Originally published Jun 9, 2020 and updated Dec 14, 2020.
Just as TikTok served as an incubator for the VSCO and E-Girl and E-Boy style tribes, another Gen-Z subculture has emerged across the platform. And Taylor Swift and David Beckham are on board!
Accelerated by COVID-19 turning the outdoors into the ultimate form of luxury, Cottagecore has provided a comfort blanket for teens during these uncertain times. Read on to learn more about the defining themes of the trend, why it’s important to invest in and how to make it work this summer.
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What defines Cottagecore?
‘A niche aesthetic based around the visual culture of an idealized life on a Western farm. Common themes include sustainability, gardens, farm animals, rural living and nature.’Urban Dictionary
They’re one with nature
The aesthetic revolves around the outdoors, which COVID-19 has romanticized as the ultimate destination. Living among the forest or on a farm surrounded by plants and animals is the idyllic setting for this trend, furthering the importance of sustainability among Gen-Z.
They’re young at heart
This cohort is in their teens or early twenties yet still clinging to elements of their childhood. Fairies, woodland creatures and forest adventures play a huge role and offer comfort for navigating adulthood during uncertain times.
With grandma-approved hobbies
Wholesome activities harking back to parents or grandparents eras are honored by this tribe with users dedicating TikToks to baking, gardening and needlepoint – all of which have seen a surge in interest during quarantine.
It’s an LGTBQ+ safe space
As outlined below in the community section, this cohort embraces their sexuality, often tagging content with ‘wlw’ (woman-loving woman).
They worship Hozier
The Irish artist has become synonymous with the Cottagecore fantasy which is set to a soundtrack of dark, romantic folk music. Bon Iver and Florence and the Machine would also appear on a Cottagecore playlist. Inspired by isolation and rooted in fantasy, Taylor Swift shocked fans with not one, but two album drops this year. The sister albums, ‘folklore’ and ‘evermore’, are what Cottagecore dreams are made of.
Gaming has seen a recent surge, serving as an escape during lockdown. Animal Crossing and Farmville are quintessential in Cottagecore, particularly for those who don’t have access to nature or animals.
With a fascination for the 1900s-50s, vintage dressing and shopping adds to the sustainability component of Cottagecore. Combined with their interest in a rural agricultural life, sewing, mending and recycling all come into play.
Despite being active on social media, this cohort dreams of simpler times. A yearning for past eras is something the pandemic has united all customers in, furthering the case for why we need nostalgia now.
As with all subcultures, community and belonging are vital components of Cottagecore. Its roots are settled as a refuge for the LGBTQ+ community. Many women feel free to explore traditionally ‘female-gendered’ activities and roles whilst exercising their beliefs including feminism and equality. The aesthetic is often intertwined with other subcultures and interests such as astrology, witchcraft and goblincore.
The crowd can be found online mainly using TikTok and Tumblr to post content. Videos range from how to make elderflower pressé to shots of sunny gardens and meadows soundtracked to dreamy pop and folk music. According to insider.com, Tumblr has seen a 153% increase in Cottagecore posts since March, during which many regions went into lockdown. The hashtag alone has also racked up 252 million views on TikTok.
Why take note
Lockdown has pulled into focus a host of hobbies associated with the movement
From gardening, with Bella Hadid spending quarantine on her family herb farm frolicking in lavender to gaming. While it’s been hard to avoid posts about banana bread bakes in the past few weeks, there’s an importance of DIY and crafts. Google Trends shows that lockdown goes hand in hand with a spike in searches for ‘cottagecore’.
It works with an already existing trend – 70s.
This aesthetic was called out in the Spring 2020 and Fall 2020 runway shows, in particular at the likes of Longchamp. Furthering this vibe, The Virgin Suicides celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.
Taking care & taking time
The foundations of the concept are slow paced and rooted in a return to nature. It’s a nurturing of ones self and of creatures – chiming with wellbeing, be kind and self love movements.
Social apps help with indulging in enchantment
The elements of magical practices and mystical creatures are easy to indulge in, thanks to digital AR. Elfin ears and freckles that can be applied at the simple swipe of a filter – easily achieved and shared.
The defining beauty trends of the Cottagecore aesthetic range from soft and minimal to experimental and other-worldly. Consumers bored at home have helped the rise of DIY beauty, which appeals to the craftiness of Cottagecore kids. Experimentation on TikTok has allowed this cohort to test out fairy-inspired looks, blurring the lines between makeup artistry and AR filters.
As previously mentioned, this subculture holds their childhood dear so a youthful, innocent look is favored. Signature Cottagecore makeup includes using henna or fake tan to create faux freckles, brown mascara and eyeliner for doe eyes, a coral or pink gloss for just-bitten lips and blush swept across the nose and cheeks. With emphasis placed on caring for nature, clean beauty and sustainable packaging are of the utmost importance when speaking to this consumer.
Product trends to buy into
Accessories such as bandanas, flower crowns and hair clips offer customer-friendly entry points into the Cottagecore aesthetic. Lean on these items to help update your existing assortment while supply chains are in flux.
For fabrics, think natural, nostalgic materials in soft hues – linen, faded denim, seersucker. Jute, straw and wicker bags should also be on your radar – a staple accessory for activities like picnicking and crop-picking.
Old-world, feminine shapes and details are integral to this aesthetic – milkmaid necklines, puff sleeves, ruffles and prairie-inspired midi dresses. Take cues from movies like Little Women, The Virgin Suicides and Picnic at Hanging Rock.
Patterns span ditzy florals, gingham, stripes and paisley. While floral is the most commercial option here, also consider pastel gingham as a more directional alternative.
Whimsical midi dresses
Loose, longline dresses have seen continued interest throughout the pandemic, giving further weight to this style. Capitalize on whimsy, feminine pieces playing up nature themes within merchandising.
Lace trims and fabrics again tap into the femme element of this aesthetic, while also giving a nod to ’70s bohemia. In the same vein, crochet should be also explored.
Overalls / Dungarees
Light blue, vintage styles are called for here, with a focus on short, practical lengths. Striped versions are popular within the Cottagecore community – consider updating with this pattern.
Ideal for the summer season, adopt natural linen for blouses, dresses and aprons. One of the most biodegradable fabrics on the market, it also ticks the sustainability box.
Small scale florals best tie into this the Cottagecore theme, and should be predominantly used for midi dresses and blouses. PrettyLittleThing, New Look and Topshop are the biggest investors of this pattern so far this year.
Graphics are the top embroidery pattern across the US & UK, leaving a significant gap in the market for floral and woodland-inspired designs. Mushrooms are iconic among this cohort, offering a particularly fresh update.
Cottagecore in menswear
Not exclusive to womenswear, male celebrities partaking in the Cottagorecore aesthetic and the activities involved is helping the trend resonate in the menswear market. David Beckham embodies the Cottagecore lifestyle, regularly posting Instagram shots of him and family living an idyllic country life. Tweed brim hats and flat caps, chunky knitted jumpers and a walking stick in hand, Beckham has fully embraced the romantic agricultural look. Already known for his love of cooking and baking, the star shared on socials his latest hobby is beekeeping.
Images via Instagram - David Beckham
Harry Styles’ soft and romantic fashion sense makes him the perfect ambassador for the Cottagecore subculture. He has fronted Gucci campaigns with farm animals and is often photographed in meadow settings. The patchwork knitted cardigan Styles wore to a rehearsal for ‘The Today Show’ sparked a TikTok frenzy, with fans recreating homemade versions of the iconic JW Anderson piece.
Images via Instagram - JW Anderson and Instagram - Harry Styles
Kanye West has emerged as an unlikely Cottagecore influencer. He and his family often post photographs of themselves in rural Wyoming when not in LA. At the end of last year, the music mogul purchased his second Wyoming Ranch and plans to move production of his Yeezy collections to the region by the start of next year. The aim is to farm the land so the full production process can be carried out in one place, ‘from seed to sew’.
Images via Instagram - GQ and Instagram - Kim Kardashian
For more insight into Cottagecore’s influence in menswear, log in and read our recent analysis report.
How to work into summer stories
While retailers aren’t explicitly referencing Cottagecore, elements of the aesthetic are noticeably woven into summer communications with sun-drenched and dreamy campaign imagery. With caring for the earth at its core, nature and the forest is a recurring theme in Christy Dawn’s emails – a recent communication featured the subject line ‘foraging for beauty.’ Compliment your product edits with the wholesome hobbies favored by this cohort as mentioned above – baking, knitting or simply the self-care involved in just lounging around in the sun with a book.
With social distancing relaxed and small gatherings allowed, picnics have been a long-awaited activity. Work in gingham prints and white, ethereal blouses and dresses to capture the Cottagecore look. Consumers are wistful for summer, so make the trend work for you by positioning your new season communications around the illusion of escapism. Staycation edits appeal to the longing for holidays and forward-thinking messages such as ‘dreaming of brighter days ahead’. Play off the yearning for simpler times – something all customers are feeling right now.
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Contributions by Aoife Byrne, Krista Corrigan, Ashley Graham, Kayla Marci and Rebecca Milne.