“Go back to nature, live in the forest, before they take it away” – John Williamson
[LOL I just realised that this entire post could have been shortened by saying: it’s basically being a Hobbit]
I’m at an age where I’ve lived long enough to see the cringe-worthy fashions of my childhood and adolescence being recycled and up-cycled into the latest thing; where Insta- and real – celebrities are showing up wearing 70s, 80s, and 90s fashion. At least designers and influencers now have left behind some of the rougher edges, and instead streamlined these looks into a take that reflects more modern, and dare I say it, more suitable, tastes. What I mean by that is; contouring, and matte or juicy lips in vibrant colours, instead of the white cast face with orange-brown lipstick on a cool-toned skin (aka; totally unsuitable, and vice versa for warm skin), and luxuriously Olaplexed hair instead of frizzy, damaged locks, or pixie cuts that are less pixie and more…bowl. Things like that. I’m all for taking ideas and improving on them, I just wish I’d been able to use these tweaks the first time around. So, although I have an appreciation for “The 90s: 2.0”, I don’t really have a nostalgia for these kinds of looks, it’s more of an: “Oh god, why :|”, when I think back to how I used to wear those fashions during my childhood.
Today, though, I’m talking about a different facet of the 90s. Something that hasn’t really been revived in mainstream fashion, and that has matured from its origins to become a more defined genre/style:
Cottagecore; to be precise, and all the other ‘cores’ to go along with it. Warmcore, farmcore, honeycore, grandmacore, naturecore, dirtcore, gardencore, flowercore, cozycore, summercore, plantcore… and the list most likely goes on, into ever deeper sub-sections of an already obscure sub-genre.
Why is it called cottagecore, you might ask? Not sure, but it seems to be a derivative along the lines of ‘hardcore’ (as in the music/style/genre…not the style of video..*ahem* More like a descriptive word of an aesthetic one is into)…except you’re not into anything hard at all, quite the opposite in fact. Cottagecore is all about being ~*soft*~.
What’s it got to do with the 90s, though?
I thought maybe it was just my quiet, suburban childhood, where teddy bears, Victorian children’s books and adventures to the countryside were daydreamed about, and everything that encompassed. It had a lot to do with fantasy and Western European-centric folklore (although the Ghibli movies certainly have the same feel), the romanticising of farming and rural life, and home-baked goods. However, with my discovery of cottagecore on (where else do you find an obscure sub-genre but…) Tumblr, it appears I’m not the only one.
There were quite a few movies and TV shows that came out in the 90s which fit the cottagecore style, including my favourite; The Secret of Roan Inish, as well as ones like Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth, Little Women, and the Beatrix Potter series. I do wonder why so many shows and books for kids in the 90s were from over 100 years ago or so, but I guess it’s like fashions coming and going. If you have an inkling, I’d love to hear it. Nevertheless, cross-stitch, watercolour illustrations, fables, embroidery, dollhouses and classical music were all part of the same trend.
But what exactly is cottagecore? Now that we’ve passed through Emo and *edginess*, sarcasm and apathy, it seems some people want to get back to wholesomeness and sweetness, authenticity and all that is natural. Not to abandon technology, computers and phones inasmuch as incorporating them into these romanticised cottage lifestyles. Taking the time to create a photoshoot of you wearing a gingham dress, carrying a wicker basket of blackberries in a field overgrown with wildflowers, while a French stone farmhouse sits behind you is definitely cottagecore. A photo of your crouching #squadgoals, wearing Adidas tracksuits in a city parking lot with your Ferrari, not so much.
It’s all about the wistful, and the whimsical. Think Pride & Prejudice, and Far From the Madding Crowd. A small house, or…~cottage~ in the countryside with a vegetable patch, handmade clothes, spending your days picking flowers and baking tarts doesn’t exactly seem like an unattainable goal. However, in a world where people feel increasingly like they need to document how amazing their globe-trotting, fast-paced, competitive lifestyle is, it can feel like a life increasingly out of reach. If you’re into living in a cottage, you’re probably not going to be the kind of person who wants to fly in a private jet to party with the Hadids, and write cocky Instagram captions to your millions of adoring followers. Your Friday night would probably be a little more hyggelig than that – think cup of tea and a book or drawing pad in a comfy armchair. An extrovert’s nightmare, and an introvert’s dream.
However, the former is what is being reinforced as what success looks like, and many people get caught up in the ever-refreshing Instagram feed of travel bloggers and fitness gurus, and feeling more and more like they will never be good enough, or reach that height in their life, even though, if they think about it, they don’t actually want that kind of life. Although the Dream has widened its parameters more than the 50s style of white picket fence and nuclear family in the suburbs for all intents and purposes, it is still difficult to tell That Aunt at Christmas why you haven’t done this or that, or why you’ve chosen your certain lifestyle, right? That’s what’s being explored via the internet at the moment, and while it is certainly a bumpy road, it’s exciting to me to see where things are headed in some ways.
The reason I’m writing about all this is that this is where the nostalgia has hit me. It’s brought back all the things I wanted for myself when I grew up as a child, and they pretty much all fit into this lifestyle. I don’t think it really is all that obscure as a desire for people in my generation, because even Sephora has just released its own “Witch Kit”, as controversial as that may be. I mention this because it all ties in together. It’s that kind of witchy friend who always gives you your horoscope and has a tea concoction for every occasion. It’s not so much the nu-goth style of Vampire or Witch that came around with 90s/2000s era media (eg Buffy, Charmed, Interview with a Vampire, etc), as it is the natural ‘friendly witch in the woods’ type, who gives you a herbal concoction to help with your ailments. Think more Hufflepuff than Hocus Pocus. It’s all very wholesome and inclusive, which is something that seems to be lacking in Western society in particular, or maybe to be more accurate, in cultures that focus more on the individual, rather than the collective.
Wholesomeness is something I’m very into these days, after spending years in that mentality where you’re apathetic, but in a tortured artist kind of way because it makes you so mysterious and interesting (you know how I mentioned that “oh god, why?” feeling before?). After reading those adorable books by Meik Wiking and exploring these little sub-genres, it gives me a ‘good’, relaxed feeling, rather than an angsty, anxiety-ridden one. I feel like I’m recharging instead of being drained.
It’s quite therapeutic, because it encourages and celebrates ‘goodness’; being good to each other, being good to the earth, and being good to yourself, and coming from a generation where that was lame, and not giving a frick-frack about anything, apart from very shallow and materialistic statuses and objects, it’s a place I feel I can finally breathe. And I suppose it is very much to do with the pressure we put on ourselves these days, especially personally, with a chronic illness, feeling like I can never keep up with the fast-paced world I’m in. It’s a place where it says it’s OK to want just enough, not an excess, and it’s OK to spend your days quietly indulging in creative pursuits rather than over-indulging in fast food and the clickbait outrage cycle. ‘Dropping out’, and doing things that not only make you happy, but they make you feel good in a healthy way, rather than feeling good in a guilty secret kind of way (what I mean is; turning your phone off to paint a watercolour and listen to some lofi music with some candles burning, rather than watching The Kardashians and eating Mi Goreng in your room at 4am after drinking all night with people you can’t really call your friends).
I think that’s enough rambling now, anyway! Here’s a playlist of some music that feels like it fits with my idea of cottagecore that I put together, illustrated exactly as I pictured (since I can come up with the ideas, but have little to no skill in executing them) by wonderful and talented BB. I would love to hear if you wanted to add to it, or what your take on cottagecore and all its related sub-genres is; what it means to you, and why. If you want to see more of the cottagecore aesthetic, have a look at my Tumblr, although it isn’t solely cottagecore, or just search for it on the site itself.