Fashion has always been one of the creative avenues where we can express our own taste and preferences and even tell our stories. Naturally, our sense of style can be influenced by a number of factors like the environment that we grew up in, the people we follow like celebrities and idols, as well as different trends from those on the streets up to luxury fashion runways.
Nowadays, South Korea has been on the forefront of the fashion trends and many have been obsessed with their style. Its global popularity has been taking off and dominating the international fashion arena, part of what is dubbed as the Korean Wave or “Hallyu” in Korean. And it seems like South Korea is here to cement its position and influence in the fashion industry.
The Start of Korean Fashion Trends
Hallyu is actually a Chinese term which translates as “Korean Wave” which is “a collective term used to refer to the phenomenal growth of Korean culture and popular culture encompassing everything from music, movies, drama to online games and Korean cuisine just to name a few.”
Two of the main power players of Hallyu which influenced the rise in interest in the Korean fashion scene are K-drama and KPop. According to EJ Kim or also known as Kim Eun-jeung, a South Korean fashion insider, “ When K-pop or K-drama stars wear something, no matter the origin of the label, people suddenly believe that’s the style of K-fashion.”
She also added, “That’s the power some of these Korean artists have, who absorb global influences, redefine them and then create the image that South Korea is a cool fashion destination to the rest of the world.”
Because of this, South Korea is riding its pop culture influence to put its homegrown designers on the global fashion radar according to Arthur Tam. The boost in the economy brought about by this popularity has also pushed the Korean government to be more supportive of the fashion industry in the country.
Korean fashion, in the words of EJ Kim, is “daring, decisive, and discerning.” She said, “I think fashion is in our DNA. I see customers from all kinds of backgrounds every day and I can say that Koreans usually choose items that are of the now.” Aside from that, Korean fashion is also very experimental, creative, expressive, unique, and reflects a very good sense of individuality. South Korea has become one of the leading innovators in trends and has amassed a large following that extends beyond the borders of South Korea, slowly conquering Southeast Asia and even the West.
To dress up like your favorite idols like global phenomenon Twice and Blackpink or your favorite KDrama actresses like Seo Yeji who played Moon Young in It’s Okay Not To Be Okay, here are the latest fashion trends that you should definitely take into mind.
Nothing feels comfier than wearing anything oversized – tops, shorts, or even jackets. And thanks to the influence of Korean fashion, we have become more obsessed with these oversized pieces of clothing (shirts or tops, cardigans, blazers, sweaters, and shorts or jeans) that it has become a goal to perfect the art of wearing oversized clothing or apparel. While it’s an easy style to pull off, one thing to keep in mind when styling oversized is to remember to balance the proportions right or else you will be drowning in fabric.
Wearing oversized clothing generally gives both a classy and cool vibe. But for ladies who have a smaller build, oversized gives a rather cute vibe. Take for example Park Bo Young in Strong Woman Do Bong Soon who looks extremely cute in her hoodie.
You can try a casual look with an oversized top semi-tucked into a skirt or short paired with sneakers and long socks. Add in a baseball cap or bucket hat to your ensemble and a tote bag to complete the “I’m just going for a stroll and eat tteokbokki with my friends” look. Or you can also go for a more formal look by swapping the shirt with an oversized collared one or a polo blouse and your shorts to a skirt or pants. Then change the sneakers to flats or kitten heels.
From the oversized clothes, we now go to the mini clothes. From tops, to skirts, to accessories, the “everything mini” trend has also been gaining popularity. This is the go-to fashion style for women or ladies with small builds as this suits perfectly to their size and physique. But even though these are more closely associated with smaller sizes, mini is also a good fashion choice for those who have slightly larger builds and curvy figures as it emphasizes the outline of the body and also displays a generous amount of skin.
Of all the mini clothes, the mini skirt is probably the most popular. Mini skirts exude a very chic vibe and it is so stylish that almost anything can go with it. You can partner it up with an oversized shirt, hoodie, cropped hoodie or even a mini top. And because there are no rules when it comes to this trend, you can always go with everything mini from the top to the bottom.
Distressed jeans have a vintage, worn out look which feature frayed fabric instead of the usual ripped holes characteristic of ripped jeans. Distressed jeans are basically like your normal denim pants but with character so it plays well over anything. You can dress it casually or switch it up for a more formal look.
For the basic style, you can slip on just a plain white shirt and either semi-tuck it into the jeans if you have an oversized one or just keep it hanging if the shirt fits you well. Pair up with white sneakers and keep the accessories to a minimum. If you want a more formal look, layer it with a blazer to give more structure to the outfit.
You can also switch to a fun vibe by pairing it with patterned and colorful outerwear. Or for a classy and chic vibe, go for high waisted distressed jeans with a button-down shirt tucked down into the jeans, pair with loafers and satchel!
Distressed jeans are easily available in many stores and fashion boutiques but you can also make one yourself! Since these are very popular, you’d find lots of DIY tutorials on the net with just a simple click.
These statement shoulder tops are the hottest trend from the runway to the street and this is honestly the true representation of all the cute tops that you can think of. According to Charlie Teather of Glamour, “They’re arguably one of the biggest (and easiest) trends of the year to try out, which make them ideal for a little WFH sartorial experimentation.” Needless to say, this year we can never get enough of puff.
Many high-end shops and luxury designers have adapted this style from tops (short, long, off-shoulder) and even dresses. You can never go wrong with puff sleeves. If your OOTD is the whole dish then puff sleeves add that extra garnish in just the right amount. You will look fashionable without overdoing it – no extra spices or over the top flavors.
As Charlie said, these are easy to try out and perfect for experimentation in style. Basically, you can pair it with anything: jeans, shorts, skirts. You can try pairing it with stylish designs or just go with the basic and plain bottoms. Nevertheless, you are all set for a statement look. Puff sleeves do elevate your overall look and the femininity to your style. This trend is absolutely loved by the ladies, especially the girly ones.
If you don’t know what a beret is, it’s a flat round cap or hat worn in different styles and can be either knitted or woven. Berets have always been associated with “chic” and have graced major fashion runways as a major accessory. It has also been worn by many style icons like Diane Kruger.
In the K-fashion scene, one of the “pioneers” of beret fashion was former F(x) member and actress, Sulli. In fact, she wore berets even before they were a trend in Korea. Oftentimes she would pair it with a simple outfit with a cardigan casually hanging over her shoulder. SNSD member and actress, Seohyun has also been spotted wearing this in an elegant and fashionable look. Lastly, one of the third generation idols who has recreated the beret look is TWICE’s Nayeon.
Berets add a smart yet quirky look to any outfit. You can wear it like how you usually wear hats but you can also tilt it a bit to the side for that extra posh effect. Additionally, berets look extra good when paired with leather jackets. They look so good together creating that perfect mix of feminine and chic.
If you’re buying one this season, go ahead for a red to celebrate the festivities or a black which you can never go wrong with!
Cropped Tops, Jackets and Blazers.
There is no doubt that anything cropped will continue to rule the closets of fashion girls across the globe. Cropped tops are so fashionable that it can literally go with anything you pair it with. This adds to the slimming effect to your silhouette. These are also a go-to for the lazy dressers. Not to mention, it is also comfy clothing. You can wear a cropped top and look sexy, girly, cool, or even professional, depending of course on how you style it and the type of bottoms you pair it with.
Aside from the cropped tops, there are also the cropped jackets and the cropped blazers. And like the stylish berets, these have also been spotted on several runway shows and fashion photoshoots. Cropped jackets and cropped blazers are definitely a trend in 2020. The best thing about these cropped tops, jackets and blazers is that it gives the elongating effect that’ll make you look taller and slimmer. If you want to portray the bad, savage woman look, you definitely have to try this. A lot of female K-pop idols wear these in music videos, photoshoots and even in performances.
Bermuda shorts are the hype of the summer and it will undoubtedly continue to be a trend even after 2020. These shorts are also known as walk shorts or dress shorts, a particular type of shorts which are often worn as a semi-casual attire and are usually an inch before the knee. The term “Bermuda” originates from the country of the same name located in the British Overseas Territory where they are considered formal wear when made out of suit-like material and paired with long socks, dress shirt, tie, and a blazer.
These might be common fashion pieces for men but these are popular to women and ladies alike. They have been on the fashion radar many years back and they have now made their comeback this year. For women, there are different fits including a very loose, boyfriend type fit to a more fitted, sophisticated silhouette.
Bermuda shorts are challenging to style due to its unique length but the key to creating a trendy bermuda shorts look is to pair it with an appropriate top and accessories. Fitted types are usually worn for formal wear and are perfect with button down tops paired with loafers. Loose, boyfriend fits, on the other hand, are perfect with loose, flowy tops with a bit of feminine details and a pair of wedges or sandals. If you’re aiming for a professional look, you can go with dressy blouses layered over with blazers then fitted bermuda shorts and black pumps.
You can buy these in different colors but they are most popular in navy and black. You can also DIY your way to it if you have old jeans that you want to flip into this trend.
Leather Jackets and Blazers
Anything leather is definitely a classic whether it’s a jacket or a blazer. These are must-have pieces in any wardrobe. In an article by Bazaar, they described leather pieces as gold in terms of investment. “It never loses its value. From ephemeral trends to closet staples, this outerwear piece outlasts all others when it comes to longevity, both in relevance and durability.”
Leather jackets and blazers are also effortless to style because it looks good in anything and everything. You can dress it down with a casual outfit like white shirts and denim or cropped top and maxi skirt. Or you can also throw in a pair of tailored pants for a more polished and stylish look.
These might be expensive but you sure are getting your money’s worth.
Open Back Tops
The open back tops are blowing up the fashion industry. Featuring a modest front and a contrastingly shocking open back, these tops are loved by vibey fashion girls on Instagram. Exposing a little bit won’t hurt so try these tops now and slay everyone with your look.
These tops are also a thing in the summer. This gives a little sexiness to your whole look. From plain to patterned, ladies definitely slay with these tops. Just like cropped tops, these tops can go with anything. You can wear these from your simple to sophisticated looks. It is now the season to embrace the open back tops or anything backless, so put yourself in the center of attraction with these tops.
Layering is one styling technique that Koreans have seem to have perfected. These are most commonly seen during the fall and winter seasons when the temperature is a bit colder. It may look easy at first but layering is like an art that takes time and experience to master.
This year, minimalist aesthetics have been booming from interior designs to even fashion styles. And layering is actually a central concept when it comes to minimalism. It allows for creativity, but it also infuses practicality, especially in this season, when we have to be equally prepared for freezing cold outside and quite warm temperature inside, according to the Lifestyle Files.
Few tips and techniques on layering is to always add variety in texture especially for monochrome outfits. This way, you can add depth and dimension into your outfit. You can experiment on mixing hard and soft textures of fabric like wool, silk, cotton, and leather. But you can also go knit on knit since these are fabrics that can help you feel extra warm.
Contrary to the usual layering styles (the quite unskillful ones), coats and jackets are not necessarily the last layer. They’re good mid-layers as well. Scarves can also be very good items for layering as they can create depth and contrast depending on color and styling. Lastly, play with different sleeve lengths as these can add a flair to your outfit.
Layering is not an easy technique but once you’ve got the hang of it, we’re sure that you can slay the streets with your fashion.
Mix and Match
Throw all the styling lessons you have learnt out the window and try to mix and match anything you could think of because again, there are no rules. Because almost everything goes in South Korean fashion, as they mix and match all kinds of looks with each other to fantastic effect.
This is a huge thing for K-pop idols, this technique gives amazing aesthetics to their performances and even music videos. If you have watched any KPop production, you know exactly what we mean. For music videos, you can often see mix and match techniques in quite exaggerated tones creating very vivid and experimental aesthetics. As for performances, groups usually have a theme wherein stylists mix and match to that theme creating an amazing fashioned coordination. That is, no member wears exactly the same outfit as another. This technique has been very helpful since they want to look uniform but still cater to what style looks best for each member.
Break the stereotypes, widen your imagination, and try to mix and match and have the perfect “instagrammable” outfit you can come up this 2020.
The minimalist look has gotten some revival lately, but in Korean fashion, nothing’s really minimal. So even though the colors of the outfits are kept to black or white, there will be a pop of color from the hair or a statement accessory thrown into the mix to make the look stand out.
The monotone look is also a go-to for the lazy dressers. If your wardrobe is all black or all white or the mix of both, just showcase them. They can never tell what and how to wear. Embrace yourself. You will really become a head-turner even by just wearing all black or all-white. This has been a trend from few years back and it is still a trend today.
The logo craze in South Korea has been brought about the increasing sophistication in style. Mr. Giuseppe Cavallo, Country Manager of TOD’S Korea, described South Korea as a “dream market” for luxury brands “because luxury is not only for one time, luxury is a status.”
And among brands, there has also been a cutthroat competition which ones fall under it. Ms. Sophie Park, Merchandising Team Leader of Lotte Duty Free Shopping, said, “Louis Vuitton has shown decent success for several decades in Korea. However, the numbers are slowing down.” She added, “Chanel and other brands are showing explosive growth. Korean consumers are looking more and more for ‘real high-end’ luxury goods. The definition of luxury has evolved to an advanced pace where only a few select brands fall under it.”
Coupled with the trending minimalistic aesthetic, the logo craze in South Korea has become more popular. Most streetwear fashion features simple shirts with luxury logos like Chanel’s famous interlocking Cs or Louis Vuitton’s classic LV in Futura. Though these logos might be minor details on a shirt, their impact is undeniable. A logo can easily add edge and style to any clothing.
The important thing to note when wearing logos is to go full on in just one logo (don’t mix your Gucci with your Chanel!) and keep the look simple.
If you want a hundred percent eye catching detail on your outfit, you can never go wrong with big shades. As they say in the fashion world, when it comes to shades, the larger, the better. This has come and gone with trends but recently, they’ve been consistently hot on the market. With different sizes, shapes, and styles, these can definitely give you a unique look.
Especially during summer, big shades are as important as your choice of one piece or two piece beach outfit. Don’t be afraid to get the attention you deserve with those big fashionista shades!
Just like puff sleeves, ruffles are also popular this year as designers explore the “many incarnations and long history of the frilly collar ornamentations.” This detail adds volume and texture to any outfit and this has been a hit with Koreans, with actresses donning them in many K-Dramas lately. Especially with mother-in-law characters and rich housewives as they give the prim and proper aura without making too much of an effort in styling.
Ruffles are perfect in flattering your curves and giving you a romantic and youthful look. One thing about ruffles though is that with all the volume, it gives a fuller vibe so it’s best to avoid them on heavy areas that you don’t want to put emphasis on.
These details can be added on tops, skirts, and dresses. These are very versatile pieces that can be styled casually or dressy depending on your need.
Trend of Empowerment
“Feminism isn’t about making women stronger. Women are already strong, it’s about changing the way the world perceives that strength.”
It’s 2020 and women empowerment has evolved into powerful statements on the streets. Women are no longer taking no for an answer and they’re no longer scared to channel that confidence into everything they do and wear.
Fashion has provided an avenue to reflect that courage and confidence with emerging styles and trends that cut through conservative styles that women are caged in. It has also encouraged the styles that are more than just workaholic women but female bosses ready to take on the harsh world of men intimidated by just any woman they can’t control.
Here are some trends to showcase the strong woman in you.
Who said suit and tie ensemble are only for men? And who said blazers can only be used as a layer? Blazer dresses have been on the hot trend in the fashion scene which do not only give a structured and empowered look but also a pinch of feminine detail and also some sexiness (thanks to details like lace and ruffles). The key to wearing this outfit is confidence.
You can wear blazer dresses casually with sneakers, sandals, mules, or loafers. You don’t need to accessorize so much with this type of statement dress because it’s already complete and elegant as it is.
As for a party dress, you can always trust a metallic blazer dress, high heel sandals, long earrings, and a clutch to do the magic for you. But if you’re a bit on the minimal but edgy, a neutral colored blazer dress paired with heels and a leather bag is the perfect ensemble.
It’s a great option for office ootd as well, which you can just easily pair with a heel or sandal. This dress is very versatile like a woman so go ahead and slap that outfit on and strut on the streets like the powerful and amazing woman you are.
Oversized suits are our oversized shirts in formal wear. And like anything oversized, the main consideration with oversized suits is to balance the elements of your outfit to make sure that you don’t look like you’re getting hugged by a giant piece of fabric.
This outfit idea gives the “large and in charge” concept. If you’re fond of watching k-dramas, you can see this worn by many female CEO roles. This is the perfect executive look – elegant, classy, and superior.
This gender neutral style definitely advocates equality when it comes to clothes. It’s not a man’s style or a woman’s style. This has been the hype in South Korea and they have been championing this trend for some time now. It’s a popular streetwear fashion sported by many KPop idols in their dance practice videos.
The athleisure style also represents free spirit, the freedom women aim to have in this world. Because women can be sporty and chic at the time and look sexy even without showing too much skin.
Some Thoughts about Fashion
There is nothing wrong about not getting into trends and there is also nothing wrong to follow and ride the latest trends as well. There has always been a negative connotation in following trends like being too materialistic or contributing to fast fashion and the inequalities and oppression in the industry.
This is true and it happens and we should actively work against it. But at the same time, following trends can be sustainable. And it allows individuals to create and curate their outfits, make do of what is with their wardrobe, flip the “ugly” and unworn clothes into trendy pieces.
So don’t feel bad when you follow trends and instead use it to be creative and empower yourself. Be your own kind of style. After all, we dress not to impress others but to let ourselves free and eventually be more confident in the way we always wanted to be.