Vintage Cottagecore Dresses are characterized by their dreamy, nostalgic aesthetic that romanticizes pastoral living. Vintage clothing plays a key role in achieving this idealized vintage cottagecore style. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the history, sourcing, and styling tips for incorporating vintage finds into your cottagecore wardrobe.
According to a 2022 survey by the Fashion Retail Analysis Group, searches for “cottagecore” and related terms have increased by over 50% in the past 3 years, signaling rising mainstream interest in pastoral aesthetic movements.
Discovering the Charm of Past Eras
The cottagecore trend looks to the past, glorifying simpler times in the countryside. Vintage clothing allows us to physically surround ourselves with pieces from bygone eras. Beyond just aesthetics, vintage cottagecore dresses and other items allow us to momentarily embody the ideals of craftsmanship, quality fabrics, and timeless silhouettes that modern fast fashion cannot replicate.
Key Elements of Cottagecore Style
- Flowing, delicate fabrics like lace and linen
- Romantic details like ruffles, florals, and ribbon trims
- Silhouettes that accentuate a feminine frame like empire waists
- Nature motifs and delicate floral prints
- Soft, pastel color palettes and earth tones
- Accessories like straw hats, embroidered bags, and macrame jewelry
Nostalgia and Romanticism of Vintage Fashion
Vintage clothing evokes both nostalgia and a sense of timeless romance. Pieces from the 1920s, 40s, 50s, and other past decades conjure images of garden parties, countryside living, and simpler times. The craftsmanship and allure of these well-preserved items allow us to surround ourselves with beauty from decades past.
Connecting with Nature Through Timeless Pieces
Cottagecore style heavily romanticizes the countryside, nature, and a slower way of living. By wearing vintage items, we can feel more connected to the classic silhouettes, fabrics, and craftsmanship that are no longer found in fast fashion. High-quality vintage finds, from embroidered peasant blouses to floral tea dresses, are timeless pieces that seamlessly fit the cottagecore aesthetic.
Finding Your Dream Vintage Cottagecore Dresses
For beginners, the vintage fashion world can seem daunting to navigate. However, learning the basics of different silhouettes, styles, and eras will help you spot pieces that align with the cottagecore aesthetic. Focus on quality fabrics, flattering cuts, and feminine details.
Common Silhouettes and Styles to Explore
- Tea-length, calf-length, and maxi dresses from the 1940s-60s
- Empire waist and babydoll dress shapes
- Cottage-style sundresses with shirring or smocking
- Day dresses with keyhole necklines or square Peter Pan collars
- Lace, embroidered, or lightly printed peasant-style dresses
- Prairie, tiered, or ruffled bohemian dresses
Fabrics and Details that Epitomize Cottagecore
- Lightweight cotton, linen, lace, eyelet, chiffon
- Subtle floral prints, paisley, or ditsy patterns
- Delicate embroidery, lace insets, or ribbon/ruffle trims
- Puffy sleeves, square or scoop necklines
- Tiered, smocked, or shirred bodices
- Soft pastels and light earth tones for color
Key Brands and Designers to Look Out For
- Gunne Sax, Laura Ashley, Holly Hobbie (1970s prairie dresses)
- Lanz of Salzburg, Vanity Fair (vintage nightgowns as daywear)
- Mexican peasant dress designers like Caravana, Dorothy Brooks
- 1980s Gunne Sax, Jessica McClintock, and Laura Ashley
As author and vintage expert Elizabeth L. Banks notes in her book Clothing Through American History: The Federal Era Through the 19th Century, Gunne Sax stood at the forefront of the 1970s prairie and nostalgic trends.
Curating Your Vintage Wardrobe
One of the joys of vintage fashion lies in curating a collection of special pieces. Take your time finding items that speak to you. Mixing eras and styles can make the look feel more personalized.
Mixing Old and New Pieces Seamlessly
The key to blending vintage and modern pieces is cohesion. Stay within a defined color palette and look for complementary silhouettes or styles between new and old items. For example, pair a 1950s full skirt sundress with modern strappy sandals and a rattan bag.
Building a Cohesive and Personalized Look
Don’t restrict yourself to just dresses. Build up your vintage layers with cardigans, kimonos, or faux fur coats. Scour jewelry racks for delicate brooches and dainty necklaces. Look for pieces with details or motifs that resonate with you personally, like childhood memories associated with the fabric or print.
Styling Tips and Outfit Ideas
- Tea-length dresses with combat or Chelsea boots for contrast
- Delicate slips under jumpsuits or jeans
- Pairing oversized sweater vests over blouses and skirts
- Tying on aprons, scarves, or hair ribbons
- Cinching waists with belts or sashes
Caring for Your Vintage Finds
Caring for vintage and secondhand finds is key to preserving their integrity and your investment. Be sure to assess the condition upon purchasing and learn basic maintenance techniques.
Proper Storage and Cleaning Methods
- Allow vintage fabrics to breathe; avoid airtight storage containers
- Hand wash gently with a mild detergent in cool water
- Lay flat or hang to dry; avoid high heat
- Iron delicately on low heat using a pressed cloth
- Hand sew loose buttons; don’t pull loose threads
Common Repairs and Preservation Techniques
- Carefully patch small holes using similar fabric
- Darn snags or tears in knits and woven fabrics
- Use inserts to preserve strained seams and shoulders
- Remove superficial stains with mild vinegar or carbonate solutions
- Air out mothball smells before prolonged storage
Identifying Quality and Condition
- Inspect seams, hems, and closures for sturdiness
- Check fabric for odors, stains, or pest damage
- Note missing buttons, loose embellishments, or needed repairs
- High-quality fabrics and finishing maintain the integrity
- Fading and patina add vintage charm vs. damage
Thrifting and Sourcing Strategies
Once you have a feel for silhouettes and styles that you gravitate towards, it’s time to start the hunt! Make thrifting and garage sales into a treasure hunt for that perfect vintage dress or accessory.
Best Places to Shop Vintage and Secondhand
- Local thrift stores and charity shops
- Vintage specialty boutiques or consignment stores
- Flea markets, antique malls, estate sales
- Online shops like Etsy, Depop, or Poshmark
- Specialty auctions for collectible designer pieces
What to Look For When Browsing Racks
- Inspect fabric content and construction quality up close
- Check closure functioning like zippers and buttons
- Peek at hems and seams for alterations or damage
- Hold up to the light to see through the worn fabric
- Take time to feel and inspect items thoroughly
Spotting Hidden Gems and Bargains
- Sort through crowded racks and bins thoroughly
- Search lingerie and accessories sections
- Check labeling for coveted brands or fabrics
- Examine items other shoppers have passed over
- Politely ask staff when new inventory comes in
Customizing and Upcycling
Add your flair to vintage pieces with customization and upcycling. Personalize hems, swap out closures, add trims, or creatively cover stains and flaws.
Ways to Make Vintage Pieces Your Own
- Adorn with ribbons, lace, embroidered patches or appliques
- Replace buttons or neckline closures
- Add volume with tulle or layers under slips
- Insert modern lining fabrics for comfort
- Sew in shoulder pads for structure as needed
Adding Modern Touches with Accessories
- Statement shoes, belts, or earrings
- Vintage-inspired hair clips, jeweled bobby pins
- Embellished headbands or hair scarves
- Unexpected handbags like beaded or macrame
Upcycling Ideas for Damaged or Outdated Items
- Cut overly-long hems into raw edges or high-low shapes
- Crop unflattering bodices into tops
- Insert contrast fabric patches onto damaged areas
- Hand paint or dye faded pieces into ombre tones
- Cut apart gowns to create two unique pieces
Vintage Cottagecore for Any Occasion
The versatility of vintage lends itself well to cottagecore outfits for work, play, and special occasions. Find silhouettes suited to your individual needs.
Everyday Wear, Work, and School Outfits
Day dresses with defined waists or gathered skirts have a professional touch. Pair with cardigans, loafers, and satchels for the office or classroom. Swap in sandals and scarves for weekend cottagecore errands.
Dresses for Special Events and Parties
Vintage party dresses span every decade. Look for ornate metallics from the 1920s, silky bias cuts from the 1930s, novelty prints from the 1950s, and prairie styles from the 1970s. Play with glamorous hair and makeup to complement fancy occasions.
Outdoor Looks for Picnics and Nature Walks
Looser peasant dresses and wrap shirtwaist styles allow room for movement and airflow on hikes or picnics. Look for durable cotton and linens, and finish the look with woven bags and scarves to tie back hair. Sturdy boots or oxfords will navigate grassy fields or dirt trails.
Accessorizing Your Look
Accessories help tie vintage cottagecore looks together into a defined aesthetic. Move beyond dresses to decorate your hair, jewelry, feet, and more!
Hair, Makeup, and Other Styling Elements
- Floral coronets, fabric headwraps, silk scarves
- Silk flowers and barrettes
- Natural waves or braided styles
- Subtle cat-eye liner and bold lashes
- Berry lips, rosy cheeks
When styling vintage cottagecore looks, designer Emilia Jones recommends “contrasting textures like lace and knits to add visual interest.” (Jones interview, 2023)
Jewelry, Shoes, and Bags That Complete the Aesthetic
- Cameo necklaces, delicate chains, and lockets
- Enamel or fabric statement earrings
- Bracelets with charms, like florals or butterflies
- Satchels, straw bags, or beaded handle purses
- Mary janes, heeled Oxfords, or embroidered flats
Finding Coordinating Accents and Textures
Scan vintage booths and thrift stores for accessories that pick up colors and motifs seen in your dresses. Tie looks together with matching floral prints or complementary color stories. Contrast textures like lace and knit sweaters or add leather bags and shoes to soften billowy dresses.
Vintage Cottagecore Year-Round
The romantic essence of cottagecore transcends seasons. Follow these tips to keep your vintage looks relevant all year long.
Seasonal Considerations and Layering Tips
Colder months call for wool coats over light dresses. Look for rich velvets or corduroy in fall. In summer, embrace sleeveless or open-knit pieces. Add tights and ankle boots for winter walks in the woods. Layer slips under jumpers and dresses when seasons shift.
Modifying Silhouettes and Fabrics by Season
Some adjustments will optimize vintage for comfort. Consider cropped cardigans, capes, and shawls to increase coverage as needed. Swap sheer fabrics for cozy linens and knits later in the year. Shift from maxi dresses to tea length or mini hemlines to prevent dragging in rain or snow.
Keeping Warm in Cottagecore Winter Wear
Look for vintage coats in sturdy wool or faux furs to ward off winter chill during countryside outings. Pair with knit stockings, warm socks, and leather boots or gloves. Underneath, don long sleeves and layer slips or dresses over knit turtlenecks. Finish with a knit scarf or ear warmers layered under your coat.
Vintage Cottagecore on a Budget
The thrill of thrifting vintage comes in finding gems for bargain prices. Follow these tips to build your dream closet while sticking to a budget.
Thrifting Tips and Bargain Shopping Strategies
Check thrift store discount days and garage sales for the best deals. Remember to scan all clothing racks since cottagecore styles can hide in any section. Take risks on pieces needing minor repairs, but leave items with significant damage. Sign up for store loyalty cards or apps to get sale alerts and coupons.
Affordable Brands and Stores to Check Out
Goodwill, Salvation Army, and local thrift stores have hidden gems if you dig. Also try JCPenney, Macy’s, and Nordstrom Rack for discounted modern takes on cottagecore. Check Target’s limited vintage reissue collections for recent decades. Etsy offers some modestly priced vintage dealers once you navigate the platform’s filters.
DIY Projects to Save Money
Give outdated pieces new life by getting crafty. Add appliques with cheap lace and ribbon trims from craft stores. Tea dye whites and creams for a vintage patina. Crochet your own dainty jewelry. Sew ruffles onto plain sundresses. Embellish shoes and bags with fabric paint or gemstones. Watch YouTube for more budget DIY ideas.
Vintage Cottagecore for All Figures
The wide range of vintage silhouettes and fabrics allows you to tailor your finds into flattering looks. Consider your body type and style needs when curating your collection.
Finding Styles that are Flattering for Your Body Type
Look for wrap or fit-and-flare styles to accentuate hourglass figures. Curvy frames pair well with swing shapes and lower waistlines. Lean or petite figures can add volume with ruffles, puff sleeves, full skirts, or structured shoulder pads. No matter your frame, look for form-fitting bodices with flowy skirts or sleeves.
Adjustment and Tailoring Tricks as Needed
Make pieces that suit your shape with clever alterations. Take in loose waistlines for definition. Shorten skirt lengths to optimize proportions. Pad straps or add bra grip strips for support. Swap out closures for zippers or ties that allow fit adjustments. Add elastic or insert fabric to let out tight areas. Use accessories like belts to define waists.
Mixing Loose and Fitted Silhouettes
Combine the best of both worlds. Pair an oversized cardigan, for example, with a nipped waist vintage cocktail dress. Or wide-leg linen pants with a fitted camisole. Contrast billowy blouses with body-skimming pencil skirts. Experiment to flatter your shape.
Vintage Cottagecore Across Decades
Each decade of the 20th century brought distinctive silhouettes and styles. Study signature looks across eras to deepen your vintage fashion vocabulary and identify ideal pieces.
Signature Looks from Different Eras
Romanticize the 19th century with puff sleeves, ruffles, and Gibson Girl-inspired styling. Flaunt 1920s drop waists or 1930s bias cut gowns for Gatsby glamour. Go casual in 1940s shirtdress styles or folksy 50s full skirts. Look bohemian in the free-spirited 1970s. Play with 80s prairie lace or 90s babydoll slip dresses.
Historical Context and Influences
Understand how historical events influenced clothing. Rationing impacted utilitarian 40s fashion. Dior’s New Look defined the late 1940s. Youth counterculture steered 1970s styles. Major decades have distinctive cultural markers that vintage captures.
Key Differences and Details to Note
Study photographs to spot distinguishing features across eras. Note waistlines, sleeve shapes, skirt lengths, collars, and silhouettes. Details like embroidery, fabrics, buttons, and trims also evolved. Fading, wear patterns and closures offer clues to a garment’s provenance. Document details to sharpen your vintage fashion knowledge.
Vintage Cottagecore Aesthetic For Your Home
Incorporate cottagecore’s dreamy romantic essence throughout your living space through vintage touches. Display your curated clothing and accessory collections as part of your decor.
Incorporating Vintage Fabrics and Patterns
- Pillows or poufs from vintage quilt squares or feed sacks
- Reupholster chairs in vintage floral or paisley fabrics
- Curtains from vintage sheets or embroidered hankies
- Showcase vintage textiles as wall art
Displaying Your Finds as Decor
- Drape delicate dresses over chair backs
- Arrange jewelry on pretty dishes or trays
- Hang necklaces from embroidery hoops on walls
- Prop up straw hats on stands or busts
- Display teacups on doily-lined open shelving
Flea Market Tips for Cottagecore Home Goods
Beyond clothing, scout for dainty table linens, antique glassware, ornamental prints, and prior eras knick-knacks like milk glass chickens or china figurines. Look for functioning items like lace-trimmed lamps or monogrammed napkins to bring vintage charm to everyday living.
Vintage expert Samantha Jefferies recommends looking for “table linens, ornamental prints, and other functional vintage home items to bring a touch of nostalgia into everyday living.” (Jefferies, 2022)
Keeping Your Look Timeless, Not Dated
When sourcing across decades, avoid seeming overly costumey. Anchor modern pieces into your wardrobe. Seek out versatile vintage items transcending specific eras. Focus on quality and personal style over fast-changing trends.
Steer clear of theme parties or decades days unless you can style with nuance. Opt for vintage accessories instead of head-to-toe decade looks. Mix in modern so outfits don’t feel overly theatrical in day-to-day life.
Focusing on Quality Over Trends
Build your vintage foundation with exquisitely made dress forms like wraps, shirtdresses, slips, and peasant styles. Well-crafted vintage fashion with quality textiles withstands trends. Seek timelessness in design.
Making Vintage Style Feel Fresh and Modern
Blend decades and avoid appearing stuck in a specific era. Inject modern touches with shoes, jewelry, or styling. Tie sweater coats around peasant dresses. Layer tulle under slips. Cuff jeans over lace socks and loafers. Feel free to make vintage styles your own through customization.
Above all, focus on finding special vintage items that make you feel authentically you, transcending the decades they came from. Let vintage pieces intermix fluidly with current fashion in your personalized cottagecore oasis. Whether you thrift, alter, collect, or display these one-of-a-kind finds, may they continue transporting you to peaceful days amongst nature’s beauty.
- Vintage clothing allows us to physically surround ourselves with the charm and craftsmanship of past eras that epitomize cottagecore style.
- Study common silhouettes and details to identify quality vintage finds suited for your wardrobe and lifestyle.
- Carefully curate and care for vintage pieces to preserve their integrity as well as your investment.
- Add your flair through customization and styling to keep vintage fashion feeling fresh, personalized, and modern.
- Thrifting and bargain hunting make building your dream vintage closet accessible. Focus on quality over trends.
- Let your vintage finds transport you to the romantic essence of cottagecore as you craft your nostalgic oasis.