Friday, April 24, 2020

Cottagecore vs. Mori Kei: What's the difference?

Cottagecore has become wildly popular on the internet recently, and, as such, has attracted a bit of attention from the mori community. Due to their similar aesthetics, many mori folk have begun asking, what is the difference between the two? Is cottagecore just another version of mori kei?

I personally am uninvolved in the cottagecore movement, so when these questions started coming my way, I was a bit confused about how to respond. What exactly was cottagecore? Was it different at all, or just a new name for mori kei? So I went down a rabbit hole of research, and I think now I can safely communicate the differences between the two and what sets the two communities apart.

I will say, one person actually beat me to this, so I will link their post on the subject here, but they didn't go into as much detail as I would like to, so I still feel like I have something worth posting.

Also, before I begin, I want to first say I won't be touching on the various cottagecore controversies that have popped up on tumblr from time to time. I have no idea what the consensus is on these issues or their validity, and as I'm not involved in the group at all I don't feel like I am qualified to speak on these issues. Instead, I want to focus on what the aesthetic looks like and how it is similar/different to mori. If you have questions on these issues or come across them, I suggest asking those actually in the community who can speak better on them than I can.

That being said, let's take a look at the differences, and similarities between cottagecore and mori kei!

What is cottagecore?


Cottagecore is a visual-based microgenre and aesthetic based tag that originated on tumblr. While aesthetics are predominant on many social media sites, including Instagram and more recently, TikTok, the community is thriving especially on Tumblr with a rather large following and many blogs. However, cottagecore content has also seen a rise on sites like Instagram and TikTok as well.

The cottagecore aesthetic, according to one person in the community, is, "all about softness and being gentle, and kind, and nurturing." Another said it is like animal crossing in real life. It usually includes photos centered around (usually, although not always) girls, who live on farms and raise bees and sheep and pick flowers. That is a very concise version of cottagecore the best I understand it. But we'll get into the details of what the aesthetic looks like more in a moment.

Similarities and Differences in Aesthetic


Cottagecore's aesthetic is almost identical to mori, as it has many similarities due to its nature-based focus. For example, both commuties promote a focus on slow or simple living, a love of nature, and similar lifestyles or photography aesthetics (such as cottages, pastures, foraging, fields, flowers, etc.)

However, although the aesthetic is very similar, there are a few, small differences between the two. For example, the mori aesthetic focuses more on the actual forest, and often includes slightly more toned down themes compared to cottagecores always sunny aesthetic.

Let me explain. To give an example, think of mori magazine snaps. Similar to cottagecore, they may have pictures of models in cottages. However, when it comes to pictures in nature, you are more likely to see a model posed in an actual forest, amongst the trees, then in a field or near a farm (although those would certainly also count as mori as well.) Whereas for cottagecore, the aesthetic is based around the cottage, around the bright sunny field, and around the fields of flowers.

This distinction is barely noticeable, and honestly doesn't really matter all that much, but it is important to know that cottagecore's central image is this always bright and sunny aesthetic. If I could compare cottage core to a color, it would be a bright, but light, yellow. Whereas mori's color would be more along the likes of a deep bark-like brown, or deep leaf-like green. Again, a small, subtle difference. To me, cottagecore's aesthetic feels kind of like mori mixed with shabby chic, and topped off with a ray of sunlight!

Some other small differences in cottagecore that are worth noting are that it focuses much more heavily on agricultural life or farming, than mori kei. Also, uniquely tied into the aesthetic is the idea of self-care, and more of a direct connection to environmental activism than mori kei (although many mori do also care about the environment and self-care as well).

Where cottagecore actually starts to look quite different is when cottagecore fashion is involved.

Similarities and Differences in Fashion

Like with aesthetics, there are certainly some areas of cottagecore fashion that share similarities with mori, but these similarities are much smaller. Some examples of similarities include that both use natural colors or floral colors, both use similar patterns like floral and gingham, and both are likely to include embroidered details to clothing, handcrafted accessories, lace, or aprons (although aprons are much more popular in PINK HOUSE style/natural kei than mori).

The differences are much more distinct. Mainly, cottagecore fashion is a very wide variety of styles. Although some outfits may look like a more casual or stripped down mori look, more often then not they will more closely resemble an outfit from Little House on the Prairie, or natural kei, or a 1950s housewife, or even more bold looks with patterns like paisleys. To sum it up, cottagecore fashion is anything that fits the aesthetic, so it is very varied in type and often focuses more on vintage fashions than anything else. For example, a floral 1950s house dress with an apron, or a modern outfit with a vintage twist, would be more commonly seen in cottagecore fashion than a mori-esque outfit.

Again, mori could be considered compatible with cottagecore fashion, but not all cottage core fashion could be considered mori.

Personal Thoughts

The best way I can think to sum up the differences between cottagecore and mori is this: cottagecore is aesthetic and visual-based, but mori is fashion based. The two communities can certainly overlap and exist together, and do with no issues, but they are also distinct from one another due to this fact about their core focus. Despite the growing movement of mori lifestylers, it cannot be denied that mori kei started as a fashion first and foremost, and the fashion is what sets aside the community. Without the fashion, mori would not exist. 

This is why I always say mori is a fashion first and lifestyle second. Some people don't like that distinction, saying that it pushes out those who don't wear the style but still want to be a part of the community, but I think the distinction matters. And I don't think it means we can't have both fashion and lifestyle members of the community. It makes you no less mori to be a mori-lifestyler, but I think we can also still say that what sets mori apart is the fashion first and foremost, whether or not you participate in that aspect of the fashion.

So what are your thoughts on cottagecore? Do you enjoy the aesthetic? Are you a part of both communities? Are there any other similarities or differences that you've noticed? Either way, I hope I was able to explain cottagecore correctly (please let me know if there is anything I can improve on!), and I hope you learned something new.

Until next time, my deers!



  1. Thank you for yet another interesting post. I had never heard of cottagecore before I read this.For me Mori has always been both the fashion and the life style. I love the forest and I am fortunate enough to actually live in a forest, I am a forest girl! I love my mori girl life style. For me, personally, taking care as best as I can of nature and environment is very important. Perhaps people seek something that feels safe and secure, soft, sweet, peaceful and beautiful in an sort of old fashioned way in this "mad world" we live in today. And maybe both mori kei and cottagecore is a part of that. /Molly

  2. This was exactly what I was looking for. I moved to Japan in 2009 back when "mori gyaru" was the look, and when I started seeing cottagecore everywhere on western tumblr this past year I wondered if that's where it came from, but after reading your blog it feels more like they have different roots with a lot of coincidental overlap. Your distinction between "fashion-based" vs. "aesthetic-based" makes a lot of sense to me.

    Also, I could be misremembering, but I feel like the Mori style was more mainstream in its Japanese heyday. It's what the "hot girls" were wearing, and what every stylish department store was selling. OTOH cottagecore feels more fringe, maybe appealing more to artsy, bookish types.

    1. I live in Japan too, I checked your blogger profile, wow you live in Tokushima? I lived there as my first home when coming to Japan! But moved out of Tokushima to Kansai region in 2016. But I still visit Tokushima every so often. Shikoku is not a well known or popular part of Japan.

  3. I'm glad you enjoyed the post :) I personally wouldn't say mori was ever "hot" though, even by alternative fashion standards. It was a harajuku exclusive fashion, which already makes it fringe, and was one of the smaller, although recognizable, harajuku styles. However, natural inspired fashion looks have long been popular in Japan, for sure!

  4. I always like mixing farm/country, folklore like embroidery and folkwear, ethnic/bohemian, natural kei and mori forest looks together, I never heard of this cottagecore until your post. Before Animal Crossing there was Harvest Moon and the aesthetics of some of the characters on those games had a country/prairie or natural kei vibe to them. I don't know why Animal Crossing got so much more popular than Harvest Moon ever was. To me country life can go with forest life because if you look at the alps in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, etc. they live in valleys between mountains with farms yet at the same time right by the forest or in the forest so there would be farm elements like sheep, goats, cows pastures in valleys, and forest elements at the same time like wooden crafts like cuckoo clocks, wood log decor, motifs of deer, deer motifs are used alot in dirndl wear too, mountain climbing activities, etc. That is why I like mori girl, natural kei, bohemian, and folkwear like dirndl, embroidery, what Japanese refer to as Tyrolean stuff (like "tyrolean tape" and on doll dressup games like poupee girl and cocoppaplay "tyrolean themed clothing), Eastern European folkwear too like the embroidery and folkloric stuff, these sort of places also have tie with forest theme to me, but maybe then its more dolly kei in that case idk. I am not surprised a country cottage style would share similarties with natural kei and mori girl.

    1. I also forgot to mention Scandinavian aesthetics as well, like with the earth tone colors, natural materials, Nordic sweaters, Moomins, more loose baggy clothing, but that also might be more of a natural kei or yama kei thing more so than mori girl, but I still connect that in my mind as well with the forest or something sort of connected to mori girl.

  5. Hi Kathryn I really am enjoying your blog!! I think the pandemic is a big part of the CottageCore movement, people are romanticising on simpler times and being more self sustainable with the lockdowns making a lot of people feel traped in there houses. I am currently redefining my style towards Mori, to something that suits better my age (37) and where I live remotly in rural Ireland, I had been a Gothic Lolita with Punk tendancies, since 2008. I had ponderd mori for so long and only now feel ready to commit. I did something drastic and listed all of my clothes on depop and am now looking at building a new style, I do feel excited about it and hope the influence will feed into a new aestetic in my art. I live in an old 300 year old cottage and with the recent explosion of cottagecore, I was worried that I was being hasty selling my dresses, because I questioned myself in, am I doing this because of the current cottagecore trend, I hope not, but no, reading your blog has reasured me that it is indeed a gentle migration from lolita into a style that better fits my location and my actual lifestyle, I am keeping my lolita coats and shoes for now though. I have that fresh enchantment with the style, that feeling of yes, I'm going to do this, I'm looking forward to see the aestetic shift effect me and the art I make too. I just orderd my first few Mori pieces of taobao and am really looking forward to sewing a few of my own! Thought I would say hello! Thank you for your wonderful blog, I will spend some time reading more of your insightful posts! πŸŒ³πŸ„πŸŒ²πŸŒ³πŸŒ²πŸŒ²πŸŒ³πŸ‚πŸ’—