In case you haven’t noticed, I am obsessed with Asian pop culture. From anime to otome games, Pokemon to K-beauty, I just can’t get enough of all things Japanese and Korean.
Lately, the same goes for fashion: a lot of J-fashion and K-fashion outfits are popping up in my feed, and I’m obsessed! As someone who’s recovering from surgery, I admittedly haven’t ventured outside my leggings and sweatshirts in a while, but these fashion trends have got me itching to get back into my fancier clothing.
J-fashion (Japanese fashion) and K-fashion (Korean fashion) are distinct, but I lump them together for the purposes of this blog post. Again, both are different — but what they have in common is that they are both popular for being “aesthetic.”
“Aesthetic” is one of those words that I can’t define easily, but I know when I see it. And, if you have spent literally any time on social media, you probably know it when you see it, too. From stationery to bubble tea, Japanese and Korean culture dominate the aesthetic scene…. and fashion is no exception.
Log onto Pinterest and search for “aesthetic outfit ideas.” You may not realize it, but a lot of the outfits you see are either worn by Asian models or inspired by J-fashion and K-fashion trends.
So, how do you put together your own aesthetic outfit using these trends? First, you need to understand what J-fashion and K-fashion really are, and how to dress like a Japanese or Korean stylista.
What is J-Fashion?
J-fashion, short for Japanese fashion, is a term that lumps together a bunch of clothing styles that are unique to Japan. You may have heard of Lolita or fairy kei, two aesthetics that became popular in Japan’s Harajuku fashion scene. These are some of the more distinctive types of fashion, known for fluffy skirts, pastel wigs, and girly-girl accents. But there are other types of Japanese fashion that are less well-known, and more casual, than Lolita or fairy kei:
Mori kei is a type of Japanese fashion that’s inspired by vintage looks and the natural environment. If you want to dress mori kei, you should try to dress like “a girl who came from the forest.”
Natural kei is similar to mori kei, but draws most of its inspiration from the past. Think Little Women or Little House on the Prairie: the natural kei girl lives in a village, rather than the forest, and dresses like Anne of Green Gables.
Otome kei comes from the word “otome,” meaning “young lady” in Japanese. It’s a bit like Lolita, in that it is very feminine, but it is also viewed as more mature than Lolita. There are fewer petticoats and the rules are not as well-defined.
….and many more. I chose to define these three specifically because they have influenced my own style and the pieces that I have chosen to showcase in this blog post.
However, it’s important to recognize that Japanese fashion is as widely varied as American fashion. The word J-fashion doesn’t refer to one thing, but an amalgam of styles.
What is K-Fashion?
K-fashion is the Korean version of the term. Unlike J-fashion, K-fashion does not have many subsets. Instead, it’s a broader term referring to the trends that are most popular in Korea — many of which originate from Seoul.
In Korea, it’s popular to dress in oversized clothing, like chunky-knit cardigans or baggy tee shirts. It’s part of Korean culture to be modest, especially when it comes to revealing clothing. But, while Korean women tend to stay covered on top, they reveal their legs with cute dresses or mini skirts. For example, Korean woman might pair an oversized sweater with a pleated skirt, or a chunky cardigan with a cute sundress.
The school uniform is a staple in K-fashion as well as J-fashion. In both countries, children wear uniforms all throughout their school years — but elements of the school uniform, like pleated skirts or collared sailor shirts, have integrated themselves into popular adult fashion trends.
Aesthetic Clothing Picks (Inspired by J-Fashion and K-Fashion)
If you, like me, are interested in Japanese and Korean culture, you probably know that shopping on Asian sites can be overwhelming. The shipping fees are hefty, you need to deal with translation and currency exchange, and sometimes, you even need to hire a proxy (another person to shop for you and ship the items to your home).
Thankfully, J-fashion and K-fashion are starting to influence the trends we see here at home. These influences can be seen at mainstream Western stores like Forever 21 and H&M, but also at smaller boutiques and on social media. The good news about this is that you can often find Korean and Japanese styles at American stores, without paying $20 for shipping — see below for examples!
Ribbed Cardigan ($14, Nasty Gal)
Paired with a pleated skirt, a fitted cardigan is a classic look. Available in sizes 0 to 10.
Pleated Plaid Mini Skirt ($18, Forever 21)
The schoolgirl skirt is a must-have staple in Asian fashion. Available in sizes XS to L.
Tie-front Blouse ($25, H&M)
The bow-tie on this blouse is reminiscent of the sailor styles popular in Japan. Available in sizes XS to XL.
Black Denim Overall Skirt ($65, Unique Vintage)
The youthful look is “in” in Asia, which is probably why overall skirts like these are so popular. Available in sizes XS to 4X.
Patent Platform Mary Janes ($68, Dolls Kill)
A nod to kawaii fashion, platforms like these can often be seen on the streets of Harajuku. Available in sizes 5 to 10.