An Ode To Fashion In Midsommar, The Unlikely Cottagecore Film
Before there was The Nap Dress, there was this Ari Aster horror film — and its linen frocks.
We’ve said it before: Fashion trends are a sign of the times. Before 2020, it was commonplace for popular styles to procure themselves for no reason other than that enough time had passed between their last heyday, thanks to the cyclical nature of fashion. Today, trends emerge to play a specific role in our lives during a pandemic, whether it’s to entertain our hands — tie-dye, crochet — or provide us with all-day comfort — sweatsuits, The Nap Dress — while at home. The latter, a now-viral linen sleep dress by home and sleepwear brand Hill House Home, in particular, is “the ultimate combination of comfort, style, and value,” according to founder Nell Diamond. “The average Nap dress customer actually owns three or more styles.” But, before the pandemic, this dress — that just launched in holiday versions — wasn’t the first to come to mind when I thought of easy, linen frocks. Instead, it was Midsommar, the A24 horror film directed by Ari Aster (of Hereditary fame) and starring Florence Pugh (pre-Little Women), that first alerted me to what would become 2020's most prominent dress silhouette.
According to the film’s costume designer Andrea Flesch, the white dresses — and the flower crowns, much like the ones Harry Styles wore in the just-released “Golden” music video, I might add — showcased in the film were a product of Aster’s vision. “He wanted to have the Harga community all dressed in white, both men and women, wearing floral, garland crowns — a symbol of rebirth and fertility — which are traditionally worn in Sweden during the midsummer celebration,” Flesch told Refinery29. While a lot of Flesch’s job involved researching the history of Swedish clothing, interestingly, the white dresses weren’t in line with what she found. “Traditional folk dresses use a lot of colors,” she says, naming bright red, green, blue, and yellow as the prominent colors, depending on the region. “Because Aster wanted the Hargas to be dressed in white, I chose to reflect Swedish folkwear in other ways.” This resulted in genderless waistcoats, shirts, trousers, frocks in white, featuring the runic alphabet and floral prints.
The sustainable manner in which the costumes were made feels even more on-trend for today. Each piece was created using recycled and vintage linens, something that Flesch was adamant about from the beginning despite the work it entailed. “Sourcing was not easy, as there was a limited amount of stock available in the region and we needed almost hundreds of meters of it,” she explains. “The vast majority came from a Hungarian antique wholesale company, but we also purchased stock at flea markets in rural regions of Hungary and Transylvania.” Flesch then made sure to keep her process as waste-free as possible. “Many of the blouses and skirts were original items from regional folkwear which were then transformed and recut,” she says. “I would say the overall creative process was very artisan.”
The popularity of The Nap Dress in 2020 makes sense given that it falls under cottagecore, an aesthetic that celebrates the return to more simple, traditional ways of living, from growing and eating your own food to sewing and knitting your own clothing. Upon rewatching Midsommar more than a year after it was released, and more than six months into the pandemic, I was struck by the similarities between the two. In the beginning, Dani (Pugh) is met with a grassy landscape scattered with wildflowers, as well as rustic wooden structures and sunny, blue skies — a setting not unlike the hundreds of cottagecore Instagram feeds and TikTok videos I’ve been met with since the trend took over in the beginning of lockdown. Creepy rituals aside, a lot of what went on in Midsommar embodies the aesthetic — extravagant picnics, flowing frocks, flower crowns, and pie-making (even if it was, well, tampered with…). According to Flesch, this extended to the clothing, which was hand-embroidered and -painted. “Even the socks were hand-knitted with special Harga motifs and so was every single button we used on the costumes prepared in our workshop,” Flesch says.
When asked whether or not she foresaw the rise in popularity of frocks like those seen in the film, Flesch said it came as a total surprise. “Although it is always unpredictable whether your costumes will have an effect on real life or not, I have to admit that as a designer, it is the greatest joy if the costumes you designed have an influence on fashion.” She credits the rise of the trend to the timing. “From time to time, there is a longing toward natural components and rural life in fashion history,” she explains. “I would say that our timing was lucky, we just caught the need of this age at the right moment.”
Fashion items from the film were so popular, in fact, that A24 auctioned them off (alongside Rue’s red sweatshirt from Euphoria and garments from Mid90s and Uncut Gems), with the proceeds going to the FDNY Foundation, a nonprofit created to support New York City firefighters and their families who were impacted by COVID-19. The exquisite floral May Queen dress, worn by Dani in the final scene of the film — which, according to Flesch was made using over 10k artificial silk flowers and weighed more than 33 pounds — sold for $65k to The Academy Museum and was reportedly bid on by both Halsey and Ariana Grande. In total, Midsommar made the FDNY Foundation an estimated $100k, according to Variety.
Flesch’s handmade wardrobe wasn’t even the only aspect of the suspense-filled horror film that captures the current zeitgeist. The film itself is essentially... a mindfuck. Which, after the year we’ve had, feels — much like the dresses — pretty on-point.
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