Propelled by the Hallyu wave – the globalization of all things Korean, including k-pop, k-dramas, and their characteristic style layouts – South Korean fashion is gaining momentum on the global stage and doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time sooner.
It’s tricky to sum up Korean fashion in a single aesthetic as the beauty of it lies exactly in individuality and the ability to express oneself through style. Nevertheless, there always seem to be emerging trends that Korean natives make sure to adhere to.
Here are the 10 Korean fashion trends that you should consider incorporating into your closet this winter:
1. Oversized Fashion
The oversized trend isn’t exactly a novelty but no one does it better than Koreans. Oversized fashion has evolved almost into art as South Koreans have found a way to construct large (sometimes, statement) pieces whilst maintaining the right proportions.
An oversized coat is a great winter sample for both men and women and lately, we’ve been noticing the unisex trend not only in design but also in colors. Oversized coats are functional, too! You can layer plenty of items underneath without having it feel stuffy, or even just wear it on its own and still keep warm.
If where you live winter isn’t as chilly, you can skip the coat and get yourself a nice oversized top instead. Hoodies, sweaters, or pullovers can also be eye-catching, without compromising comfort or function. Style them with your favorite pair of jeans or a nice skirt for a more feminine look.
A trend that doesn’t seem to go away despite the changing seasons is the blazer, and an oversize fit can totally make a look. The best thing about it is that there are so many options to choose from: padded shoulders, loose silhouettes, double-breasted fronts, … the list goes on. And if you’d still rather give it a little bit of shape, sinch it at the waist with a belt.
2. Dark Academia
Another trend that has been really taking off in Korea (for both men and women) is Dark Academia, especially after the leaves changed color.
There have always been preppy elements in Korean fashion, like button-downs and argyle sweaters, but the Dark Academia aesthetic is composed of warmer tones, reminiscent of the autumnal season.
When it comes to tops, Koreans seem to prefer cuffed sleeved blouses and shirts in lighter tones, like beige and cream. Bell sleeves, woolen vests, and fitted turtlenecks seem to be staples for the season and can often be seen worn by college students in the metropolitan areas of Seoul and Daegu.
Midi skirts are perhaps a more comfortable (and economic) alternative to the perfectly tailored paperboy pant. Skirts are also better if you live in a warmer country, as they allow for better ventilation. But if you’d still prefer to sport pants, go for wool-blend or corduroy materials, hemmed at ankle height or slightly cuffed.
Finally, although tweed gets a bad rep for its roughness, it’s actually quite a flexible material and the cherry on top in a dark academia look.
We’ve been seeing our favorite k-pop idols, like Blackpink’s Jennie or Twice’s Nayeon, wearing adorable tweed sets and jackets. But you don’t have to splurge for Chanel and can get your own adorable tweed set right here on Fashion Chingu!
3. Denim Jeans, Jackets and Shirts
Denim is undoubtedly a timeless fashion trend. Shirts, jackets, pants, skirts, dresses, accessories – denim comes in all shapes, lengths, and even colors, though Koreans seem to prefer the classic blue tones.
As trends from the latter decades of the twentieth century continue to make a comeback, the iconic ‘70s bell bottoms, ’80s double denim fits, and ‘90s long skirts are big favorites for the colder months.
Relaxed, boyfriend-style, girlfriend-style, mom-style baggy jeans have become something of a must-have in South Korea, as these are very versatile and easy to style. Pretty much any top will go well with them. Pair them with sneakers for a casual look, boots for a more rugged feel, and some nice heels to upgrade your outfit.
4. Leather & Animal Print
A good leather jacket has always had a place in the closets of fashionable individuals. But the leather trend, much like denim, has surpassed the boundaries of a single staple piece. It’s not uncommon to find leather pants or leggings, shirts, and coats in your usual shopping spots.
For example, leather coats are becoming quite well-liked amongst Korean fashionistas. The beloved 80’s trend popularized by the Matrix is coming back with a bang. Their versatility of style allows you to easily transition a day look into something more formal or night-friendly.
Leather shirts and tops have also gained popularity, layered onto outfits for a more edgy vibe. They’ve been popping off on runways all over the world for a couple of years now. But it seems that 2020/2021 is the year in which they transition to everyday looks.
What was once labeled as a tacky trend is now very hot in Korean fashion. Animal prints are now seen in all patterns and colors, with the cheetah print unarguably being the favorite. These can go equally well with an all-black outfit or any colored palettes. Animal patterned fur pieces have also sneaked their way onto the mainstream market. Not only coats but also hats and bags are being made, combining these two elements.
Equally as trendy is sustainability so if you’re trying to purchase a more durable piece, try browsing your local vintage shop. And if you’re an animal lover, there still are plenty of options for vegan leather or faux fur/leather items out there.
5. Monotone Looks
The minimalist look has made a comeback around the world but in South Korean fashion nothing is truly minimal. A minimalist’s go-to is probably a monotone or monochrome look, which is when all pieces are the same/similarly colored. It’s easy to do, makes you look well put together and maybe even taller!
Something you should keep in mind when coming up with a monotone look is that the pieces don’t all have to be the same color. Not only is it hard to find clothes of the exact same shade, but it’s also the subtle differences in coloring that make a monotone look pop. Another thing to keep in mind is that materials don’t need to match either. And if you want to spice up the final look, just add a pop of color. It can be the shoes or a bag, a nice hair accessory, even something as easy as a red lip or fun nails.
K-pop idols mostly seem to prefer keeping it all black or all white off the stage, but even then they’ll add a statement piece to make it look less boring. Sets are also an easy way to achieve the look at it doesn’t require much planning. Try tweed or knitted fabrics for an outfit that will keep you warm in the winter.
A big trend for Korean winter fashion this year is athleisure. We’ve been seeing it a lot over the last years, but it has now taken a turn when big brands and mainstream labels gained noticeable interest.
Just like the name itself hints, athleisure is the wear of activewear outside of athletic activities. In South Korea, this accessible and affordable form of fashion allowed many people to experiment with their personal look. Just like oversized clothing, athleisure allows for simultaneous comfort and style, which is why the trend doesn’t seem to be dying down anytime soon.
Along with athleisure, logomania is also still very popular. Established sports brands and designer houses alike have been marketing their brand in the clothes themselves and people really like it. Korean actors and idols have been scoring advertising deals with these brands, which in turn made their fans cling to the athleisure craze. So, if you want to give it a try, remember to go full in with a single brand logo whilst remembering to keep the look within the same color palette.
7. Mini, Midi & Floral Dresses
I know dresses aren’t exactly what comes to mind when you think of winter weather. However, they’re the perfect transition piece and will save you a few bucks by using something you already have. Dresses are also easy to layer and can even be used as a skirt under a nice comfy sweater. For this season, the Korean fashion favorites seem to be mini, midi, and floral dresses.
Mini dresses are a big nod to the ever-popular schoolgirl look. As Korean students still have to wear uniforms in the colder seasons, they’ve learned to bundle up by donning warm stockings and leggings.
Midi dresses, although providing larger coverage and usually coming with long sleeves, can also be easily layered for warmth. Korean it-girls have been styling this dress in a variety of ways, especially by pairing it with heeled long boots and fitted blazers. Button-up midi dresses work best and are usually warm enough to be worn by themselves. However, if you feel like it still might not be enough, there should be enough room to layer it over a blouse or add a soft snug cardigan.
Whoever said florals should only be worn in springtime was most certainly not a Korean. Defying style stereotypes and bringing seasonal nostalgia is one of the many ways Korean fashion rebels against conventions. There are floral prints in all shapes and sizes, and if you’d still like to appropriate it to the season, do so by wearing warmer florals. It’s a refreshing take on winter fashion and one that you should absolutely try.
8. Mix & Match
Still on the topic of rebelling against conventions… As South Korean fashion is nothing but defying, the essence of this nature is perfectly exemplified by the mix and match trend. And if you know anything about K-idols/K-fashionistas, you’ll agree that no one does it better than our beloved Hyuna.
Hyuna’s outfits are always noticeably influenced by retro fashion, yet they never look outdated. The trick lies in not going for the obvious combos. A comfy jersey with patent leather shorts; a playful pink sweater dress with black combat boots and a rainbow bag. Wearing a ballerina tulle skirt? Throw in a pair of cowboy boots and make a look out of it!
If you want to push yourself out of the comfort zone without making it too extreme, I advise you to start with mixing loose and snug pieces, neutrals, and brighter colors. It’s also quite fun to mix textures but beware of patterns (there is still such a thing as “too much”).
Layer strategically but, most importantly, dress the way that makes you feel best.</span
9. Hats, Mini Bags & Chain Link Jewelry
Koreans love to accessorize and they’re not afraid to pile it on. The must-have pieces for the season seem to be hats, mini bags, and chain-link jewelry. Although it’s true that we’ve been seeing these throughout the year, maybe even since last year… But there’s always a little seasonal flavor that can be added to your outfit.
Let’s start with hats. Something that really helps bring a look together in Korean fashion is a good hat or hair accessory. We see it all the time in k-dramas, music videos, comeback performances, and variety shows. Beanies, berets, buckets hats, and baseball caps are all a great addition to a well put together outfit. What we’ve been noticing for this season is a bias towards furry bucket hats. And though not exactly hats, with the revival of the 2000s, hair accessories like headbands, claws, and hairpins are also back in fashion. Go for interesting materials like corduroy, silk, velvet, or pearls.
Now when it comes to mini bags, we’ve seen great designers come up with pieces that although not lacking individuality, all obviously pertain to the same trend. Baguette bags, cross shoulder minis, buckled satchels, ruched, and grab bags. Despite not being the most functional, there’s usually enough space for your phone, wallet, and keys. If a tiny bag isn’t really for you, go for a tote instead. Shoulder bags are really in right now, and not just the little ones.
Chain Link Jewelry
Now you may or may not have noticed that the chain-link jewelry trend has been growing exponentially lately. While scrolling through social media, you’ll often find posts of layered gold necklaces, matching hoop earrings, and coin motif jewelry. These pieces are usually paired with chunkier necklaces and bracelets, which go extremely well over a fitted turtleneck or a graphic sweater. What’s best is that they add that bold element to an otherwise feminine look or vice-versa.
Find what best suits your style and don’t be afraid to accessorize this winter season.
10. Long Boots
Need a new pair of boots for the winter? Go with slouchy leather or suede, cowboy or combat boots. What really matters is that ankle-length boots are outdated and long boots are back in! Or maybe they never really went out of style, but now the combos have become bolder, more unpredictable. So instead of wearing them over skinny jeans, try pairing them with a nice midi skirt or dress, like Mamamoo’s Wheein.
We’ve been seeing the knee-length lace-up boots in so many k-pop music videos over the last few years. But if you pay close attention to recent releases like Twice’s “I CAN’T STOP ME” or Blackpink’s “Lovesick Girls”, you’ll notice that cowboy and block-heeled tall boots have also become quite popular. And as life often imitates art, the trend has now transpired over to real life and is slowly but surely taking over the globe.
These next few items didn’t get their own category as they’re not a novelty or unique to Korean fashion. But they still deserve a shoutout as they’re definitely heavily worn in South Korea. Also, they might come back just in time for Winter 2021.
Fleece Jackets & Sweaters
Also known as teddy coat, fleece jackets first rose to popularity in fall/winter 2018. The warm, snuggly material feels just like a much-needed hug. Which might be why Koreans like it so much… It’s gone beyond the camel tones that we’re used to seeing in the shops. Fleece pieces are now made in nearly every color and style. Get yourself a fleece denim jacket, cozy sweater, or coat if you’re now a fan of the teddy trend.
There’s no rule that states winter outfits are meant to be dull or subdued. Colors aren’t only meant for the warmer seasons. Just like florals, bright fun colors are very appreciated by Korean women, and neon isn’t an exception. Pink seems to be a favorite. Still, we see some highlighter yellows and electric blues make an appearance every once in a while. Add a pop of neon to an all-black look or an otherwise boring outfit you want to improve.
If there is an item that surely every Korean has in their closet, that item is the padded jacket. Puffy or down coats are considered a winter essential. This famous parka is heavily insulated and just perfect for the colder seasons. Warm and rain resistant, there are many brands and different versions to choose from. Besides, they come in every color, although the long black puffy seems to be the favorite.
This past year, puffed sleeved shirts and dresses have become really popular in Korea. These are more commonly found on the equally popular ribbed pieces. They add sophistication to simpler outfits and make an item look more unique whilst still comfortable and not too formal. For the winter season, you can wear the trend by layering a puffed sleeved blouse under a warm woolen vest.
Checks & Plaid
One trend that has stuck around for decades and doesn’t seem to be going out of fashion soon is plaid. Checks, flannels, tartan, whatever you choose to call it, was first made popular in the 1960s. But if you wanna get technical, the pattern is over 2000 years old, originating in (as you may know) Scotland. It reached its peak during the grungy ’90s and has since stuck around mainly in the form of schoolgirl uniforms. It’s a versatile pattern, ranging from girly tennis skirts to punk-inspired dresses and pants. It can also look quite professional, depending on the color and how it’s paired. You’ve surely seen all your favorite k-drama character rock checks, even if only the stereotypical pajama pants. More than only Korean fashion, plaid is a global trend that has stood the test of time and is still loved in 2021.
What makes Korean fashion so great is the ability to be fast-forward enough to be interesting without compromising wearability. Clothes play a major role in South Korean society. The rapid industrialization following the war allowed for better lifestyles and economical growth. Furthermore, the way you dress usually says a lot about who you, or at least how people will perceive you. Dressing up is no longer a thing of job interviews or special occasions. Societal pressures definitely help justify how a whole nation tends to clean up well.
As K-pop and K-dramas continue to gain popularity overseas, what’s trendy in Korea becomes trendy beyond its borders. Every year, many new designers and brands keep debuting with their own twist on modern fashion. The celebrity culture allied with an internet generation definitely allows for the spread and growth in the industry. Devoting fans take inspiration from even the oddest of pieces their idols wear on and off stage. Besides, as Korean singers, actors, and models turn ambassadors for Western brands, trends become more easily interchangeable.
Comfortable while chic and well put together – that’s pretty much all you need to remember. But most importantly, always dress the way that makes you feel the most confident and happy. Whether you’re more into preppy, minimalistic, sporty, or edgy fashion, I sure hope you find something that speaks to you.
Now you know how Koreans will be dressing this season. Have fun trying these new trends and shopping for your winter closet!