The Great Plague of 2020 ended some time ago, but it left an everlasting impact on society. That impact is Cottagecore, an internet aesthetic popularized by adolescents and young adults celebrating an idealized rural life.
I have always loved the British countryside look, having been heavily inspired by my grandmother’s Tudor style home, complete with a stucco and wood exterior, and stone and brick accents. I even inherited her medieval revival Jacobian dining set from the 1920s. Antiques and vintage goods are something I have always appreciated.
I believe there is some merit to our obsession over dreamy, rural, antique living: whether you had to quarantine and work from home, or do what the rest of us peasants did and continue risking our lives working in public, I firmly believe that Cottagecore planted a seed into our minds about the soullessness of modern work, daily grinds, and meetings that could have been e-mails.
So, I decided to let Cottagecore seep into my personal life in unique little ways: through my gardening, food, and art. For three years, I lived the Cottagecore lifestyle to the best of my ability as a way to distance myself from my usual workloads and find meaning in personal endeavors. I learned a lot during this journey, having practiced it during different points in my life.
Personally speaking, as someone who does work with her hands, I do feel more fulfilled when my hard work is more than just a product to be sold. There is an appreciation for the origin of the materials you get to work with, the dignity in your skillset, and the pride that comes when your work delights others or makes their lives easier.
Getting Rid of High Expectations
As I embarked on this new lifestyle, I learned rather quickly that I had to get rid of my high expectations for how this experiment would turn out. Many social media accounts have carefully curated galleries. The posts are so beautiful, color coordinated, and full and wonder and woodland creatures. They serve their purpose of allowing us to live vicariously through them. It can make the rest of us feel inadequate.
To keep me grounded, I decided to treat this experiment, not like an aesthetic, but like a subculture: a cultural group within a larger culture, often having beliefs or interests at variance with those of the larger culture (Oxford Languages). Subcultures can be about the look, but it is mostly about the beliefs and interests. Subcultures also have greater longevity than aesthetic chasing because it is more of a way of life with a set of ideals and principles, rather than the coolest stuff you can buy.
I wanted to live the reality of Cottagecore as best as I could. I do not live on a farm, own any farm animals, have a barn, and my townhouse is in the suburbs. But, I can still fulfill some of the core ideals that Cottagecore pushes: traditional skills, nature, and simple living―although, I would not say that any of the work I did was “simple.”
This experiment took me on a wild journey of nature, creativity, and cuisine that changed how I lived. In this series, I document my cottagecore expectations and realities as they relate to gardening, food preparation, and crafts. Stay tuned for the remaining parts!