As a country becoming increasingly famous for its entertainment industry, South Korea is quickly becoming Asia’s fashion hub. People from all over the world look to Seoul for style inspiration. However, one thing many people fail to consider is South Korea’s weather extremes. It has a tropical climate in summer, but an icy cold Siberian winter. With extreme seasons, comes extreme seasonal fashion. Here is everything you need to know about Korean fashion throughout the year.
A Quick Comparison
A Malaysian’s Perspective
As a Malaysian, I had a lot of difficulty adjusting to seasonal fashion. In Malaysia, everyone just wears the same clothes throughout the year. Because of our tropical climate, we are used to shorts and flip-flops even during winter. And so, when I came to South Korea, the biggest culture shock I experienced was related to fashion.
Not only does seasonal fashion change drastically, but men are also expected to dress up daily. My expectations were far different from reality. I thought Korean men only wear nice shirts and clothes when there was a special occasion. Yes, in Korean dramas men always dress nice, but men on TV dress nicely in Malaysia too.
But, I noticed that Koreans really put a lot of effort into their outfits no matter where they go. Not only young women but older people and men too. And the weirdest thing that I have noticed is that South Koreans don’t wear flip-flops much, even in summer. No matter where people go, you can see everyone is wearing sneakers, sports shoes, or other kinds of fashion shoes.
Spring Seasonal Fashion
So, what should you wear if you visit South Korea during spring? It is no doubt that spring is one of the best seasons in Korea. It’s not too hot, but it’s also not so cold. After a long harsh Korean winter, things finally begin to look lovely and bright as we roll into March and April.
At the beginning of spring, most people opt for layers. People normally people wear long-sleeve shirts, sweaters, and hoodies as well as long pants throughout the day. The temperature is around 10 to 15 degrees Celcius but it gets a little cool at night. So it’s best if you bring an outer jacket with you. You can carry it around, drape it over your shoulders, or tie it around your waist during the day, then wear it at night.
Summer Seasonal Fashion
Normally beginning in May, the temperature starts getting a bit uncomfortably hot for most people. However, if you came from a hot country like me, this period might suit you. It is when I feel most comfortable. However, when June or July comes, the temperature will reach 30 or even 40 degrees Celcius – even tropical natives find Korean summers extreme. Summer in South Korea is quite hot for me as the air is comparatively dry and if you walk under the sun, you can feel the heat scorching your skin.
I normally walk to my university which is only about 30 minutes from my house. But last year during the peak of summer, I just took a taxi. It’s truly unbearable. Summer is the time when people wear as light of clothes as possible. You do want to keep covered to protect yourself from the heat, but I recommend choosing thin oversized clothing made of natural and breathable fabrics.
This weather is what flip-flops and crocs were made for. Buy some! Also, buy some hats. People wear caps to avoid the scorching sunlight from reaching their scalp. Trust me, a sunburnt scalp is not fun.
Don’t forget your umbrella!
One thing you should never forget to bring with you during Korean summer is an umbrella. During summer, there will be around two to three weeks which is really hot and after that, it will start to rain randomly. It spontaneously rains almost every day during the rainy season but you can still feel the heat. The world becomes one giant hell sauna. If you get wet after forgetting your umbrella, you might just have to wait for autumn to dry off.
Autumn Seasonal Fashion
Next, when the rainy season ends and the temperature starts to drop autumn starts. It is the time when leaves display spectacular shades of red and yellow. During autumn, the temperature will drop to around 20 degrees and then continue to decrease to around 10 degrees.
The cooler temperatures of autumn bring back the need to dress in layers. In the evenings, things get a little chillier. You’ll often need to wear long-sleeve shirts or sweaters as a base and mid-layers to stay comfortable, particularly as the autumn moves closer to winter.
Winter Seasonal Fashion
When winter arrives, everyone knows what to wear – long padding! Winter in South Korea does not have a lot of snow, but it is extremely cold. During my winter last year I experienced the coldest temperature of my life, -29 degrees Celcius (- 20 Fahrenheit). As a Malaysian, I had no idea how my body would cope. But luckily I found that I handled coldness well.
In order to stay comfortable in winter, you’ll need an extremely warm, windproof outer layer. Unlike other countries with harsh winters, it’s not necessary to invest in something waterproof. Winter is the dry season in South Korea. Most Koreans opt for a long padding jacket. It has a windbreaker exterior and is really warm. So, once you get inside a heated area, you can remove your jacket and be comfortable in a simple hoodie or sweater.
For accessories, gloves are really important to avoid cracked knuckles from the cold wind. Especially if you already suffer from dry skin, you should also wear a scarf or mask to protect your lips from cracking and your skin from drying out. Actually, I found a mask extremely useful this past Korean winter. Even after the pandemic, I plan on wearing a mask outdoors during Korean winter.
I hope this article can help everyone prepare for South Korea’s extreme seasonal fashion. While we all feel pressured to stay fashionable, the most important thing we can do is use fashion as a way to protect ourselves and stay healthy in extreme environments. Stay happy and healthy!
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