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In Times of Crisis, Gen Z Embraces Escapist Fashion

Major cities have seen an exodus of millennials during the pandemic as they escape for greener pasture, but don’t count on Gen Z to fill those vacancies any time soon.

Meet Cottagecore, a Gen Z subculture that favors an aesthetic based around an idealized life on a farm. A new report by retail data analytics company Edited outlines the fundamental values and visual cues that define the lifestyle movement. Common themes include sustainability, gardens, farm animals, rural living and nature, coupled with childhood fascinations with fairies and woodland creatures that are carried into adulthood.

“The aesthetic revolves around the outdoors, which COVID-19 has romanticized as the ultimate destination. Living among the forest or on a farm is the idyllic setting for this trend, furthering the importance of sustainability among Gen-Z,” Edited stated.

Cottagecore hobbies include quarantine-friendly activities, the report noted, like baking, gardening, needlepoint and DIY crafts, which have seen an uptick during the pandemic. Their musicians of choice are Hozier and Florence and the Machine. The tribe is also known to escape through games like Animal Crossing and Farmville, and while they yearn for times of yore, they turn to TikTok and Tumblr to satisfy their itch for social media. Edited reported that Tumblr has seen a 153 percent increase in Cottagecore posts since March and the hashtag has also racked up 252 million views on TikTok.

Cottagecore style reflects this mix of enchantment, nostalgia and being close to home and nature. The style fits into the existing ’70s-inspired dresses, lace trims and denim that are currently available and complements the growing demand for slow fashion and mending, but there’s room for brands to further move into this space.

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In a bid to live a simpler life, Edited says Gen Z is embracing Cottagecore hobbies like baking, gardening and mending their fashion.
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While accessories like bandanas, hair clips and flower crowns are entry points into Cottagecore, the look is strongly expressed through jute, straw and wicker bags, as well as garments made with natural materials like sustainable linen and denim in soft colors. For denim, Edited said there’s an opportunity for brands to introduce light blue or striped vintage-style overalls with a focus on short, practical lengths.

With the 2019 film “Little Women” fresh in the minds of Gen Z, look for prints with ditsy florals and stripes. “Old-world, feminine shapes and details are integral to this aesthetic—milkmaid necklines, puff sleeves, ruffles and prairie-inspired midi dresses,” Edited stated.

And echoing recent data from global fashion search platform Lyst, which showed searches for gingham dresses increased 49 percent the week of May 27, the check is also a key component of Cottagecore. “While floral is the most commercial option here, also consider pastel gingham as a more directional alternative,” Edited noted.

In a bid to live a simpler life, Edited says Gen Z is embracing Cottagecore hobbies like baking, gardening and mending their fashion.
Instagram @Bellahadid Instagram @Bellahadid

Influencers are helping to perpetuate this dreamy aesthetic on social media. While Bella and Gigi Hadid hunkered down on their mother’s Pennsylvania farm during the pandemic, the models cut and arranged flowers, fed animals and planted lavender—all of which was captured for the ’gram. The sisters were also photo bombed by rustic cattle in the at-home editorial shot for Vogue’s June issue.

Poses with sunflowers and horses dot actress Millie Bobby Brown’s recent Instagram posts. Even Halsey, whose style usually skews bold and rebellious, was snapped wearing an ankle-length floral frock and a crochet bucket hat with a metal watering can in tow.

And whether consumers are looking for a creative outlet at home, or really want to adopt an elfin look, Edited noted that photo filters that add child-like freckles and butterflies to faces are influencing beauty trends, too.

“Signature Cottagecore makeup includes using henna or fake tan to create faux freckles, brown mascara and eyeliner for doe eyes, a coral or pink gloss for just-bitten lips and blush swept across the nose and cheeks,” Edited reported.