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.
This article contains affiliate links. For more information, please refer to my affiliate disclaimer.
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-high 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.
1. 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 a 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.
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 compliment both tight and loose tops, provided that the colours match. They also go with 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!
3. 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.
4. 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, longer 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 the 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.
5. 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 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.
6. 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 sleeved 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.
7. 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.
I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention masks as part of Korean fashion in 2020 and going forwards. While masks are worn out of necessity, it hasn’t stopped some brands trying to make this new required piece of clothing fashionable.
While most people can be seen wearing standard surgical masks and KF94 rated masks, there are also some local brands producing fashionable masks. One of these is Idontcare, which makes one of the most comfortable masks that I have ever used.
There are also many other brands out there that are pursuing a spot in the wardrobe of Koreans. Idontcare, Etiqa, Looka, Apury and more are all domestic brands that have become popular recently. While masks are an unfortunately needed accessory, they have definitely become fashionable (in some cases) and these brands are very common within Korea.
Conclusion – Fashion Trends
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 say.
That is to say, many people look towards shows such as the Dongdaemun Fashion Show for future fashion trends. However, the vast majority of outfits at these shows are not actually what you see in day to day life in South Korea. These outfits are usually ahead of their time and won’t be common for a few more years, if ever.
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.
If you want to learn more about Korean fashion please check out BerryLoveFashion. This post couldn’t have been created (and it sure wouldn’t have been accurate) without her!
Korean Fashion 2021 FAQ
What Fashion Trends are Popular in Korea?
There are a lot of fashion trends that are popular in Korea. Some of the biggest are ribbed shirts, pleated skirts, ankle-length pants, and crop tops.
What are the Biggest Fashion Trends of 2020?
The biggest fashion trend of 2020 is without a doubt ribbed clothing. This clothing can be found in many different forms, from dresses to short sleeved shirts. Ankle-length pants have also been very popular.
How Has Korean Fashion Changed Recently?
Korean fashion is becoming less conservative over time. While it is still far more conservative than many other countries, this is slowly changing over time.
Where Can I Discover New Trends?
If you are looking to discover new fashion trends in Korea I recommend checking out fashion websites such as BerryLoveFashion.
Why Is Korean Fashion so Popular?
Korean fashion is popular because it is often simple yet elegant. On top of this, more recently, Korean media has taken the world by storm. This has lead to a massive increase in interest of Korean fashion.