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Short hemlines turning heads

[Consumer Report] Tops that could either be very long jackets or very short skirts dominate displays this season.
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May 14,2011
Browsing through Lotte Department Store’s Young Plaza in Sogong-dong, central Seoul, earlier this week there was nary a pair of pants - nor a skirt - to be seen.

At shops for local brands such as Codes Combine, Thursday Island and VOV, tops that could either be very long jackets or very short skirts dominated the displays - while longer bottoms were relegated to a corner or were absent altogether.

“Pairing long tops with short shorts or miniskirts is definitely in style,” said Mun Ye-jung, a shopper in her 20s who was looking through a rack of long, voluminous hoodies on Thursday while dressed in a similar outfit herself - a short jeans skirt and a long navy jacket. “A lot of celebrities have been wearing these outfits, and it keeps you cool in hot weather.”

This summer, fans of bare legs can expect an eyeful in the streets. The look is all the rage among many younger fashion-conscious women. It features big, boxy tops paired with barely-there bottoms revealing as much leg as possible.

Because the tops can sometimes completely cover the miniskirt or short shorts and make it appear as if the person is wearing nothing on the bottom, in Korea the look has been dubbed the “ha-ui sil-jong” look, or “missing bottoms.”

Spearheaded by female celebrities wearing skimpy micro-minis, the “no pants” look has traveled beyond the glossy pages of magazines to transform the sales patterns of young women’s apparel this season.

Salespeople reported that the ratio of bottoms and tops at casual women’s wear retailers was once six to four or seven to three, with bottoms outnumbering tops. That’s not true anymore, as more than 90 percent of the items at some such stores are now tops.

The shift has drastically affected revenue as well.

“This season, we focused on tops - jackets, vests, blouses and T-shirts,” said Choi Kyung, head of women’s apparel at Lotte Department Store. “In April, women’s apparel saw its revenue jump by more than 25 percent on-year, with sales of tops contributing 80 percent of the revenue.”

As of the end of April, more than 80 percent of revenue from new items was from tops for brands such as VOV and G-CUT from Shinsegae International, GGPX and Topgirl from YeonSeung Apparel, and LeShop from Hyunwoo International.

“Tops are carrying the spring sales of women’s apparel brands,” Park Sung-gyo, from LG Fashion’s women’s wear brand MOGG. “As the weather gets hotter, the tendency to wear loose tops and bottoms that can hardly be seen is expected to continue.” The trend has even had its share of mishaps. Kolon Industries, which owns brands like Head and Qua, announced a one-day marketing event in early March. It offered discounts of up to 90 percent off of 400,000 won ($368) worth of merchandise at its outlet in Mugyo-dong, central Seoul, to the first 100 customers wearing short shorts or skirts - and the size of the discount depended on how short the bottom was. But the event was canceled the day after it was announced as local citizens and the media charged that the event would be too risque and in bad taste.

As sales of tops dominate women’s apparel revenue, demand for other fashion items and products has increased as well. On the online shopping site Auction, shorts sales have more than doubled this spring compared to last year, while department stores saw sales increases of more than 50 percent on-year in late April for “body slimming” cellulite control products and other beauty products associated with a slimmer figure.


By Lee Jung-yoon [joyce@joongang.co.kr]



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