Several months ago, Amanda Rampersad purchased a flowing pink tulle dress, cinched at the waist, with ruffled short sleeves and covered with shimmering pink sequin strawberries.
She posted a picture of herself in February to Instagram in the nearly $500 Lirika Matoshi Strawberry Midi Dress that looks equal parts fairytale princess and Southern Belle — a special treat for herself after getting a promotion. She also tagged Matoshi in the post.
Then, she continued her normal life on social media, posting pictures of her wedding and a home she had purchased with her husband.
But recently, that picture of Rampersad in the strawberry dress, has been gaining shares and likes.
“I noticed more people who don’t even follow me started liking my photo,” Rampersad, 27, of Florida, said. “In the last couple of weeks, people have been engaging with the photo, even though I posted it in February.”
That’s because since approximately the end of July, Matoshi’s dress has become a viral phenomenon. NBC News spoke with a half dozen people who either purchased the dress, made their own or bought a cheaper knock-off version. They said the dress has been a kind of romantic escapism from what feels like the endless frump of quarantine sweatpants.
On TikTok it is inescapable — the hashtag “#StrawberryDress” has 5.4 million views. It has also gone viral on platforms like Instagram and Twitter.
“It’s really interesting. I’m not sure what triggered it because the dress has been available for a really long time,” Rampersad said.
Matoshi and her general manager, Ledri Mahmuti, said via email that the dress has been available since late July 2019, but sales exploded in the last month. Sales of the dress have increased 1,073 percent “compared to the same date period last month,” Matoshi and Mahmuti said.
“I was so excited to see it go viral and the support from my fans has been amazing. The dress itself reflects my overall message as a designer, to bring a bit of whimsy and happiness into the lives of others,” Matoshi said.
Searches for Matoshi’s name and the term “strawberry dress” began to spike at the end of July, according to Google Trends.
Matoshi and Mahmuti said they’re not sure why exactly the dress has gone viral now, but according to meme database Know Your Meme, it likely has something to do with the rise of the “cottagecore” aesthetic.
Cottagecore is an internet aesthetic genre that fantasizes a simplistic somewhat pastoral lifestyle, which includes picnics, gardening and baking, and exudes a calming zen. The dress seems tailor-made for the aesthetic, and videos and posts are often accompanied by the cottagecore hashtag.
“I think it comes part and parcel with the explosion of cottagecore aesthetics that are all over the internet,” Matt Schimkowitz, senior editor of Know Your Meme, said. “It has that romantic, almost fairytale-like quality that you’ll find in other cottagecore TikTok, Instagram accounts or even like ‘Animal Crossing.’”
Cottagecore often has crossover with the artist community on platforms like TikTok and Instagram, which has led to a deluge of fan art of the dress. Artists have also made their own versions of the dress, and, because of the real dress’s price tag, much cheaper knock-off versions of the dress have appeared on sites like Amazon and Wish.
Some of the people who bought the dress and spoke to NBC News said they had to save up in order to be able to afford it. Despite the price tag, the dress ranges in size from extra small to triple XL, which the designer’s sizing chart estimates will fit a size 18 to 20 in the United States.
However, it appears the price tag hasn’t hindered the popularity of Matoshi’s dress.
Matoshi gifted the dress to a few influencers, according to Vogue, which first reported on the dress’ popularity, and model Tess Holliday wore the dress on the red carpet for the Grammy Awards in January, according to Know Your Meme.
Speculation over the dress’s rise to the top of the internet’s “must have” list is driven in part due to the boring, dowdy clothes that have become synonymous with the coronavirus pandemic quarantine.
“A lot of people have been at home wearing sweatpants for a long time, so the dress feels extra special. It's almost like an escape from the current situation. That's what some of our customers are saying about this dress,” Matoshi said.
Schimkowitz said he’s inclined to believe quarantine has had something to do with it with the dress’s popularity.
“I kind of have an inkling it has something to do with the fact most people are stuck in their homes right now and are kind of yearning for a little bit of nature, a little bit of calm in their lives,” he said.
Madison McQuary, 24, of Texas, had known about Matoshi’s dress since last summer, but because of the price tag and because she’s an avid sewer, in addition to being a high school fashion design teacher, she decided making the dress herself would be her quarantine project.
It took McQuary about two weeks to do. She also filmed a tutorial on how people can make their own, which she said has spiked with engagement in recent weeks.
“When you look at that dress you can’t help but smile,” McQuary said. “I think it just takes us back to happier times of dreaminess and romanticism.”
Luna Rahzel, 30, of New York, received the dress as a birthday gift in December 2019, only to realize it didn’t fit. Matoshi agreed to make Rahzel a custom-fit version of the dress, but because of COVID-19, a fabric shortage and shipping issues, she didn’t receive the dress until the end of July, just as it was trending across the internet.
Rahzel said, for her, the romanticism of the dress is part of its appeal.
“It’s a really pretty dress, but it’s borderline costume-y, but it’s really nice, and I actually appreciate dresses that are like that and clothing that’s like that,” Rahzel said. “It’s a little theatrical. It’s something you would see a Disney princess wearing.”
The fairy-tale nature is also what drew in Rampersad.
“Femininity is something that’s really important to me, personally, and that’s why the design really appealed to me,” Rampersad said.
Both Rahzel and Rampersad said they’re excited that other people are loving the strawberry dress as much as they are.
“I was so happy when everyone started wearing it,” Rahzel said.
With social distancing, people may not run into another person wearing the dress, but, once people start congregating again, Schimkowitz predicts there might be less excitement around everyone owning the same garment.
“They can have it right now because not many people are seeing each other, but once we’re all going to the park together,” he said, “you could imagine seeing a viral image of a park where 19 women are all wearing the same dress.”
CORRECTION: (Aug. 13, 2020, 10:37 p.m. ET) A previous photo caption in this article misspelled the last name of the dress designer. She is Lirika Matoshi not Matsohi.