If in recent months you’ve taken to scrolling through TikTok, Instagram, Tumblr, or Pinterest for inordinate amounts of time, you’ll have noticed a blossoming aesthetic movement capturing the imaginations of millions of young women: Cottagecore. It smells like freshly picked strawberries and homemade bread. It feels like running through spring meadows in a long, flowing skirt. Search #Cottagecore on any social media platform, and you’ll be pulled into a vivid fantasy world of vast countrysides, quaint rustic homes, picnic baskets full of delectable treats, and timeless fashions. It’s no wonder why we’ve been charmed by the Cottagecore movement—the one glaring question is, why didn’t it grab our attention sooner?
This year, the Covid-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on our ability to work, our social lives, and our collective mental health. As 2020 is approaching its end, we still have yet to reach the light at the end of the tunnel. Women who would ordinarily be studying on college campuses or occupied in the workplace everyday have been relegated back to the domestic domain. In the midst of the initial lockdown phase and the ripple effects continuing afterward, we’ve felt restrained and unable to take back control of our lives. Looking out at our troubled world, we sigh helplessly and daydream of what could be. What comes to mind isn’t the life we lived before Covid; it’s something far better.
The Cottagecore enthusiast would rather close her eyes and tilt her head up to the open air than stare at fluorescent lights on panel ceilings. She would rather hear birds chirping at dawn than a printer coughing out another sales report. She wants to feel the breeze hit her face and send her dress fluttering behind her legs, instead of her own breath circulating behind a cloth mask. The modern woman wants to be truly free.
And where does a woman find freedom if not when she feels beautiful? Alongside the rise of Cottagecore aesthetics, “soft girl fashion” has exploded in online popularity with signature trending pieces like Lirika Mitoshi’s iconic Strawberry Dress. Young women everywhere have been raving about this pink strawberry-speckled midi dress since it went viral in August, especially on TikTok, where the hashtag #strawberrydress has now garnered 21.1 million views. Mitoshi’s viral piece, as well as other classic feminine styles such as corset bodices, milkmaid tops, puff sleeves, frills, and marabou trims, are gaining popularity in step with women’s growing eagerness to escape not only from the confines of quarantine, but also the trappings of monotonous lifestyles they had lived before it ever began.
But what will happen after everything goes back to “normal”? Can our romantic whimsy withstand a return to the oppressive drabness of modern life? My optimistic view: only if we let it. Keeping our eyes and hearts fixed on our wholesome desires, no matter how fanciful they seem, we impose beauty onto the ugliness of our fallen world with force.