Korean fashion is often heralded as some of the best in the world. With Seoul quickly becoming one of the fashion capitals in the world, and definitely of Asia, Korean fashion is becoming more popular by the day.
This effect is only compounded by the skyrocketing popularity of Korean media such as K-dramas and K-pop. The issue though, is that many Korean fashion trends only hit other countries a year or two after they have passed in Korea itself.
It is with this in mind that I wanted to bring you this collaborative article today. I know little about fashion myself. In fact, I have only ever written one fashion article before. Therefore, I wanted to find an expert on the subject. Luckily, my girlfriend just happens to be one!
Rebecca, the creator of BerryLoveFashion, has been writing about Korean fashion for almost one year now. While she has always liked fashion, she has only recently started writing about it to let others know about the recent trends in Korea.
With that being said, today we wanted to bring you some styles that are currently popular in Korea and that will be popular going into 2021. It is important to remember though, that Korean trends tend to move VERY fast. Not just in fashion, but even with cafes and cars.
Korean Fashion in 2021
Photo taken at Colorpool Museum.
It’s hard to identify overall trends that have defined Korean fashion over the past few years and into the future, but one thing stands out. That is that Korean fashion is becoming less and less conservative every year. Even in the past four or five years, you can begin to see shorter tops and more revealing clothes.
This is reflected in many of the recent fashion trends in Korea, with open-back shirts becoming more popular. Another very popular trend to see in women’s clothing in Korea is the stitching along the chest.
For men, over-knee shorts are popular as are ankle-length pants. These pants allow for a balance between formal and casual attire and they are wearable in a large variety of situations due to their semi-formal nature. If you visit Korea, you can expect to see hundreds of guys wearing ankle pants with collared shirts.
Streetwear has really started to take off in Korea in the past few years. Inspired by many celebrities who have taken up the style, it’s becoming more and more common to see on the streets of Seoul. Some popular streetwear styles in Korea are oversized shirts, baggy pants, and bucket hats.
This kind of clothing is very different from the style that has been popular over the past years and oversized clothing was only a very niche style up until recently. Now, there are many street-wear brands appearing and the style is becoming more common to see on the streets.
Seoul Angeles Tee from Kore Limited.
We got to try Kore Limited, a brand that many celebrities have been wearing recently. They have a wide range of Korean-inspired streetwear and the quality of their clothes is fantastic. If you are looking for internationally available Korean streetwear they are the best choice.
Another online shopping mall that stocks a lot of different street brands is Styleupk. They also ship internationally and they have a wide range of brands – many of which are very common to see in Korea (especially brands like Nerdy, Guess and Fila).
2. Modern Hanbok
To be honest, this isn’t a trend as such. However, I feel like modernised Korean hanbok deserves a place on this list due to it being traditional Korean clothing that is making somewhat of a resurgence. It is also commonly worn at special events such as weddings.
While hanbok is always very pretty, it’s often impractical to wear. It requires a long time to put on, is very heavy, and is also very large (the skirt is very poofy!). Modern hanbok seeks to change this by making the traditional outfit more realistic to wear in day-to-day situations.
This means that it retains many of the traditional design elements, but is also made to be lighter, smaller, and generally more subtle in colouring. These changes make it far more wearable in day-to-day situations. While it still isn’t exactly common clothing, modern hanbok is a great choice for special occasions.
One thing that is also worth mentioning is that hanbok for children is also very popular! If you are looking for a traditional (and cute!) outfit for your child, check out Joteta – they have a range of hanbok for children.
3. Ankle Pants
Another trend that has really taken off in Korea (for both men and women) is that of ankle-length pants. These pants end at the upper ankle and reveal your ankles, making them a great choice for the medium-warm seasons. They are especially popular in Korea during spring and fall.
They can complement both tight and loose tops, provided that the colours match. They also go with many kinds of open shoes (such as sandals). Ankle pants are very comfortable, and this makes them a great choice for both casual and semi-formal outfits alike.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of such pants though is that they can be purchased for relatively cheap and they are also readily available almost everywhere. If you are looking to add some Korean-style outfits to your wardrobe, make sure to pick some up!
4. Denim Shorts
Fashion goes in cycles – usually, bigger fashion trends repeat themselves every 20-25 years. One of the currently repeating trends is denim pants – jeans, shorts, and even skirts. While denim is an evergreen trend, it’s taken off even more recently and you will see a lot of denim being worn, especially in shorts.
While this trend is hardly unique to Korea (where isn’t denim popular?) it is particularly popular in Korea right now so it is worth mentioning. Denim shorts in particular are trendy because their muted colour makes them easy to match with a wide range of clothing.
Further, there are many different styles that can complement almost any top. If you’re looking to add some detail to an outfit you can opt for ripped jean shorts or shorts with extra stitching. On the other hand, if you are looking to make your top the centre of the outfit you can lean towards simple jean shorts with no stand-out design features.
Denim shorts can be found at very affordable prices in Korea. As such, they are a piece of clothing that many women have in the wardrobe. They are especially useful in summer when temperatures skyrocket and it’s essential to wear cooler clothing.
5. Tennis/Pleated Skirts
Tennis skirts aren’t a Korean style as they exist almost everywhere. However, tennis skirts are always popular in Korea and you can often see them on the streets of Seoul in summer. Although these skirts reached their peak popularity a few years back, they are still a great asset for any closet.
Tennis skirts are especially popular among Koreans in their younger 20’s. Of course, that isn’t to say that other ages can’t wear them too! In Rebecca’s exact words ‘I wear this look whenever I want to feel cute and look bubbly’.
These skirts are generally best worn alone. While some smaller bags can work with some outfits, they are usually best worn without a bag. Depending on what kind of look you are going for, tennis skirts can work well with heels or with flat shoes. If you are aiming for a cute look, flat shoes are a better choice.
All-in-all, tennis skirts are great to have in your collection. While they aren’t as popular in Korea as they were a few years ago, they are still a common sight. They are simple, comfortable and work well with a variety of different tops and shoes.
6. Ribbed Shirts
Out of everything on this list, ribbed shirts (and to a lesser degree, ribbed dresses) were by far the most popular Korean women’s summer trend in the years leading up to 2020. In 2020 you could see hundreds of them every day, and this trend is very likely to continue into 2021.
Ribbed shirts are a new spin on rather standard shirts. It’s a fantastic way to rejuvenate the standard shirt design and to make a more contemporary design while not being too bold. For this reason, these shirts are very comfortable while being stylish and elegant.
The style can be purchased in many different forms. Most popular are the short-sleeved designs like the picture above, but there are also longer sleeved designs and dresses that have the same ribbed design. Specifically, the red design above swept Korea and could be seen very often in Seoul.
It works best with short shorts, and the red design works particularly well with black coloured shorts. However, long pants can also work as long as they are the right style. That makes this shirt not only a good choice for summer, but also for the warmer parts of spring and fall.
Although the shirts are by far the most popular form of ribbed design, dresses with the design are also common. The blue dress above is another design that was quite popular in Korea over the summer – especially at the beaches.
7. Chunky Shoes
Chunky shoes (which sometimes go by other names such as ‘turbo trainers’) are a trend that has been massive in Korea for the past few years. This will continue into spring and summer even as lighter clothing becomes more popular.
I’m not entirely sure where the trend of chunky shoes started. However, since about 2018 it’s been incredibly popular in South Korea. This trend involves shoes with extra high soles, usually a few inches above the ground. These shoes are particularly popular as they can make the wearer seem taller.
While these shoes are not to everyone’s taste (I really didn’t like them for years, only now am I okay with them), there is no denying that they are all over the peninsula. If you’re looking to build a wardrobe of Korean fashion they are definitely worth looking into!
Fila shoes, in particular, are popular in Korea and you will notice that Fila chunky shoes are the most commonly worn in the capital. While some other brands are becoming popular recently, Fila still sits as the most popular brand.
8. Military Boots
Perhaps one of the most interesting spring fashion trends to come out of Korea this year is military boots. While military boots may sound like male fashion, they are in fact the opposite. Of course, military-style boots can be worn by anyone. However, this trend is particularly popular among younger women.
Military boots are fully black boots that generally have higher soles and cover the bottom of the leg, well above the ankle. These boots are often worn with dresses or other outfits that leave the legs partly uncovered. It’s a fashion trend that I believe is currently unique to Korea.
These boots are generally too hot to be worn in summer but they are particularly popular in spring and the later months of summer. Not only are they quite warm, but they are also comfortable and easy to wear!
9. Button-Up Dresses
This trend is another one that is very common to see in Seoul, but it is a bit more formal than the other entries on this list. These are button-up dresses. Popular because they are great in both semi-casual and semi-professional situations, and because they are elegant but not flashy.
These dresses can be found in a variety of different styles, and the one that we found was red with white stripes and a double button-row design. While this may seem a bit formal for everyday wear, in Korea it’s common to dress very well even for the most basic outings.
Button-up dresses like this work best with nothing underneath. However, if worn in colder weather they can be worn with a blouse or something else underneath. The dresses are usually quite warm by themselves though, so these are definitely better worn in the spring and fall months.
They work well with high heels and will work best with shoes that have some kind of heel. Boots with heels are also a great choice, especially because they can add some height. This outfit also works great with simple handbags and especially those with longer straps.
10. Knitted Clothing
Knitted clothing is really taking off in 2021. From full sweaters all the way to lighter cardigans and vests, knitted clothing is one of the defining Korean fashion trends of the year.
While every piece of knitted clothing differs, they usually bring a light and cute feeling to an outfit. On top of this, they fit in very well with minimal outfits due to their often muted colours. They don’t overly stand out, but they do add to an outfit.
Knitted tops work well when paired with a variety of bottoms. If you are looking to complete a cute outfit, a tennis skirt or other similarly light-coloured skirt works fantastically. If you are just looking for a more casual and minimal outfit, knitted tops can be combined with skinny jeans or ankle pants.
Another aspect that makes knitwear so dynamic is that it can easily be worn alone or layered. This also means that this trend is popular for the majority of the year, rather than being limited to just one season as many of the outfits on this list are.
11. Puff Sleeves
Another trend that has swept through Korea this past year is that of puffed sleeves. While this trend is not unique to any specific type of clothing, you will find many puffed sleeves on shirts and dresses. Perhaps most commonly, you will find puffed sleeves on many ribbed shirts.
Similar to the ribbed design, puffed sleeves are an easy way to add some sophistication to otherwise simple designs. It’s a very easy way to make dresses and shirts look more unique while keeping them comfortable and not too outgoing.
It is also worth noting that puffed sleeves come in many different designs. Some dresses will feature loose/puffed sleeves along the whole arm length, while some will only be puffed around the shoulder. Both of these designs are extremely popular in Korea.
12. Crop Tops
As I mentioned earlier, Korean fashion is becoming less conservative and it’s more common to see crop tops and other more revealing clothing. While Korea still tends to be more conservative than other countries fashion-wise, it is becoming less so over time.
Although street style clothing also tends to be less popular than ‘cuter’ outfits, it is also becoming more common. This is reflected in one of the big trends of 2020 with a crop top, oversized jeans (or other long pants) and a bucket hat.
If you are looking for a Korean street-style fashion then you can’t go wrong with an outfit like this. Recently the outfit has been popularised even further by some rappers and hip-hop artists that have pushed the style to be more mainstream.
With Korean fashion spreading all over the world, it’s becoming more and more common to look at Korea for future fashion trends. However, I noticed when looking online that many of the trends that are discussed aren’t actually ‘trends’ per se.
We created this post in order to show off some of the Korean fashion trends that you can actually expect to see in everyday life in the capital. Korea is a very trend heavy country, and once an outfit is picked up you can usually find it all over.
This post originally appeared on Seoulinspired