I am by no means a fashion blogger, nor do I intend to be; however, I do appreciate fashion, I follow style in the West (not that I always adhere to trends) and more importantly, I am obsessed with my lil style icons that I work with everyday. The hagwon (academy) that I teach at is located in the Apgujong/ Gangnam area- one of the wealthiest and trendiest area of this 25 million-personed city. As you can imagine, many of the house mommies, or those fierce bitches who beat the odds and work to rake in the cash, love to accessorize their mini-mes. When some of the students shared with their mothers that they had a teacher writing a fashion blog (this is not true), some of my students began showing up in Juicy Couture on the regular- I kid you not! The most popular brands are Abercrombie, Hollister, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Juicy and many on-the-rise Korean clothing brands that I have not acquainted myself with. Many of the famous American brands are super popular and ridiculously expensive here- thus, they bring in major status when it comes to appearances. Have I told you before that Korea is all about appearances, not reality? Yes. Yes I have. The figurative and literal implications of this particular mindset have no place in this blog.
In this blog, I intend to depict a few winter trends at Espirit Academy. I wish I had more pictures, but it is actually challenging to work in the time and trust with the kiddos to take photos in class or around the academy! You may be wondering why I have not done an edition on adult fashion? The main reasons are awkwardness and lack of opportunity. All camera phones in Korea make a sound when one takes a picture. There is no way to turn this feature off and it is actually a law because of the creepers who used to take pictures up women’s skirts (this may be a myth, but this is what I have heard). Therefore, taking a picture of an adult requires their awareness, and because I believe in the need to ask for permission, the ugly little head of language barrier rears its head again. Up until this point in time, I have avoided the heinous awkwardness of these potential interactions, but I may whip up the energy before I leave. We shall see…
Your second inkling may be related to taking pictures of students and their personal autonomy? First, there are no violations of code or order when taking a child’s picture at school or an academy and no permission is needed from the parents; however, coming from the West, I do respect the student’s choice… sort of. I had a conundrum considering this publication because even if I asked my students if I could take their picture, the majority of them would be suspended in the disillusioned median between the awesomeness of a teacher/adult letting them choose, and the knowledge that hierarchy always reigns here and they must select the option the elder person (me) wants. To avoid this complicated web of decision making where a student ungainly stares into the abyss of consideration, I just told the kids that I was taking their picture for a fashion blog and that they would be able to view the photos when I was finished. I also allowed each student to choose to cover her face if she wanted.
It’s All About the Fur
Uber Girly Chic
I am often reminded of a 1950s housewife when I see my super girly girls in class. Everything in Korea is uber cutesie and this same level of ‘little girl’ adorableness translates to adults too- think rhinestone heals, Dorothy’s ruby red slippers, bows in hair, lace, pink, etc.
Plaid is Bad, but in an ‘Oh so Good’ Way
Against all odds, the heinous monstrosity of crocs has crossed the big pond and suctioned themselves onto the lower paws of my minions.
Early 2000s Velour Jumpsuits Still Reign
But dear god, why? And in combination with crocs… an abomination! Many of the school uniforms are neon yellow sweat jumpsuits like these. I think the children are just conditioned to wear it during the day and simply slide into another shade for afternoon activities. Tragic.
Only two of the featured in this sporty section are girls. Frankly, there aren’t that many boys either, but the major difference is that boys/men in Korea have the option of choosing a look and being accepted with whatever their choice may be: sporty, hipster, gangster, traditional, preppy, tailored, etc. Girls/women have one option if they want to be accepted as normal (which everyone does in this collectivist culture): young girly chic, from 4- 44 years old. This is such an apt analogy for women’s progression throughout Korean society too- stalled at one expectation, one acceptable path, one ‘pleasing,’ immature, controllable look for life.
The Wannabe Kanye
Get Your Kicks
Even though these (above) are technically not heels (they are petite wedges), the girls are being groomed into wearing height from a young age. Koreans in general, even men, are obsessed with appearing taller. Men wear ‘confidence’ inserts in their shoes and have thicker soles to appear heightened. Women are expected to wear heels to appeal to men they are dating, to look fashion forward, and be appropriate at a corporate office (bosses will instruct their female employees to only wear heels). Even flats and tennis shoes in Korea have 2-3 inch platforms- far more than what is featured above.
The ubiquitous Nike slip-on laceless tennis shoes. I only photographed 4 students wearing these, but I am sure there are at least 30 at Espirit. Props to Brandon for noticing the trend, far before I did.
Eye Hardware & Accessories
The Coupled Look
In Korea, being coupled is integrally woven into the fabric of modern day society. One can see this in coupled dinner options/restaurants, discounted on tickets for couples or groups, and in matching wardrobes. I did not know about this trend before coming to Korea and 11 months ago I was pretty darn excited to try out a look that Chris and I could both wear. This was a feat when you consider our size differences and the fact that even in the USA it is hard to fit our body types. The first day in May 2013 that I wore my set of the matching pair of custom tennis shoes, I knew matching wasn’t for me and that tennis shoes are wholly abnormal to wear for casual use. So for the proceeding 10 months our matching wares went dormant; however we reincarnated the look for Chris’s going away party!
Matching frames, t-shirts, solids, and sneakers