You know the songs. You know the shows. And now that you’ve seen the highlights of fashion, you’re ready to delve into Korean clothing territory….but how? Not all of us can take a weekend trip to Seoul, fill our suitcases full with gems of outfits, and lug them back home ready to show off for the next week at work or school (or in front of the computer screen — we won’t judge). Most importantly, you’re on a limited budget.
Well, my friend, here’s how to become a K-fashion guru with a $100 budget!
STEP 1: Finding an actual place to buy your clothes…
Your No. 1 stop is an online Asian fashion store. You’ll have access to authentic Korean fashion and brands.
You can usually separate scams from actual online stores by looking for two things: 1. good modeling pictures and 2. lots of good customer reviews. My personal favorite website is YesStyle. They have a plethora of awesome clothing and makeup brands. Keep in mind, though: these websites typically sell from multiple companies, so some brands may be higher quality than others. This can make the difference between an outfit you want to wear every day and a bunch of fabric that’s a sorry excuse for a garment.
Think of it like a mall: if you don’t like one store in a mall, then you shop at a different store. It’s no different online. Decide what brands might work for you by, again, looking at pictures and reviews. The brands I usually buy from are Dabuwawa (which has some very high-class fashion with unusual but gorgeous styles) and Chuu (which caters to the cute, pop style clothes that a lot of teens and young adults wear).
Some of the cute outfits you can buy on YesStyle.com
STEP 2: Tips on the browsing process
When you’re online shopping, don’t waste your time filling your shopping cart with things that look pretty but can be bought in your own country. Odds are, you might be able to find a better deal in an American shopping mall — and you can try it on. So what outfits should you buy?
Korean outfits tend to be shorter and smaller than American clothes, so unless you’re petite, try to avoid dresses and clothing items that really depend on length. Of course, this can be circumvented if you carefully read the measuring description, customer reviews, and are on a budget that allows you to discard outfits that don’t work.
Korean blouses and shirts are good buying choices because 1. they’re not expensive 2. they usually fit 3. you can pair them with clothes you already have. You can also really emphasize the Korean in your fashion look by wearing them with some delicate heels or knee high boots.
Clockwise from bottom left: Dabuwawa, $25.71, MyFiona, $16.28, 59 Seconds, $8.13
If you don’t want just blouses to fill your cart and your closet (and really — who does?), you can branch out into the skirts, crop tops, and clothing sets. Usually the length of the skirts isn’t a problem, but if you’re worried about it, you can check the measurement description and customer reviews of whether it fit to size or not. You can also get around length issues by wearing shorts underneath specifically designed for that purpose (these are easily found online).
On the other hand, crop tops are not nearly as much of a worry. They look cute with jeans; you can also consider wearing them with skirts for a more Korean look. Again, K-fashion tends to lean towards crop tops that fit loosely around your body, so if you’re worried about your bra showing, you can get some pretty cami bralettes online, or in American stores…they’re not too hard to find nowadays.
A third option is clothing sets. Since fashionable outfits can be hard to match with other items of clothing, Korean brands sometimes sell things in sets (usually under $100) that give you an incredibly cute, whole matching outfit.
Chuu: “Strawberry Milk” Applique Cotton Sweatshirt ($37.17) & Tartan-Plaid Mini Skirt W/ Keyring ($39.54)
STEP 3: If you wanna splurge…
Again, if you want to lean into the high end of fashion with brands like Dabuwawa (totally understand you there), then you might want to consider spending your entire budget on a truly spectacular item of clothing to couple with your clothing at home: a white, tulle jacket (that I once cried over), or that black skirt with the floral lace overlay that you see on K-drama chaebol women.
Dabuwawa: Tulle Layered Lace Light Jacket (no longer available) & Off-Shoulder Lace-Panel Jumpsuit ($70.87)
STEP 4: Scavenger shopping in America!
As mentioned earlier, you can find some of these clothes in America: clothes with patchwork on them, sarcastic sayings (huge in Korea, but still popular here), etc. Some of the Korean trends are slowly becoming available in America both because the Hallyu Wave has influence in the U.S. and because Korea is often first in global fashion trends (and America is a little slower) — for example, shirts with holes in the sleeves to accentuate the shoulders can now be found in America.
Lower-end stores have also started importing some Asian brands, so if you ever find yourself around a store like a Ross or a T.J. Maxx, then believe it or not, you can sometimes find unusual Asian styles that can’t be found elsewhere. While you’re there, feel free to grab Tony Moly face masks (which I can always find somewhere in an dusty makeup aisle).
H&M is importing more and more skirts this season that match the cute Korean look, like this “Skirt With Lacing” for $24.99
Sometimes, it’s as simple as just keeping an eye out for an outfit that screams “Korean fashion” to you. You’ve been watching the K-dramas, so it’s very likely that you already know what to look for. You might see a SHINee sweater or a fashionable parka that looks like G-Dragon’s style. Part of fashion is scavenger hunting, anyway: if you’re feeling insecure about developing your fashion style, take a friend with you and go window shopping for fun! It can be fun to visit your favorite small shops and hang out in the dressing room for an hour and trying on whacky outfits; every once in a while, a combo works out.
STEP 5: Accessories
The best secret to dressing in Korean fashion is the accessories. Often overlooked, they can really snazz up an outfit — best part is, they’re extremely cheap. A cute headband with crystal cat ears or a velvet black choker (which VIXX really rocks at) can be found at stores like Rue 21 for about $7.00; and because these items aren’t as popular or necessary in the American look, they can typically be found in abundance. If you’re too lazy to go to the shopping mall, you can also probably find some of these things on an Asian shopping website.
STEP 6: The extra stuff
One way to get more of the Korean fashion look is simply by adjusting the way you wear clothes. For example, if you have a loose, flowy shirt (it can be feminine and classy, or a hip hop style t-shirt that’s longer than normal), then tuck it in the front and leave it loose around the back. It doesn’t cost you anything!
Lastly, don’t be afraid to mix things up! Feel free to combine Korean and American fashion (for example, a 1989 T.S. shirt tucked into a cute, short skirt).
Now that you’ve got the skills to dress like your favorite K-drama star; remember, don’t be shy in experimenting or showing off your new outfits, and have fun rocking out to your day with your awesome looks!
Hey Soompiers, what’s your advice? What are your favorite places to shop for Korean stuff? Let us know in the comments below!
Ariana K. Welsh is a college student who spends most of her time obsessing over K-dramas with her sister, dancing to loud music, and writing into the wee hours of the night. Her current fave things in life are: snow, Waldeinsamkeit by R.W. Emerson, and Butterbeer. Follow her on Instagram for all these things and more!