The original cottagecore.

I came of age in the era of the the Laura Ashley trend, and all through the eighties into the nineties, you would find me in prairie skirts, possibly though rarely with a petty coat, and nearly always with leather & wood clogs or old lace-up boots. I sought anything that spoke of times passed, and of belonging to rural backroads. Having flown the nest, as my mother busied herself creating her little English cottage garden in the backyard of herbs and roses, I was setting up my first apartment of a big room in an old downtown Victorian, and was luckily within a short walk of a couple local thrift shops, sleuthing finds from days gone by, and as I established my first little nest, I discovered myself. Laura Ashley helped blaze the trail with with Ralph Lauren, Martha Stewart, et al. and like a blizzard, all those Designers of Nostalgia came on the scene together, influencing design trends all through the Eighties and into the Nineties.  I was longingly lost in a dream of old-fashioned country comforts, and in general home decorating trends were boldly sentimental, a wistful and affectionate statement of generations before, of grandmas’ homes remembered of earliest childhoods. Perhaps it was a rebound from the crazy sixties-spilling-into-seventies, all worn and tattered, we just needed to retreat into a quiet reflective solitude, for once trend was not looking forward, but softening to the past. Popularized anew, the cottage nostalgia was everywhere, Shabby Chic was born, chipped paint and old patina became the rage, as well as frugality of mix-match, patchwork of prairie & farm, floral printed fabrics paired with stripes and polka dots and more full-bloom English Rose motifs and field flowers, all in pretty pastels, as if one could literally swim in a faded wash over of Times Past.

I found a documentary about Laura Ashley, and learned that she herself was apparently more puritan and ascetic in real life than her consumers could ever guess, which maybe shows in the large mantle collars of some of the dresses and really , all of them having a kind of early century modesty. I can relate in my own life, over the years banishing the prodigal and finding the elusive straight and narrow, striving for a balance of less-is-more, settling into a bit more of an austere home style in my middle age, perhaps in rebound of the many years I lived with the heavily laden comforts of the cottage aesthetic. But I just have to think about it, I guess I still have a powerful warp of cottage nostalgia woven through my life, I won’t even try to fool myself, because it all does seem oh so inviting.

Um, about now I bet you’re wondering what is all this leading to? As you may have already noticed the floral theme ( the last post being the first ), there possibly may be a streak of floral themed posts in the territory ahead. I’m working on a project and exploring more about the the subject, in order to entertain myself at the very least, and once the yarn gets here I plan to rattle it off very quickly (famous last words?) Anyway, do see the documentary on Laura Ashley if you want to learn about the original “cottagecore” aesthetic ushered in with the 1980’s . . .

8 thoughts on “The original cottagecore.

  1. I love cottage core and Laura Ashley and shabby chic or whatever that look is called this week. And I’ve loved it since the early 80’s in my Gunne Sax clothing I could occasionally pester my parents to buy for me. I’m still a sucker for a good floral. And last year I finally got a hollyhock to grow in my garden, which delighted me to no end. Now I feel like I have a proper cottage garden.

    • Becky, “whatever its called this week” , that cracks me up, because I had to look up what “cottagecore” is , so many podcasters claiming cottage country life. I swear, I think they must rent a cottage, then live in it just to film everyday what they’re doing, then make a bunch of money from youtube…. what a life, nice life if you can get it, right? Awww, yes, hollyhocks , thats a cottage garden for sure! And I too had a gunnysax dress I wore to school and wore it with moccasin boots… lol. I really must have wanted to stand out!

  2. Jen ! How are you ?

    It’s always so nice to get blog messages from you !
    I admit, sometimes there’s no energy to read them, so sorry about that, and you are same as me, talking a lot (lol), my husband prefers I’m quieter !!!

    Your latest post and attached youtube about Laura Ashley threw me back in memory lane instantly.
    Mind you ! I was about 12 yo when it was a hype in Belgium and oh ! seeing the photos again of the shop and interior, exactly the same as the shop in Antwerp !
    Mum was all dressed LA style those 80ies. At school we had to wear a uniform but she took us to the LA shop for clothes for special occasions. It was also the time of the Holly Hobby dolls hype and Sarah Kay. I still have the dolls as a memory to my grandmother who gifted them to me. My boy-cousin, who then was a teenager, hated it all and when we showed up on a family reunion dressed LA he told us we looked like Holly Hobby dolls, lol ! My brother who was still a young boy absolutely hated the LA shop bc there always was perfumed air, often potpourri and it made him nauseous. Dad can’t stand perfume either and since I’m having health issues strong perfumes make me feel nauseous too.
    Let’s remember more those 80ies: mum bought LA wallpaper for the sleeping room my sister and I shared, she even bought LA fabric for sewing class I attended at school, we had to make a witch on a broom (this was also a deco hype those years, incl. rattan suitcases and small Chinese wooden lucky dolls we attached on pencil cases, key hangers, just about everywhere). Mum decorated the house with nostalgic china bone teapots filled with dried flowers, she especially loved Gypsophillia.
    I also remember bottles of apple scented shamp.

    Hugs !

    • Bie, thank you so very much for sharing all your memories about the Laura Ashley trend way back then, and your truly cottage influenced upbringing ~ omg ! You and your mom were the real deal there in Belgium, if I could only just imagine! ! I remember trends were so much more a part of life back in my youthful days, they mean practically nothing now (or so I say) . . . Ralph Lauren was up there with Laura Ashley, and remember sewing RL Prairie dress that I wore to threads, also (but am embarrassed to admit) I actually bought the very expensive Ralph Lauren full-bloom rose floral bedsheets when I moved into a little cabin in the woods in 1990, they were so beautiful and over the top cottagey, and I loved them as they were like sleeping in a bed of roses. That cabin in the woods, only a stone’s throw from where I live now, was about as truly cottage-core as I ever lived. These days I’m into plain white sheets, wearing only solid colors, not too much clutter, although I fondly remember my style when I was coming of age, cottage core to the max and all mixed together. Thanks again! xx

  3. Thinking back of it, IMHO the LA fashion and everything around it didn’t have such an influence on us, young teens and older children, but in our case it was mum, who brought it inside the house. And as said: we wore uniforms during schooldays and LA (-ish) clothes only in weekend or family reunions.
    Eventually mum evolved to a modern style and as for me even more. My own house has no curtains (just semi translucent stores), no carpet, white walls and ceiling, as much light as possible to create rest and quiet, de-clutter.
    It still was the 80ies but a bit later, I must have been 13yo, regardless the fact of uniform school, hypes and trends still sipped through. There was a huge love for the romantic Anaïs Anaïs eau de toilette from Cacharel (beautiful bottle with dusty flowers on it) which perfectly reflected the dreamy atmosphere from that era (btw, it was, still is, expensive, and I was so happy to get the deodorant-cheapest- as a present and used it as a perfume 🙂 Our classroom was decorated with photos of David Hamilton.

    • Bie, of course, of course, that was all then, and the so-called gaining popularity on Youtube ” Cottagecore ” (as Becky puts it, the way it is called this week . . .) has only reminded me of the original. Who knows, maybe there was still another original before that, but I think that fashion trends probably were only “modernizing” what was before, the lavish and expensive clothes of earlier centuries, the humble little peasant life was probably never ever romanticized …. until LA. Do you think ?
      My mother wore that perfume, it was her favorite! I myself can not wear perfume (anymore) . I had to look up David Hamilton, really, the provocative photographs of girls in your classroom? I just read that to achieve a blurry affect, he smeared vaseline on his camera lens… .brilliant! I think I might try that… lol. Thanks again for sharing the memories!

  4. No provocative photos at all, it was a severe school, in my memory there were horses running on the beach, women in long dresses, all in a misty atmosphere.

    • I think the word I meant was “evocative”. Such a natural learning environment, perhaps helped you along in your path of an artist’s life. xx

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