Sunday, December 5, 2010

Shoulders v Legs: a difference of opinion

Korean women and Western women have differing preferences and attitudes towards clothing. Throughout my time here, I have noticed trends and fashion which I can only describe as "very Korean". And I'm sure if a Korean visited Oxford street in London, they would notice trends which are very British.

There is one attitude which I'm intrigued by and it is portrayed in the cartoon above. Korean women wear very, very short skirts. Sometimes, I have been taken aback by how short. When the temperature starts to fall, bare legs are covered with tights and leggings but the hemline remains the same. Yet, in my eleven months here, I have rarely seen a Korean woman wearing a plunging neckline or a strapless dress even in the heat and humidity of the long summer months. Bare shoulders and cleavage are a contentious issue here, much more contentious than a flash of behind. Displaying your shoulders is considered much more revealing than displaying your legs. But why? I spent some time researching this but unfortunately, I can't find a clear cut reason. It's mentioned it is more sexual and provocative to show cleavage in a country as conservative as Korea. Yet, I couldn't find out why showing your legs is deemed as more conservative.

Perhaps, there does not need to be a reason why. Korea and the UK or the States have distinctive cultures with varying social attitudes. It is just a difference of opinion of what is revealing and acceptable. So, Western women will continue to be shocked by how short the hemlines are in Korea and Korean women will continue to be shocked by how much cleavage Western women show. If anybody has a concrete answer though, please let me know.

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