The obvious reason the dress is popular is because people think it’s universally pretty, and it’s also available up to a size 20, which is pretty rare for a fancy dress from an indie brand. When I posted a meme of the dress to my Instagram story, dozens of people DM’d me to tell me that they loved the dress and had been obsessed with it for a while. As Nishat Anjum, a 24-year-old software engineer from San Francisco who bought the dress in May, told me via email, “I immediately wanted to buy it; it looked so much like a Disney princess dress.” It’s eye-catching, a fashion investment that’ll turn heads and stop scrolling thumbs. “It was a treat for myself,” says Sophia Mortensen, 19, who bought the dress with funds she’s been saving for a trip to Korea that was canceled. For the Danish teenager, it also presents an escape from her daily life as an essential worker. “It makes me feel like a pretty princess,” says Mortsensen, who works part-time packing medical supplies. “It makes me feel good.”
The dress also falls neatly in line with the rise of “cottagecore,” an aesthetic defined by rural bliss—picture a world in which you make your own jam and read Jane Austen on repeat. There’s a popular song on cottagecore TikTok called “Strawberry Blonde,” by Mitski, which pairs nicely with the dress. “Cottagecore is having a pretty big moment during the pandemic,” Anjum said. “Folks are romanticizing about nature and crafting. The full skirt and fluffy sleeves completely fit in with the aesthetic.” In that way, it’s kind of similar to the nap dress. Both represent a kind of carefree, detached-from-civilization vibe, even though one is more formal than the other.
Even though people are buying the dress, the quantities hardly register as mass. It’s more ubiquitous on social media than it is on the street. Unlike Zara’s chambray or polka dots, you’re probably not going to see it seven times on a walk. On TikTok, though, you’ll often see the dress under #cottagecore. Scroll through Twitter and you’ll also find anime and K-pop fan art and collages. People will photoshop their favorite stars into the dress, including Zendaya and Harry Styles, or draw anime characters in the strawberry dress. Those are so prevalent that the memes have refracted, and now you’ll see parodies of Hannibal Lecter or Gollum from Lord of the Rings in the dress.
Without the means to buy the dress, Avery Mayeur, a 20-year-old content creator and student in Canada, decided to draw one of her favorite anime characters from My Hero Academia in the strawberry dress instead. Her followers responded positively. “A lot of anime fans and people who are integrated in fandoms tend to have alt styles anyways,” she said “Fandoms are attracted to things that are unique, different, and fun. This embodies all of that.”