(Roughly) Daily

“Trees and people used to be good friends”*…

Lirika Matoshi’s Strawberry Dress, defined as The Dress of 2020, in Arcadia

What’s old is new again… yet again…

If there’s a style that defines 2020, it has to be “cottagecore.” In March 2020, the New York Times defined it as a “budding aesthetic movement… where tropes of rural self-sufficiency converge with dainty décor to create an exceptionally twee distillation of pastoral existence.” In August, consumer-culture publication The Goods by Vox heralded cottagecore as “the aesthetic where quarantine is romantic instead of terrifying.”

Baking, one of the activities the quarantined population favored at the height of the pandemic, is a staple of cottagecore, whose Instagram hashtag features detailed depictions of home-baked goods. Moreover, the designer Lirika Matoshi’s Strawberry Dress, defined as The Dress of 2020, fully fits into the cottagecore aesthetic. A movement rooted in self-soothing through exposure to nature and land, it proved to be the antidote to the stress of the 2020 pandemic for many.

Despite its invocations of rural and pastoral landscapes, the cottagecore aesthetic is, ultimately, aspirational. While publications covering trends do point out that cottagecore is not new—some locate its origins in 2019, others in 2017—in truth, people have sought to create an escapist and aspirational paradise in the woods or fields for 2,300 years.

Ancient Greece had an enduring fascination with the region of Arcadia, located in the Peloponnesus, which many ancient Greeks first dismissed as a primitive place. After all, Arcadia was far from the refined civilization of Athens. Arcadians were portrayed as hunters, gatherers, and sensualists living in an inclement landscape. In the Hellenistic age, however, Arcadia became an idea in the popular consciousness more than a geographical place…

And the pastoral ideal resurfaced regularly therafter. Theocritus, Virgil, Longus, Petrarch, Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy, even Marie-Antoinette– keeping cozy in a countryside escape, through the ages: “Cottagecore Debuted 2,300 Years Ago,” from Angelica Frey (@angelica_frey) in @JSTOR_Daily.

Hayao Miyazaki, My Neighbor Totoro

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As we pursue the pastoral, we might recall that it was on this date in 1865, after four years of Civil War, approximately 630,000 deaths, and over 1 million casualties, that General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia to the commander of the Union Army, Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, at the home of Wilmer and Virginia McLean in the town of Appomattox Court House, Virginia… a one-time pastoral setting.

Union soldiers at the Appomattox courthouse in April 1865 [source]
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