This winter, don’t neglect fashion for functionality

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This winter, don’t neglect fashion for functionality

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Young Seoulites are balancing fashion with functionality this winter - one of the coldest on record. How do you stack up? [JoongAng Ilbo]


It seems there is no other way to get by during cold snaps than to pile on layers of clothing. While most of us are hidden under bulky winter jackets and scarves, some brilliant products are calling out to fashionistas and techies, preventing us from being just another anonymous shape in the crowd.

In the technology powerhouse and emerging international fashion hub that is Korea, the current of fashion is swift.

How well are you keeping abreast with this winter’s warming fashion trends in Korea?


Sheepskin boots

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Sit at any one place for an hour and you’ll notice that half the passers-by will be in sheepskin boots. When frequent snow and below-freezing temperatures turn the streets into sheets of ice, stilettos and high heels lose their glory and are replaced by more sensible footwear.

Sheepskin boots come in various colors and lengths, but the most popular colors are conventional beige and camel. The boots go well with pretty much any clothing, but most women simply pair their fur boots with jeans or leggings.

The boots are not only warm winter gear, but also one of the hottest fashion items in Korea.


Leggings with fur linings

Another sweeping trend is tights underneath short skirts. Young women seem to stride along the streets with their heads held high, oblivious to the harsh winter wind.

It’s not that they have no sensitivity to variations in temperature; they are just wearing leggings with short fur linings.

They may be called any number of names - leggings with fur linings, fur-lined leggings, furry leggings - but one thing is sure: they help complete the fashion style. A pair of long boots and complementary leggings do wonders to get you ready for a party, all without putting a lot of time and effort into looking stylish.

Solid neutral colors are top-sellers, but for those who want something more eye-catching, geometric and animal-print patterns in diverse colors are available.

Choose from a variety of fabrics, ranging from traditional tights-style and cable-knit wear, to denim.


Chunky knitted scarves

Everyone should have at least one scarf, but is it the long and bulky knitted variety that many young Koreans wear.

Popularized by the main character of the famous television drama “Winter Sonata,” it seems that big chunky knitted scarves have become de rigueur with fashion-forward Seoulites. Of course, scarves are meant to provide an extra layer of protection against harsh winter winds, but don’t neglect fashion for function.

The chunky scarves you find in Seoul are usually twice a person’s height, so learning how to wrap it around your neck is important. The current trend is to loosely wrap it once or twice around the neck, and let the ends hang in front.


Furry earmuffs

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What about your poor ears?

You don’t have to be a kid in Korea to wear furry earmuffs. In fact, earmuffs are often worn as a fashion statement rather than as protection, meaning they are not an essential item for winter - but definitely a hot trend.

If you don’t want to feel over-bundled and are worried about being strangled by your enormous scarf, earmuffs are a great option.

Like many other winter accessories, they are available in a wide range of styles, from solid colors to animal prints, and the most popular are soft, fluffy and furry.

One of the mixed blessings of putting them on is that you might not be able to hear things well. So if there’s someone you want to politely ignore while maintaining your innocence, pull out a pair.


All about USB

Did I mention that Korea is an IT powerhouse? It surely is, and Korea’s technological prowess is providing designers with brilliant ideas that influence seasonal products.

IT-inspired gadgets include USB-powered slippers, cushions, blankets, hand heaters, mugs and mouse pads.

To many, items that help slash your electricity bill while still keeping you warm will be more than just good news. If you still feel cold in an office even when all the space heaters are on, have a look at this list of smart high-tech winter gadgets.

Cubicle dwellers and office workers can be take comfort in a personal heat zone by using a wide variety of specially designed gadgets - all of them USB powered.

If you are sensitive to cold temperatures, you know how cold your fingers can get after a couple of mouse clicks.

Then how about trying out a glove with a mouse and a mouse pad inside? By plugging the glove into a USB port, thermally conductive material at the bottom of the mouse pad warms the glove instantly.

USB cushions, blankets and even slippers are also available. Even hand warmers that can be charged using a USB cable are available.

Mugs are another common item that have been reinvented using USB technology. Once your cup of tea or coffee has been connected to a USB port, the temperature of your drink will be kept at a perfect 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit). Some USB mugs even have a switch to shift their use from a heater into a cooler for the summer time.


Instant hot packs

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Going skiing, but want to keep warm? Pack small instant hot packs, which weigh only a few grams.

Instant hot packs are so-called stoves in a pocket and they come in various designs, colors, and have different fillings. Typical hot packs come with a metal chip inside a special liquid. To activate the hot packs, bend the metal disc with your fingers until it clicks, then the liquid turns into gel in a few seconds.

These hot packs can be reused by placing the cooled pack in boiling water. After about five minutes, the hardened gel is liquefied and ready to use again.

If it is too much of a hassle to boil water to reheat hot packs, try microwaveable puppets. They look like cartoon characters or stuffed animals that children play with. Inside the soft fabric, organic buckwheat skin is filled with a few drops of aroma oil.

Make sure your puppet hand heater is cool before reheating the pack in a microwave again for 30 seconds.


Sleep socks and pants

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As soft as cotton candy and in cute colors like pale pink, baby blue and light yellow, these adorable items are a gift to your tired, cold body.

These specially designed socks can help you get a good night’s sleep. Giving your feet a good scrub and rubbing in some foot cream before putting the socks on will help maintain silky smooth soles. Take a few steps in the socks and you will feel like you are walking on clouds.

For maximum warming effect, sleep pants are available as well. There is a limited selection for men, as well, but taller foreigners may find them a bit short.

Both sleep socks and sleep pants are comfy and warm, and perfect for night or a day of vegging out. Don’t go outside with them on, unless you want to attract stares, although it is hard to take them off once you get used to the extra warmth.

You can buy these items just about anywhere, like Namdaemun and Dongdaemun markets, Myeong-dong, underground shopping malls and even online at Web sites like Auction and Gmarket.

If you already have everything on the list, you may as well apply for citizenship.


By Michelle Kang [michyk@sba.seoul.kr]
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