Chowdhry says cottagecore is indicative of a desire for simplicity and anti-modernity. “It is the equal and opposite reaction to the contamination, helplessness and incoherence of our contemporary mise en scène.” Quilt.AI’s analysis also revealed that while a slew of wholesome, earthy symbols such as flowers, leaves, bees, mushrooms and bees were generously used, the top emoji was that of sparkles signifying magic and wonder, and hinting that cottagecore holds a lot of meaning as a fantastical paradise.
Practitioners themselves agree. “I started using the trending hashtag #cottagecore on my Instagram account @grove_cottage_ during the first lockdown. At the time, my interpretation of the hashtag was a cosy, romanticised life of living in the country in an idyllic Victorian cottage,” says Naomi Stuart. “I hoped that my pretty squares of rural tranquillity would give people who live in the city or don’t have a garden a sense of pleasure and calmness amongst the madness that was, and still is.”
While cottagecore might have increased on social-media platforms, it has a more rooted sibling in homesteading, a lifestyle based on self-sufficiency and subsistence agriculture. The concept saw a resurgence in the 1960s and 70s but subsequently went below the radar – only to re-emerge in recent years, with hipster undertones, as proponents advocated adapting renewable energy technologies and growing heirloom vegetables, even if they didn’t necessarily live in rural locations.