Could wicker baskets and vintage dresses be the millennial answer to environmentalism post Pandemic?
Words by Haylee Campbell
the notion of returning to a simpler time, ideas of home comforts, traditional processes such as dressmaking, or baking bread, tending to animals and harvesting vegetables.
Born in the midst of a global pandemic, it comes as no surprise that the latest à la mode to take the world with fever is one that celebrates the values we have come to cultivate in quarantine. In a welcome but somewhat ironic turn of events, ‘cottagecore’ celebrates simplicity, an homage to the rustic living of yesteryear that reaches the cornerstones of our day-to-day.
A quick Pinterest search of the term brings up bucolic and pastoral scenes bursting with vintage Laura Ashley dresses and wicker baskets abundant in perfectly proportioned peaches. Flowers bloom and herbs grow exuding the ultimate sense of freedom. An escape from the cities that once hummed with life but that now only echo the isolation we feel indoors.
As lockdown restrictions continue to ease, there remain many that feel dubious about venturing abroad. We’re set for a quintessentially English summertime. One filled with cabins in the woods and picnics by the windy coast. With the precariousness of society suddenly becoming apparent, we have reassessed our values and needs. As masses turn to baking sourdough and banana bread, tasks we would otherwise be too busy for or unconcerned with, the slowing down of society has prompted a myriad of manifestations of self reliance that we have not seen since the times the cottagecore trend harks back to.
The trend romanticizes the pre-industrial revolution times, where we reared our own crops and animals. Now, those of us that have the privilege of living near countryside walks have probably pulled out our Wellington boots, beloved knitwear and most reliable denim, unconcerned with the handbags and heels of pre lockdown.
The practicality and longevity of our garments became paramount with the realisation of our vulnerability to nature's will, which in turn has heightened our already existing awareness of the importance of taking care of our environment, by being more considered in our consumption. Garments that can be layered, repaired and reworn with timeless qualities transcending seasons take on new value. They are environmentally friendly and are better practically aligned with our newfound values, needs and preferences post COVID.
Cottagecore presents a romantic view of a synergy with nature that is conducive to the environment, as well as eco feminism, and modern iterations of Paganism. It evokes the idea that we can attain ideals by connecting with nature, by honouring its offerings, which is very much in line with historic witchcraft traditions.
Ecofeminism argues that it is the same patriarchal, capitalist victimising and perpetrating of women and femininity, that also drives us to abuse nature and commodify it. Conversely, celebrating the seasons, herbs, fruit and nature surrounding us taps in to our feminine nature (not reserved solely for women, or those that identify as women) as caregivers, home makers and empathic beings. By exploring these innate and absolute values within all of us, we may come to a place of redemption in regard of the impending environmental disaster we all face, that necessitates greater care and consideration for our lifestyles, consumption and clothes.
COVID-19 did not initiate anything new with regard to climate change other than speeding up the process. The world had been waking up to the environmental issues unravelling across the world, due to the likes of Extinction Rebellion, David Attenborough and Greta Thurnberg finally drawing mainstream attention after years of grassroots campaigning and activism. We have seen the widespread adoption of keepcups, the banning of microplastics, and more and more people becoming aware of issues surrounding single use plastic, energy, pollution and consumption.
In fashion, people have been becoming far more conscious about their decisions when shopping, with growing numbers of people willing to pay a higher price on sustainable items, as well as greater demands being placed on brands to offer transparency. It seems unsurprising that we are becoming preoccupied with simpler values and desires, more considerate of the impact our consumption has on others, and less concerned with materialism. Cottagecore wooing the world with its home spun aesthetics is a welcome expression that encourages people to consider their materials, a garments longevity, and learning to repair, reuse and repair to honour our natural world in the wake of COVID-19.
Whilst the machinations of fast fashion brands such as Boohoo aren’t slowing down in the face of a more ethical direction, churning out cheap collections featuring milkmaid dresses and gingham, the principle behind our new-found primitive palettes goes a little deeper. At the heart of it all is a reflection of necessity, a promise to , flora, fauna and human welfare.