What to wear to South Korea, and also what to bring?
October 3, 2018 8:05 PM   Subscribe

Going on a trip to S Korea for a week this month. I want to know what I should wear to fit in more. Is t-shirt/jeans too casual or tourist-y for an everyday look? I (half-korean female) already know I'm not going to shop there because I'm waaaaay too big and tall for their clothes. Also, is there anything really important I should bring with me as I am out and about?
posted by picklenickle to Travel & Transportation around South Korea (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Bring or get a coin purse cause you get a lot of coins.
posted by starlybri at 8:16 PM on October 3, 2018

What city? And for business or pleasure?

If you're going to Seoul, it's bit more fashion-forward than other cities, and you'll see younger people wearing trendier clothes. There are Korean fashion blogs you can find online as good examples. This for example, points out that you'll see lots of short skirts/shorts but cleavage is less common.

There are some restaurants and areas that would be more formal, so dressing more modestly or formally is a sign of respect.

Sounds like you're a woman and going as a tourist but if you are going for business, assume it's a more traditional business culture, best not to show bare shoulders/arms, and keep clothing on the formal side.
posted by hampanda at 9:45 PM on October 3, 2018

Response by poster: Not a business trip. I am going as a tourist with my family, but I'm not actually planning on going to tourist traps, it's more of a personal trip, so I didn't want to look tourist-y. I think mostly we'll be in Seoul and Jejudo.

This for example, points out that you'll see lots of short skirts/shorts but cleavage is less common.

oh nooo, that's like the opposite of how I normally dress, lol. Well, as long as jeans are ok then I'll be fine. I know in some countries jeans are not really a thing, so wasn't sure if wearing them would be weird.
posted by picklenickle at 11:18 PM on October 3, 2018

What you described is fine as long as you're not going anywhere fancy. I wouldn't say women dress particularly different in Korea than any other place. Perhaps slightly more formally in some settings, but that is by no means the rule and you certainly won't look out of place. I normally wear some variation on jeans and an upper body covering and I have never felt particularly over or under dressed. The weather is starting to get cool especially in the evenings so if you may want to plan for that.
posted by FakePalindrome at 12:32 AM on October 4, 2018

I lived there for three years (I am anglo) and here is something that you might already know/consider but that it took me a good year to figure out — bring shoes that are easy to get on and off. I used to wear converse a lot, which are easy to just slip off, but getting back on requires sitting down, tying them, etc. Considering you'll be expected to take your shoes off at many restaurants, homes and hotels, it gets annoying real fast.
posted by Brittanie at 8:19 AM on October 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

Jeans are fine. I remain mildly confused why booty shorts and microminis are fine (cafes with outdoor seating will provide lap blankets so women can avoid flashing people when they are sitting) and cleavage is still not fine. Spaghetti strap tanks were also not fine. Too much like underwear according to relatives.

Slip-on-off shoes are a good tip. Or you can do what one of my aunts do and just smash the back of the shoe down and make all shoes into clogs.
posted by spamandkimchi at 8:37 AM on October 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

Be aware that from your description of your height etc. you are unlikely to pass for a local even if your features are very Korean, so don't set your goals too high. Korea is pretty homogeneous and your goal should be to feel comfortable rather than invisible.

I have no idea how you normally dress, but a good guess for a westerner is that you'll probably fit in better if you pack clothes from the smarter and more girly side of your wardrobe. My first-hand Korean fashion knowledge is out of date, but I'd say that while T-shirts and jeans are worn, the jeans tend to be ultra skinny and the T-shirts likewise tailored. I suspect you will stand out if you're wearing jeans cut for comfort.

And, yes, legs can (but are not obliged to) be displayed basically as high as they go, but you'll stand out with anything other than a conservative neckline. Who would have thought that clothing standards were arbitrary?!

The other clothing choice to consider is that overuse of aircon can make being inside a lot cooler than you'd expect. Consider bringing something that can keep you warm that can be worn indoors.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 2:44 AM on October 5, 2018

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