Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Guess what I'm doing right now? Yep, procrastinating. Somehow I'm really good at it while still managing to "efficiently" get my work done. My time is rapidly winding down in Korea and I actually have lots to blog about but mainly I'm too busy lazy to write. Lately there is one aspect of life in Korea that has come to my attention particularly after my friend came to visit from the States: fashion conformity.

Fashion staple: big black belt. 
While preparing a lesson on fashion and ads for my English teacher lessons (a lesson that I never actually taught), I found this quote: fashion is evolutionary not revolutionary. Think about it. Now that I'm getting older I can already see the validity in that statement. I now wear things that even just five years ago I would have laughed at someone wearing. My mom has this big fat black belt that she used to wear high on her waist and I used to laugh and laugh at her lack of fashion sense. Well now I should laugh at myself because one of my current favorite outfits includes a black belt strikingly similar to the very belt that my mother used to wear. And this belt is an integral part of my wardrobe. Oops. The rule about saving your clothes then re wearing them fifteen or so years later is probably not a bad idea. So fashion is evolutionary. I'm sure experts in fashion might argue that they're being revolutionary by wearing some new piece but give it a few months or a year and that piece will be considered fashionable and "trendy" and everyone will be wearing it.

But let me now connect all this talk of fashion to Korea. I think most places in the world go through phases of trends where MANY people will wear similar clothing and now that the world is connected these trends are also connected and similar around the world. But in the U.S. and virtually every other country I have been to there are still signs of individuality within fashion. If mini-skirts are "in" that does not mean that almost every American you encounter will be sporting a mini-skirt or even the same mini-skirt. In the U.S. fashion is definitely regional, where in big cities people are more fashionable, and generally speaking in the Midwest people are less fashionable (sorry Midwesterners but I'm afraid it's true). But even within these broad generalizations there is individuality. We can further classify people's fashion as preppy, bohemian, sophisticated, casual, classic, sporty... While mini skirts might be "in" you will still see many (and perhaps far too many in my opinion) people wearing sweats, baggy t-shirts, plain old jeans, running shoes and jeans (my least favorite American clothing combination), and many more combinations. If bangs are in style you won't see every single American female running to the nearest hair salon to get bangs. I feel that I can still say with some certainty that there is still individualism. I can say the same for Germany. While people generally were more put together looking than many Americans, there was still a large variation in people's styles.

My "exotic" dress. 
In Korea any variation is almost impossible to detect. After a while I became accustomed to seeing almost ALL young women wearing similar dresses, skirts, tops, and ALL (seriously probably 90%) wearing heels. Yes, heels are considered fashionable but no other place in the world (even Taiwan and Japan) have I seen so many heel wearers. Meander through the underground shopping center in my neighborhood and you will see store after store selling virtually identical clothing, shoes, and accessories. If bangs are in style every Korean girl will rush to the nearest hair salon (and they won't have to go far). Mini-skirts are currently the latest trend so seeing any youngish female wearing any skirt that goes below the knee is an uncommon sight and the shortness of some of the skirts is shocking to your average western onlooker (especially given that even showing your collar bone can be considered "too sexy"). Most recently I received (what I took to be a compliment) comment that my dress was exotic and was asked where I got it from. I think the teacher assumed I had brought from the U.S. and was flabbergasted when I informed her that I had in fact bought it in Korea. What? Where? Well... I bought it in Hongdae. The one part of Korea that still maintains a creative somewhat independent spirit. Her surprise was not unfounded however, because I too have yet to see anyone wearing a dress similar to it in Korea.

Okay, the dress is cute but let's scarp the skulls.
Can't get over my idea of skulls being goth. 
In Korea when something is "in" it is IN. Fur is in style. So let's put fur on every single item of clothing. Animal print apparently is also trendy so let's slap it on every piece of fabric possible. The most bizarre one for me? Skulls. Skulls are also a new trend so I will often find them on dresses, scarves, and other accessories. Sooorry. I won't be sporting any skull print attire anytime soon. I'll remain the non-conformist minority thank you very much.

Fashion conformity in Korea is just one example of the prevalence of conformity and community in this culture. I just finished reading an interesting book on Korean culture written in cartoon format by a Korean. I will blog about the book later but I felt that fashion, especially given it's significance in Korea deserved a post by itself. In my opinion, fashion in Korea is anything from revolutionary but merely evolutionary. I anxiously await my return to a country where there are at least a few people who don't care that what they're wearing is not the latest

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