is precisely because of the already well-established popularity of Cottagecore. The midi length, lightweight tulle fabric, and full skirt make it ideal for running in a field of flowers, while the kitsch glittery strawberry pattern and pale pink color embody a fun-loving innocence. The puffed sleeves can’t help but remind the wearer of pre-war European countryside aesthetics, and the V-neck is a perfect balance of innocent, flirty, and romantic. The ribbons around the bodice can also be used to adjust the waist, so the garment creates an attractive hourglass silhouette on every body type. Finally, since the sizing is inclusive (available in XS to XXXL), anyone can adopt the Strawberry Dress fantasy.
The Strawberry Dress is both a perfect example of the cottagecore aesthetic as well as an influential garment that further proliferated the trend. But there are many other ways to implement cottagecore into your daily wear other than ordering this expensive gown. To start, look for pieces with romantic details like babydoll waistlines, large puffed sleeves, ribbons, ruffles, delicate prints, and natural materials like linen and cotton. For the color palette, shop for soft pastels (pale pink, blue, and yellow) as well as earthy tones (tan, brown, and dark green). Some specific items you can start off with are a baby-doll dress, a top with a fitted bodice and large sleeves, a below-the-knee flowing midi skirt in a floral pattern, and white lace socks.
You can even alter your own clothes to fit the aesthetic. For example, try embroidering flowers onto a simple blouse or tying a ribbon around the waist of a free-flowing dress to create a large bow in the back.
Finally, remember that shoes and accessories can make a big impact on the look. Soft brown leather boots, Mary Janes, and espadrilles all work with cottagecore. For the accessories, pair your outfits with basket-weave bags and style your hair with fresh flowers or scarves tied as headbands to achieve that romantic picnic feel.
Cottagecore proves that no matter what’s going on in the world around you, fashion can always be your means of escape. So go ahead and drink tea in floral teacups, buy one too many plants, bake your own bread, and dry flowers you picked yourself. Live your fantasy.