Riding in trains with Korean girls is a challenge.
First, you are confronted by their long, thin, spotless legs, which miraculously do not wobble when the train reels before the next stop. You look down at your own legs, which seemed perfectly fine back in Manila. In Seoul, they look like Christmas hams.
Next, you soak in their separates—cool and trendy if they get on at the university districts; chic and structured if they alight at the business centers. The coats are always immaculate and the shoes look like they cost a fortune. Suddenly the outfit you’ve carefully selected for this cold spring day seems bulky and off-season.
Later on, you decide you can no longer be the nonchalant-tourist-trying-not-to-look-like-a-tourist, and you succumb to a precious seat on the packed metro (even though all the cool people are standing up). That’s when you notice the manicures. The lady sitting next to you with her hands folded over her quilted Chanel has the most perfect French tips. And so does the colegiala who takes her place at the next stop. You flashback to this morning, when the bright concierge at your hotel handed you a city map—her nails were expertly shaped, shining with nude lacquer. Another flawless mani.
You sneak a peak at the colegiala. To your surprise, she does not possess the mythical, poreless complexion you’ve seen on so many Koreanovelas. It’s...mortal. Inwardly, you breathe a sigh of relief, feeling a smidge less self-conscious about the zit on your cheekbone. (But not really.)
Nevertheless, you observe the way she’s done her makeup, and it’s like a Pond’s commercial. Her foundation is discreet and a precise match to her skin tone. She wears the lightest dusting of lilac blush, and there is a delicate swipe of liquid liner on each eyelid. She looks super fresh. “Skin—it is what it is,” you imagine her saying with a wave of the hand. “Now check out my Marc by Marc Jacobs dress.”
See enough of these lithe, luxe girls while you tumble around a speeding train in your too-thick sweater, and you’re bound to feel a bit frumpy. From what I’ve seen, Korean women—the ones who care about clothes, at least—have got dressing like a lady down to an art. And I admire them for it, even though my personal style has always been more spice than sugar. There’s just something about truly feminine fashion that resonates with any woman—whether she prefers leather or lace—because it is in our nature to love pretty things.
At least that’s how I see it.
Looking to dress like a Korean fashionista? Here are my CliffsNotes, gleaned from hours of ogling them on the subway. Unfortunately, I couldn’t muster up the nerve to take stalkerazzi shots of my favorite looks—so I hope these visual aids will do!
(Flashbox photo: Poster for Little Black Dress courtesy of CJ Entertainment)