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Cottagecore and Quarantine: 3 Ways to Adopt The Aesthetic Into Your Busy Life

If you've scrolled anywhere near social media since lockdown began, you may have noticed that things are getting downright pastoral. The proliferation of imagery that centers around quiet domesticity, farm life, fairy tales, and adventures in the English countryside, now known colloquially as cottagecore, has always been partially present across the Internet, especially on Tumblr and Pinterest. But, in the last few months of quarantine, this once-obscure aesthetic has become the obsession of countless influencers and ordinary social media users alike, and people around the world can now be found posting about their quaint at-home activities in a way that romanticizes domestic chores and outdoor work as charming and cozy. The sudden popularity of cottagecore has been attributed by Vox journalist Rebecca Jennings to the spread of COVID-19, as she observes that  "When the pandemic hit, idle homemaking became less escapism and more like an inescapable reality. Cottagecore under lockdown, then, became a way to spin the terror and drudgery into something adorable — and interest in it directly correlated to how bad it became outside." 

    Cottagecore's popularity in recent months has been a standout of quarantine life for many social media users, me included. But as the months of quarantine have begun to put mental, physical, and financial strain on my fellow college students and me, I found myself wondering if those activities that are associated with cottagecore would actually help calm my frayed nerves, or if they would feel like a falsely promised performance of calm. Desperate to try pretty much anything to make me feel productive and at peace while I waited for news about school, my employment, and the safety of my socially-distanced friends, I decided that I would give a few of the classic 'cottagecore' hobbies a try, and then write about them for my fellow stressed-out students to see if they could also benefit from the baby-goat-petting, pastry-baking, flouncy-dress-wearing world that is cottagecore. So, here's my list and of activities I think you should consider if you've been feeling the same pull towards this aesthetic:

1. Gardening

    I know what you're going to say. "Girl, I have NO space to start a garden, and my thumb is nowhere near green. How am I supposed to keep a plant alive when I can barely keep myself alive!"  Dear reader, trust me when I say I feel you. Over the last few years, I have killed my fair share of plants too, and I always feel like such a failure when I struggle to keep whatever growing little bud I kept in my dorm alive. I've never gardened and have all of 0 experience with plant care and keeping, but when cottagecore videos came flooding through my feed, I felt a sudden urge to give it one more try. This time, I kept my expectations low, and instead of starting a full spread of herbs and spices in my garden, I bought two little pots of pothos ivy and hung them up in my study room. Pothos ivy is a creeping, bright green plant with heart-shaped leaves, and according to the Internet, it's almost impossible to kill. I've only had my pothos plants for three weeks, and they've already stood up to my own meager gardening skills really well--they've even started to slowly creep up and over the lip of my pots to form their signature cascading shape! 

 I loved trying my hand at the tiniest bit of gardening, because even though I'm only the caretaker for two baby vines, I loved getting the chance to give them routine care and watch them flourish and thrive. That element of cottagecore that prioritizes routine and beauty is very present in my new plant-mothering duties, and I have found watching their slow and steady progress to be both satisfying and beautiful. If you're looking to get into gardening, but you only have a little space like  me, I recommend getting a plant of this size and seeing how it fares. If you have a little more spaces, I would also recommend that you do your own research and see what kind of plant is right for your space--there are plenty of options to choose from, and all of them are lovely. Even if you're living ina a hole-in-the-wall housing, with a little plant by your side, you'll be feeling the cottagecore vibes in no time!

2. Embroidering

    Ah, embroidery. This was a skill I wasn't totally confident about when I started, probably because I  spent so long fawning over elaborate fiber designs on Pinterest for months before I decided to give it a try myself. The intricacies of hand-stitched garments were pretty intimidating to me, especially because I had never properly learned to sew or use a needle for much at all before lockdown. But, with the extra time of lockdown came extra curiosity, and soon I found myself ordering a starter kit full of embroidery floss and hoops on Amazon. 

The kit that I bought cost about $10, and it came with everything I needed to get started--plenty of colors, a few spare needles, a hoop, a piece of cotton cloth with a design printed on it, and a simple instruction manual that listed all of the stitches I would need to create with my new tools. Seeing all of the how-tos and material lying before me helped me get over my fear, and soon, I was learning how to make all kinds of imagery with a simple needle and thread. As I worked, I found that hand embroidery is a lot more free than I had first imagined, because, without the uniform cross stitch Xs or complex counting of knitting, I could actually be a little more adventurous with my patterns and consistency, and pay less attention to my placement and perfectionism. I also found that the actual process of embroidering fills that same niche I used to fill with scrolling on my phone in the Starbucks line--it gives my hands something to do so my brain can take a little wandering rest. When I was finished with my project, I was proud of what I had made, and also a little sad when I didn't have anything to make any more--but, now armed with my new skills and tools, I just started embroidering a new item with my own design, and had just as much fun as before!

If you're thinking about learning to embroider, but are afraid that it might be too complicated, I seriously recommend getting a cheap starter kit. Once you have the skills down, it doesn't take much to really get flying, and soon you'll be living your pastoral girl dream life!

3. The Accessories 

    Cottagcore may look idealistic, but that doesn't mean it has to be expensive or curated. In fact, I would say that if you're looking to incorporate a more farm-chique aesthetic into your look, owning and working with a few pieces can be more than enough to satisfy your inner Hobbit. In my process of introducing more cottagecore vibes into my appearance, I looked far and wide to find things that wouldn't stand out too much from the rest of my clothes, but that still gave me that cozy, warm look that Cottagcore celebrates.

    The very first thing that I did to give myself the cottagecore vibes was to slightly change the way I did my makeup. Now, I know this doesn't sound like it would make a big difference--after all, who would even be seeing my makeup while I was trapped inside? But I swear, putting a little more blush on my cheeks and nose and adding a few faux freckles to my routine cheered me up and made me feel so much more rosy and youthful. (Also, if you already wear even the tiniest amount of makeup, you probably already have the products you need to achieve the just-ran-in-a-field-of-flowers energy that cottagecore perpetuates--a little extra blush and a little brown eyeshadow on the tip of a paintbrush is all you need!)

After changing my routine a little bit, I found that I wanted to invest a little money into some new treats for myself over quarantine. So, to keep things cheap and cute (but still feeling whimsical),  I went on a search across Etsy and Madewell to find some accessories to incorporate into my more normal outfits. After a few weeks of researching, I decided to buy a few Madewell bandannas (on sale, of course) and some cheap earrings from small businesses online. These little treasures were very easy to incorporate into my outfits every day, and I found myself reaching for new funky earrings every day of the week--be they mushrooms, Russian nesting dolls, or a tiny slice of cake, I always had something on hand to make my looks a little more magical.  (And also, if you're a crafty person already, it's really easy to make these for yourself or for your friends--all you need is some pliers, some jewellery hooks, a couple of jump rings, and any little charm you can find at the craft store!)

 

    Cottagecore is an incredibly vibrant and versatile aesthetic, so anything you do to incorporate into your life, be it big or small, is more than valid. Hopefully, engaging with this fun trend will help you engage with some simple joys and explore hobbies and clothing that might be outside of your comfort zone. So why not care a little garden, embroider a t-shirt, or give a little bandanna a try? You just might find the inner Kiki-Buttercup-Mrs. Honey inside you!