You would know it to see it. Anyone who has sought escape in the endless feeds of TikTok or Instagram knows a certain light-filled, pastoral aesthetic. Slim blondes in thrifted prairie dresses frolic in gardens and fields. You are convinced that you, too, can enjoy a whimsical picnic brunch under an oak tree with homemade scones and clotted cream. You can make your own mushroom earrings, or you can sew your own milkmaid cosplay and wear it as you sip tea. This is cottagecore.
I liked the look of it, and I am hardly alone — the “cottagecore” hashtag has been used more than 4 billion times on TikTok. But when I tried to look up the definition of this particular aesthetic trend, I was confused. It presented nature, and the experience of existing in it, as soft and leisurely. Life in the countryside isn’t about picnic lunches, straw hats, and muslin dresses — it’s farming from sunup to sundown, and never knowing if it will be enough.
Online commentators point out that cottagecore is far from a “natural” aesthetic; it’s often showcased as a vision of a settled wilderness, a legacy of European agriculture and expansion.
“Despite a number of its followers tak... Read more