What Is Korean Fashion?

Last Updated on February 11, 2021 by 90 Day Korean
Illustration of a woman in a blue dress holding bags from shopping with a city background

What do Milan, Paris, New York, London and Tokyo have in common? All of them are among the leading cities when it comes to fashion.

But these days, more fashion hubs are forming all over the world to challenge those cities. Among them is South Korea’s capital, Seoul.

It hosts a wildly popular fashion week twice a year. Fashion has always been a part of Korean culture, but it’s never been as big (or popular) as it is now. Its designers are gaining more and more worldwide exposure and as for the general public in Seoul and elsewhere in Korea? They are known for their impeccable fashion sense in everyday life, both men and women.

Shall we take a closer look at what Korean fashion is like?

Illustration of a woman in a blue dress holding bags from shopping with a city background

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Elegant Young Handsome Asian Man

Harmony and sense of community are important traditional values in Korea and you can see the crossing of that even in Korean fashion. That means that although there are hundreds of thousands of stores all over Korea, many of them sell the same style of clothing items. At the very least very similar ones anyway. That is also due in part to the fact that many of clothing stores, especially the smaller ones, use local manufacturers. This is something that may limit the variety of the shops to choose from.

However, don’t take that to mean that everyone on the streets of Korea wear the same outfit. While many do share the same sense of style, there are also distinct differences between these styles. Let’s explore the different types of Korean fashion styles out there.


A Brunette Female With Long Hair

The Hongdae Street Style

Though this particular style isn’t limited to those hanging out in the Hongdae area, it is the most common. In general, it’s more common among those in their early twenties. It is a sort of a relaxed street look, mixing together the aesthetics of rock and hip hop. Especially the top part is often oversized or baggy, though men also like relaxed fit pants and shorts to go with it. While it’s a very unisex look, girls do wear dresses and skirts that go well with the look, as well. Girls also typically like to mix more colors into their outfits instead of sticking to predominantly black each and every time. Otherwise, this look is popular among both men and women. You can easily shop for the look in many of the stores in Hongdae’s streets, or order online from one of the many small online malls operated by Koreans.


Cover Your Shoulders and Chest…

Although Koreans are not deeply religious, their values are rooted in conservatism. Thus, to a certain extent, it is expected of women to act and look pure, or at least classy. What this entails is that it is frowned upon for Korean women to dress too revealing, especially in the top part. In other words: cover your shoulders, chest, and stomach. Better yet, don’t wear backless clothes, either.

Of course, the rules on this are getting more lax as Korean fashion and the trends for Korean women evolve. Though you still won’t see many women wearing backless tops or tank tops, many are in love with off shoulder and cold shoulder tops these days. And while the chest area remains covered, crop tops have become a big trend. They’re especially popular to mix with high waisted pants, shorts, and skirts.


…But Reveal Your Legs!

On the other hand, going mini in the lower body has absolutely been a trend in Korea for many years. And there doesn’t seem to be a change happening any time soon! Mini skirts, short shorts, and mini dresses are definitely in. Unfortunately, it poses a problem for those girls with slightly wider hips or bigger butts, as the hem cuts might be even too short for them to wear. But while Korean women love to show their legs, they do usually wear undershorts (or the skirts come equipped with it), to protect themselves from showing a little too much.

The skirts are typically either tennis skirts or bodycon skirts, in both case they are usually high waisted. For shorts, jean shorts are especially popular.


Group of Girls


From tops to coats, and pants to dresses, Korean women love wearing clothes oversized enough to hide their forms. They are especially popular for casual use, existing even in the form of sweater dresses, and focused on utmost comfort. It also offers a cute but effortless look. Many women love to combine an oversized item with a tighter one, usually a loose t-shirt, blouse, or sweater, with skinny jeans or a skirt. Others may wear an oversized top together with a loose bottom, which is another popular type of style gaining popularity amongst Koreans.


Layer It Up, Season To Season

Following the idea that one shouldn’t bear their shoulders or show too much chest, layers were born. And by layers we mean wearing a simple t-shirt or a long sleeved top under a spaghetti strap dress. The girls either mix and match it however they please, or they can also find readily made sets on sale at any boutique, usually for a low cost. And this is by no means the only way they do layers – you can do it in any creative way you could think of! Even lace dresses over pants is a thing!


Did We Ever Leave School?

As you may already know, in Korea you wear a school uniform throughout all of your school years. But that school uniform look has also become a part of general everyday Korean fashion, especially for the ladies. The integral part of this look is the a-lined skirt, which may be one color or patterned with plaid. Options for what to pair up with it are nearly limitless, from simple tees to vests over shirts.


Let Them Know We’re In Love

And of course it’s its own type of a fashion statement when a couple in Korea wears matching clothes. It is completely normal in Korea for couples to buy not only one matching item with each other, but full outfits, from backpacks to shoes! So if you ever happen to get yourself a Korean bae, perhaps it’s a trend you’ll become a part of as well?

So what’s your favorite Korean style and who is the most stylish Korean you know of? Let us know your picks in the comments below!


Photo Credit: BigStockPhoto

    6 replies to "What Is Korean Fashion?"

    • Avatar for Alysa Alysa


      First of all I wish to express that I am a great admirer of Korean Fashion and lately I am wearing it myself, I found it very beautiful and love to be clothed like that, however I am almost in my fifties and watched very much tv when I was a very young child and also in my teens, even now I watch tv often and what I am constatating is that the Korean Styled blazers, suits and other more or less official and ‘casual’ clothing in Korean Style looks a lot like people in and from communist regimes were clothed, you can watch photo’s and/or films for example of people from/or in the GDR and other communist countries, for example: Erich Honecker and his wife Margot Honecker, Gustav Husak, Leonid Brezhnev, Erich Mielke, Nicolae Ceausescu, Horst Sindermann, Willi Stoph, Walter Ulbricht and the contemporary president of Vietnam, for me, the result is very much striking!


    • Avatar for Namelessitta Namelessitta

      Interesting article and well written article! I only miss a photo with each style..

    • Avatar for Nak Nak

      It was a really great writing. I see your efforts! Thank you so much

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