On CottageCore, Hygge and Bohemia

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I’ve been trying to puzzle something out. I have joined groups and scoured hashtags in my efforts to understand, and honestly, I’m still bewildered because it seems to me that the women of the internet have suddenly developed a deep-rooted need not to seek true authenticity, but instead to align themselves into tribes labelled with zeitgesty words that rapidly lose all meaning once those drawn to allegiance prove themselves to have no genuine understanding of what it is they are lining up to declare themselves to be.

This is no doubt a sign of both our troubled times and a life spent on the internet, where, overwhelmed by choice, we cannot make authentic identification of people like us as we might be able to in real life, but instead have to choose group titles that appeal to us, and once accepted into the fold, need to try and decipher whether here is where we really belong.

And in the early days of the internet it worked beautifully and slowly but surely, tight-knit groups of like and like were formed with common interests and fierce opinion, and those who didn’t know enough learned and those who did, taught and bonds became unbreakable and it didn’t matter whether a group had six people in or six thousand because those who joined grew with the community until what they represented were a greater whole: a beautiful, coherent nod to their shared joy.

Well at least until Facebook got involved and started playing with algorithms, and people in general became (perhaps because of some wider sociological impact I will not pretend to be able to pinpoint!) more desperate to fit in, to be a part of something, (anything?), and to abandon all pretence about truly wanting to be wholly and completely the best representation of themselves and the things THEY love, yearn for, or want to be.

From this in the past few years, have been borne “armys” of homemakers, cottagecore themed groups of disparate people who cannot decide whether the boots they are wearing or the ramen noodles they cooked for dinner are “cottagecore” enough, (as if a representative from the Bureau of Cottagey Doings might at any time knock on their door and give them a score out of ten), and those who want to label every morsel they eat by the light of a candle as “hygge”, while hopping between groups to declare the very same thing “bohemian” because they ate it with a purple blanket draped over their knees.

Heavens to Betsey what happened to individuality? What happened to choice and the kind of eclectic aesthetic that defies labels because it is yours and yours alone? And more, what happened to eating and housekeeping and dressing the way you want to without having to share every aspect of your lifestyle all day everyday, and without it ever entering your head to ask she in charge and her jury of judgy ladies whether what you are doing is vintage/cottagecore/bohemian/hygge enough? Who, pray tell, decides what’s what and has got so many lovely women putting themselves up for virtual competition in the race to be she who is the walking epitome of what is essentially only a label after all?

I am bewildered. When we take a label like cottagecore, hygge, bohemia or the likes, and then squeeze the very life out of it by trying to chuck all that is even vaguely related to it under the same umbrella, we create disharmonious groups with division at their very core, groups where those who do not have the confidence to go their own way, so frequently put themselves and their choices up for what always strikes me as the grown woman’s lifestyle equivalent of the “hot or not” questions that are the scourge of kids social media. Groups where, particularly in the homemaking arena, she in charge presents an impossible set of goals she apparently attains in a few hours a week, then rallies her “troops” to try to emulate her, knowing that without her money and behind the scenes help, life will be but a poor imitation that will always, always be defined by “Am I good enough?” while actively encouraging followers to pour scorn on those who don’t quite get the rather fuzzy boundaries contained within, no matter how hard they might seem to be trying, and have opinions on matters that have absolutely no relationship to what the group purports to be about.

Ugh. I hate it. It is the antithesis of everything I have always wanted BrocanteHome to be. While labels are useful for defining what a group may be, using (and abusing) descriptive terms for very specific aspects of a lifestyle only truly enjoyed by those who live it at its source, then turning them into nothing more than cynical steps for hopping on to a bandwagon and shamelessly seducing those who will never look behind the word long enough to understand its real essence, strikes me as the kind of lifestyle profiteering so very much in evidence around so many corners of the internet.

Over the years I could have course have done the same thing: I could have hooked my own particular way of living onto a zeitgiesty word and sold the life out of it. I could have played dress up (but I’m a woman, not a doll) and worked my bottom off to present an impossible ideal, but I wanted you to know that I am real. That at BrocanteHome there is no righter way than YOUR way and that I would never dream of being judge and jury on whether something was “brocante” or “vintage” enough, because the very point of BrocanteHome is for you to shape life the way you want it to be.

It is why I rarely share pictures of my home. Why I never sought to fashion Finn into our own little mascot when he was cute and tiny, nor hid the uglier details of my life from you as they have happened. And it is why I only promote those products I believe in and have almost always turned down payment for anything that I do not personally use or desire to use. For me community has never been about numbers. In all the time I have been online, I can think of only one or two conversations that struck me as judgemental or unnecessary in my own community, and I have only ever had to block one person ( a drunk sort who got more and more random!) in the fifteen years I have been blogging. Brocantehome has never been contentious because those who do not get it simply fall away and that is both expected and welcomed because I would so much rather they find something that speaks to their soul. Many of those who turn up in my community daily have been turning up daily for years because they are on their own path, and while they may be seeking guidance, they know Brocantehome does not exist to provide a cookie-cutter, one size fits all experience and thus friendships form in much the same way they might in real life, slowly and gently, blessed I hoped with acceptance for our differences, but in celebration of all our similarities. It is then, an entity with its own heartbeat, quite separate from mine now, and for you I hope it is neither the fabric of your life, nor a passing whim, but instead just one lovely strand in the tapestry of your day.

I am so grateful you are here and regard you all as friends. But for the record ramen noodles are not cottagecore. They are just food.

Join the Conversation

  1. Bravo!! 🌸 Indeed, one of the most lovely characteristics of BrocanteHome is that I get to develop “she-whom-I-choose-to-be” all in the context of consistent prompts, self evaluations, encouragement, challenges and a plethora of lovely ideas for our most sacred places to pick and choose from as works for me!! 💖💖💖

  2. Karen Baxter says:

    Well said Alison and so very, very true 😘

  3. Amen and amen! I can’t imagine why (or even how) someone would try to box themselves in that way. I *could* try to portray myself as a woman who adores Paris, classical music, the ballet and afternoon tea sipped from a china cup and saucer. But what about the part of me that lives in the country, used to raise chickens, and likes to bake bread from freshly ground wheat? Or the part that belongs to a pirate group in New Orleans? Or the part that promotes bands and loves Nine Inch Nails concerts? All of those things…and more…are true.

    I suspect the lack of authenticity is rooted in insecurity. I’ve been re-watching “Keeping Up Appearances” recently and Hyacinth’s airs are truly a reflection of her need to be accepted by others. At the other end of the spectrum we have Onslow. He is completely comfortable in his own skin and honestly, that’s rather refreshing.

  4. jacqui gordon says:

    Bravo Alison. Your post encapsulates exactly what I love about this community. Brocante Home has been a part of my neighbourhood for a few years now. Occasionally and more and more frequently I call in for a cosy pot of tea and an ever warm welcome. I feel comfortable here, the crockery is pretty, even though it is mismatched and I can wear my track pants when I visit if I want. There is no judgement. But don’t be fooled. Even though the chances of finding a perfectly baked macaroon are slim, magic dwells within these walls.

  5. Deborah Newbound says:

    This post is exactly why I love Brocantehome, and Alison, so much! Thank you for being here and being you. You help me to be the best version of me!

  6. Clare Watson says:

    Thank you Alison for putting this into words. I am so glad to be along for the journey with you all, daily exploring the authentic me that has been lost for so long. The daily encouragement here really is helping me untangle myself from the muddle of living to someone else expectations and asking myself what are my dreams, my ideas, my voice. Brocante home is a valued string in the tapestry of my days.

  7. Beautifully expressed! Thank you Alison.

  8. I feel like you have read my mind!! I used to love reading blogs and watching YouTube channels regarding homemaking and elevating everyday life but have recently given up them up (all except this one of course). I just got so fed up with the competitiveness around it, each blogger/youtuber trying to outdo the other. It is, as you said, like school – if you don’t do this or have that you can’t be in our gang. It’s exhausting.
    Louisa

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