A nostalgic way of life filled with traditional crafts, upcycled finds and a love of nature, Cottagecore is something that can benefit us all, says Clara Bridges
Cottagecore is as a concept inspired by a romanticised, nostalgic view of rural life. It’s true that amongst the 1.6 million #cottagecore posts on Instagram, you’ll see an abundance of floaty dresses, floral patterns, home-baked goods and, of course, beautiful country cottages.
However, the ‘core’ of Cottagecore is a down-to-earth desire for simple, creative, sustainable living which connects us to the natural world.
Ramona Jones, a Cottagecore author and social media influencer (monalogue.co.uk) admits that Cottagecore is indeed “about escaping into a pastoral fantasy”, but she also says that “the overall aim is to bring a sense of peace and safety”.
Ramona’s words help to explain why Cottagecore’s popularity has soared during the pandemic. The appetite for embracing a lifestyle that provides an antithesis to the pressures and pace of the modern day is not new, but periods of lockdown have helped to channel this appetite away from the social and cultural ‘benefits’ of city living, and towards what many perceive as a more traditional, more comforting way of life in the countryside.
In addition, lockdown has heightened the need for our dwellings to be calming yet creative places in which we can feel safe to express different aspects of ourselves.
What is cottagecore?
Within Cottagecore, this self-expression includes activities such as knitting, sewing, and gardening; and there is an emphasis on connection with nature, sustainable living, recycling and upcycling.
The focus on ‘traditional’ crafts such as weaving and sewing helps to preserve the past and safeguard the future by giving a new lease of life to practices that may otherwise start to die out, and by reducing waste and our growing reliance on consumer culture.
This, and embracing attitudes such as ‘make do and mend’ and ‘it’s the little things in life’, are what makes Cottagecore not just an aesthetic, but a toolkit for a more ethical, mindful way of life with significant mental health benefits.
“I think in times of uncertainty people seek comfort in simple pleasures and pastimes,” Ramona notes. “We turn to things that have always brought us joy, whether that’s baking, growing herbs and flowers, or reading; they are hugely comforting in times of stress”.
Cottagecore for everyone
In her book, Escape into Cottagecore, Ramona describes how anyone can weave a little bit of Cottagecore into their lives.
“At the heart of it is a connection with nature – you could experiment with growing vegetables in a garden, balcony or windowsill. If you live in the city, you might want to walk to work through a park and spend a few minutes absorbing what you can see, hear and smell”.
When it comes to traditional crafts, searching Facebook or Meetup (meetup.com) can identify local groups in which to learn or improve your skills. Alternatively, there’s a plethora of online courses, such as ‘Eat the veg patch’ and ‘Upcycling: vintage textiles’ at learningwithexperts.com, as well as sewing and knitting courses at centreofexcellence.com.
If learning a craft doesn’t appeal, Etsy is an excellent place to buy clothes, jewellery, and furnishings. You can even escape on a Cottagecore-inspired holiday with companies such as Sykes Holiday Cottages, which advertise specific rentals embodying the aesthetic.
Living the cottagecore dream
Raven Edgewalker moved from Norwich to rural Somerset where she lives in a cottage with her greyhound, a vintage sewing machine, and a handmade spinning wheel, and runs her own Etsy business, Greenwoman Crafts, selling hand-crafted jewellery and pagan-themed items.
She reflects that “until very recently I had no clue about Cottagecore – until friends told me that other than floral dresses, my life and business are totally that!” She adds, “I had a desire to create a life and career that was sustainable (for the planet and for my own health) and as eco-friendly as possible – recycling, reclaiming and upcycling whenever I can”.
The interplay between sustainability and wellbeing is echoed by Janet Leedham, who moved with her family from the suburbs to rural Lincolnshire.
“We’re trying to bring our daughters up to be environmentalists, so I think it’s important that they know how to mend or alter clothes. It’s great to be able to spot something in a charity shop and see its potential rather than its faults. Also, my eldest suffers from anxiety and activities such as sewing and crochet are quite mindful. She’ll often crochet just before bed to help her get to sleep”.
‘Healthy, relaxing, and calming’ is also how Sophie Agrell describes the benefits of spending time outdoors, away from traffic noise, street lighting, and crowds of people.
She lives on a smallholding outside Glasgow, which she says brings “all kinds of joys, most of which come from being close to nature and the rhythm of life. Living and interacting with animals is also a very reassuring thing; their trust is a real gift”.
But she’s keen to inject a note of practical realism for all those considering this lifestyle: “For large swathes of the year, there’s mud everywhere. This means wearing wellies and waterproof trousers (which are hideous and unromantic) – floating skirts get muddy in moments!”
So no matter what your age or where you live, Cottagecore could help to bring a sense of calm, nostalgia and comfort to your hectic modern life.
This article first appeared in issue 17 of Planet Mindful magazine.
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