How Has Korea Changed Me? Part 2: Modesty in Korean Fashion

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As promised, this post will talk about modesty in Korean fashion, and how that has changed the way that I personally dress. In other words, this post is about my scarf addiction how I didn’t choose the cardigan lifestyle, it chose me.




I DON’T HAVE A PROBLEM YOU HAVE A PROBLEM


As promised, this post will talk about modesty in Korean fashion, and how that has changed the way that I personally dress. In other words, this post is about my scarf addiction how I didn’t choose the cardigan lifestyle, it chose me.




I DON’T HAVE A PROBLEM YOU HAVE A PROBLEM

Now, I am not afraid to admit that I am a pretty curvy person. My chest has knocked over water glasses (SCOUT I’M SORRY) and my butt doesn’t like to fit into jeans even on a good day, at least not if I want those jeans to also fit my waist. It’s an eternal struggle. Thanks to what’s going on in my top half, even shirts that would be perfectly modest on someone with a smaller chest become low-cut once I put them on.



Exhibits C and A

All this to say, my tendency to have a reasonable, perfectly professional amount of cleavage showing came to a stop almost immediately once I started working in Korea. Now, part of this just comes from teaching students in the puberty age range, as I don’t want any embarassing moments when I lean down to help spell the word “chicken”. A bigger part is just that, at least among the people I see on a regular basis, any chest exposure is just not done. Hell, even a bare shoulder is rare enough that I’m starting to feel like a Victorian lady, shocked by the slightest suggestion of bared skin. I saw a collarbone the other day and almost fainted.

To borrow from Simon and Martina,

“There aren’t a lot of low cut tops and not a lot of cleavage being shown. Bare shoulders aren’t seen often (but it’s getting more popular, noticeably in the three years that we’ve been here) and there aren’t a lot of low-cut backs either. The policy almost seems to be “cover the tops, bottoms be damned!”

“Cover the tops, bottoms be damned!” I couldn’t have said it better myself. In a conversation with my mom recently, I mentioned this phenomenon, and she quite wisely noted that it’s basically the opposite of the US. While a woman can get away with a reasonable about of chest or shoulders showing, god forbid she wear a short skirt to the office. However, at least in my school, some of the younger teachers wear skirts so short even I’m shocked. But the moment I show up in short sleeves, I’m the talk of the office. It’s not just the teachers, either. Plenty of my students have shortened their uniform skirts so much I’m amazed they can sit down without having a…situation, but I’ve never seen them in shirts that show so much as a collarbone. For me, it’s surreal.

This brings me to my cardigan and scarf addiction. While I’ve been able to find some shirts and dresses that I feel adequately cover the top, as evidenced by the above picture, sometimes no matter what you do, life will find a way. The solution? Cardigans and scarves.



Got a dangerous v-neck? Why not add a scarf?

Don’t get me wrong, I wore plenty of scarves and light sweaters before I came to Korea, but I felt that it was more of a choice, not something that I absolutely had to do. Now, even if the weather is hot and sticky, I’ll make sure my shoulders and chest are covered, even if it means sacrificing some coolness. It’s gotten to the point that I actually feel weird and almost…naked if I go out without the usual amount of coverage, even on the weekends.

It doesn’t help that I stick out like a zebra at a horse party no matter what I do. Maybe some people are comfortable being the odd one out, but as I’ve said before, I’m a chameleon- I want to fit in as best I can, and if that means living the shrug life, then so be it. At least scarves and shrugs come in so many great colors and patterns! Plus they’re a great and inexpensive impuse purchase to satisfy the shopping urge.




A combo best saved for winter- long-sleeved sweater and warm scarf.

So yeah. Short skirts? A-okay. Short sleeves? Better watch out. Halter top? Are you even kidding me right now?

Stay tuned for How Korea Has Changed Me? Part 3: Slow Motion Teacher Talk




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