Or your pants, for that matter. Walking about the streets of Seoul, it’s the thought that occupies your mind as you see women stroll by in outfits which seemingly are missing their bottoms. Welcome to “bottomless fashion”, or “bottoms gone missing fashion” (하의실종) a style that has been dominating Korean women for the past couple of years.
Let’s blame it on the return of 80s fashion. The return of leggings, to be exact. But while 80s leggings, with all their wild prints and patterns looked like leggings, the leggings of late, well, most of them just look like stockings. Either monochromatic or pretty sheer, even paired with a long top, it really does look like you’re missing a part of your wardrobe. Unlike the ultra long baggy tops of the 80s, the “long” tops barely covering the derriere don’t help to disillusion this fact, either.
But it’s not only due to the look-like-stockings leggings, though. The miniskirt has made a huge comeback. The miniskirt was introduced to Korea in the 1960s and being a rather conservative society back then, not many women actually wore them until pop singer Yun Bokhee (윤복희) caused a huge scene when she wore one in a highly publicized event in the late 60s. This opened the floodgates for women in the country to start flaunting their legs, so much that in the 70s miniskirts which were shorter than 10cm above the knee were banned, because they were considered “corruptive to public morals”.
One cannot help but ponder how this ban somehow disappeared over the years and evolved into the micro-mini of today, but the skirts these days are so short that sometimes you wonder what the point even is. You need mad skills to pull off wearing a skirt these days. Walking up steps and stairs require a quick maneuvering of covering your behind with your bag (be sure to carry a big bag), and discreetly crossing your legs becomes an acrobatic accomplishment.
Of course, it isn’t only the skirts. Micro-shorts or hot pants are very commonly seen, not only in the hot and humid summers but also in the dead cold of winter. (I swear Korean women are born with a gene that prevents them from feeling cold while wearing miniskirts and shorts in the winter.) Many celebrities have sported the micro-shorts with flair, most notably K-pop girl bands like Girls’ Generation, who emphasize legs in their choreography as much as possible.
So what’s this obsession with legs all about? When the fitness craze came about and having a healthy looking body became a nationwide obsession, for the men the focus was on the biceps and abs, for the women, it was the “S line”, a slim but shapely hourglass figure. It became totally acceptable to show off one’s accomplishments by attaining this ideal silhouette. Since not all are blessed with this silhouette, the focus shifted to other attractive attributes, such as legs.
Legs are easy to flaunt and show off, and unlike cleavage (which is a big no-no in Korea unless you’re a celebrity at an awards show), does not have a strong sexual connotation. It is considered a bit “safe” although the styles that are running rampant these days seem anything but.
However, bottomless fashion has become so mainstream that even non-fashion-conscious people are quite blasé about it. I heard a foreigner mentioning how she has “become Korean” when she saw a top and thought it was a cute dress. And to cite a personal experience of mine: at a formal family dinner in a fancy restaurant, my skirt kept riding up because of static and I found myself tugging it down repetitively. My very proper “good student” sister noticed my annoyance and told me quite matter-of-factly: “Take your skirt off.”
“Take your skirt off.”
“You’re telling me to take my skirt off.”
“Your top is long enough, no one will even notice.”