When it comes to Korean fashion, I’m a misfit.
My body is too curvy. My boobs are too big, my butt is too big, my waist is too small, my arms and legs are too long and my feet are GIGANTIC. I’ll walk into a clothes shop just to have a helpful ajumma tell me the clothes won’t fit, usually while pointing at my chest.
My response is to find a skirt, shirt or sweater, try it on in front of them. (Dressing rooms are hard to find and as one shop in Downtown Chungju proves–completely pointless.) Yes, the clothes fit me differently than a typical Korean woman, but they fit me.
I’ve managed to obtain several skirts, stockings, shirts and sweaters at this point. Usually I dress by layers. First come the underwear because that’s just how I was raised. Next come the stockings and a tank top. The stockings are thick warm tights that do wonders for keeping me warm. And the tank top is usually gray, black or white seeing as Koreans seem to view this particular garment as underwear more than outer wear.
Next comes a skirt or dress pants. Lately I’ve been loving plaid skirts, but I do try to switch it up with the occasional pinstripe. Then a long sleeve shirt. I have a few white and black ones that have been fantastic so far this fall. Then I add a sweater to complete the warm layers. My sweaters probably give the most color to my look for the day.
At last it’s time to accessorize with boots and a scarf. I may even add a ring or necklace just to be fancy. Then, of course, to finish it all off comes the coat. Recently a hat and gloves have joined my layers to stay warm.
Walking out the door I look like a neutral ball of fabric draped as I am in layers of clothes. My goal is to look like my closest just threw up on me. I want to look like a local.
This means blending my American style with Korean street wear. I promise I don’t dress quite like what’s pictured. I wear a lot of plain neutrals and try to avoid anything too ridiculous.
I think I finally got it right when a new teacher at my hagwon saw me from the back she greeted me in Korean. When I turned around and said, “Hello,” she gasped in surprise and asked if I was from the US. Four months and too much money in, I look enough like a Korean when completely wrapped in layers of gray, white and black that for a split second someone thought I might just be a native.
Clothes are just material after all.