When you visit South Korea, avoid wearing tops with cleavage, which is taboo in many places.

Koreans adopt fashion as a way of life and dress up for every occasion, be it work, dinner, a day off, or everyday outings. No matter where they are heading, Koreans have a great fashion sense and always dress well.

In South Korea, women must dress more modestly and conservatively. In Korean fashion, certain clothing styles are considered inappropriate, disrespectful, and unusual. Therefore, it’s crucial to be aware of these cultural sensitivities when choosing what to wear in South Korea.

If you’re visiting the country for the first time, here are some fashion nos and helpful alternatives.


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Shoulder-baring tops

avoid Shoulder-baring tops Korea

Don’t wear tops that reveal shoulders though they are accepted in modern Korean fashion. However, it is good to ensure you don’t expose your upper body no matter what since it is still generally considered taboo. If you opt for a one-shoulder top, bringing a coat or button-up shirt to cover up if needed is a good idea.

Here is a selection of cute, affordable, sustainable coats and button-up shirts.


Cleavage tops

avoid cleavage tops korea

When visiting South Korea, make sure you don’t wear blouses or tops that show cleavage. When women wear tops that reveal cleavage, they should be more cautious when bowing, bending, or sitting.

But it’s uncommon to find Korean clothing styles that show cleavage since women tend to be conservative in exposing the skin on their upper body.


Legs not covered

 cover legs in south korea

It may appear to be an odd contradiction, but ladies in Korean fashion can display their legs as they like. But they must have a scarf or shawl ready to cover their knees when sitting.

This is because short dresses and shorts ride up more when sitting than standing. While women can show their legs, modesty and conservatism must be maintained.


Backless clothes

avoid backless clothes in Korea

As cleavage is generally not accepted in Korean fashion, backless clothing is also considered taboo. It’s rare to find Korean women’s clothing that exposes the backside, as it is deemed as revealing cleavage. Korean women tend to be conservative when exposing their upper body, including the back.

Instead, go for a blouse like these with broad shoulders covering your body from the neck to the shoulders. They are multifunctional, and you can style them according to different occasions. You can pair them with a saree, pencil skirts, or dress pants.


Bikini swimwear

avoid bikini in korea

While bikinis are a common swimwear choice in Western cultures, Korean culture has a different approach. Women in Korea generally do not wear bikinis as they expose too much upper body skin, which goes against their conservative clothing culture. Instead, Korean women tend to wear one-piece swimsuits or shorts as swimwear.


Leggings as bottoms

Leggings under dress korea wear

Western culture allows women to wear legging as pants, but this is not accepted in Korean fashion. Women in Korea typically wear leggings beneath shorts, skirts, or even pants. Even when wearing leggings without bottoms, they pair them with shirt dresses or long tops that provide more coverage.

Check out our selection of the best affordable and organic bamboo leggings that are sustainably and ethically made.


No bright colors for casual menswear

men no bright colors korea 

In Korean men’s fashion, bright colors are not exclusively reserved for casual wear. Instead, men should wear earth tones and neutral colors for casual outings as they give a stylish and composed look.

However, vibrant colors should be reserved for special occasions such as formal parties or festivals.


Shorts’ thumb rule

men above the knee shorts

Generally, men in Korean fashion should wear shorts that fall above the knee and reach their fingertips’ end. Besides, shorts are usually worn for casual outings rather than formal occasions.

Here are the best organic cotton shorts that you will need to look fashionable and feel comfortable in South Korea.



Grooming south korea wear

Many men in Korea dress nicely, as their main focus is to attain a well-groomed appearance. This means that their facial hair is well-maintained and kept neatly trimmed. Many Korean men like a clean-shaven appearance, and facial hair grooming is vital to their fashion regimen.


General Tips for What to Wear in South Korea

As said earlier, Korean fashion is not just a trend but a way of life. Koreans wear different outfits for every occasion. Here are some general tips to keep in mind when it comes to Korean fashion:


avoid matching top and bottom

Don’t match patterns in Korean fashion. Instead, opt for solid colors or minimal patterns for a sleek and chic look. Most Korean women don’t match their tops and bottoms. However, in Korean men’s fashion, matching patterns for suit tops and bottoms are more common, giving a polished and put-together look.

No business casual clothing

man suit south korea wear

lady office wear in south korea

Unlike Western fashion, the business casual appearance is unacceptable in Korean fashion, especially in the workplace. South Korea’s corporate environment includes a strict dress code for men and women.

Women have to wear suit pants, skirts, and closed shoes, while men should wear suits or proper business outfits and dress shoes.

Wrapping it up

Korean fashion is deeply rooted in conservatism, which regulates the clothing styles of Korean women. If you plan to visit South Korea, avoid wearing revealing attire or anything that could be regarded as too casual or sloppy.

It is unacceptable for women to wear shorts, short skirts, low-cut tops, or outfits that expose too much skin in public venues like temples or palaces.  Besides, women do not wear bikinis as their swimwear, while all men are expected to be well-groomed.

It is also necessary to remove your shoes while visiting traditional Korean households or some eateries; hence it is advisable to wear easy-to-remove footwear. Furthermore, it is considered impolite to wear hats indoors; thus, ensure you remove them before entering any indoor locations.


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About the Author: Dinushka Breaker Gunasekara

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