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Fashion Notes: A New Outfit
by Anne

I was browsing around on the net (though I should have been studying!!!) when I found this Korean magazine scan from 10 or 15 years ago. It's an excellent example of the late 90's Korean take on both grunge and hip-hop*: plainness to the point of conservativism, somber neutrals, and a tendency toward oversized fits and unisex styling.

This girl accessorizes with little more than her shoes, a necklace, a watch, and a basic shoulder bag. The lines are very clean, with colors limited to brown and white. It doesn't seem like much, but in fact this kind of look is very difficult to pull off. When the details are tuned down to this low a volume, the smallest irregularities suddenly reverberate glaringly and the smallest alterations can cast the whole effect in a different light.

In short, everything must be taken into account, which the girl in the photo has done well, from the effect of the shoulder strap crossing her chest to the necklace—a delicately chunky silver that picks up on the oft-ignored decorative effect of the logo, white lettering against brown—to the doc martens—suitably muted in color and generic in design but with a distinctive shape that keeps the lower half of the outfit from degenerating into sloppy formlessness. The sleeves have been pushed up to show the slenderness of the arms, accentuated again by the watch encircling the wrist: if not for this last step, the overall silhouette would appear much bulkier.

Each element has an impact that would leave something lacking, were it to be taken away, yet none of them steal the stage for its own. This kind of synergy is easy to miss, all the more because you can't quite pinpoint a single piece that makes or breaks the effect. It's this kind of laid-back equilibrium that's also the most difficult to master, and which I think is the single most significant distinction separating the truly well-dressed from the average magpie connoisseur of fashion "items".

* The two aesthetics seem to be somewhat confused in this, but the Koreans and the Japanese are expert at a sort of post-modernist mishmash of foreign trends in total defiance—or rather, disregard—of their origins, to varying effect: there's a whole world of difference between T-shirts emblazoned with "Engrish" phrases and Samurai Champloo.

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