Young people rocking Pyongyang style

Updated: 2014-09-27 07:02

(China Daily/Agencies)

Young people rocking Pyongyang style

A woman walks along the Taedong River in Pyongyang, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Aug 30, 2014. Clothes and styles have been changing in Pyongyang in recent years — slowly and in a limited way, but more than many outsiders might think. [Photo/IC]

Stiletto heels, brighter colors more common in DPRK capital

High heels with sequins. Brightly colored, tight-fitting dresses. Hairstyles and makeup that are almost like what you might see on the streets of Beijing or Seoul.

Something is definitely afoot in the style scene of the capital of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

In Pyongyang, fashion has been changing in recent years - slowly and in a limited way, but more than many outsiders might think.

Here's a peek at what's hot and what's not in the DPRK:

Watch the shoes

Not surprisingly, young women are leading the way. And they care a lot about shoes.

While rubber boots and utilitarian flats remain the norm elsewhere in the DPRK, high heels in a wide array of colors and styles are commonplace in Pyongyang. They range from basic black to glittery sequined styles that are over-the-top exuberant.

Handbags and other accessories are everywhere. Women's clothing has become tighter. Shirts, trousers and dresses are often form-fitting. Women's hairstyles are also becoming more similar to styles seen overseas. Makeup has changed, too.

Overall, the look is less 1980s Eastern European and more contemporary East Asian.

"Nowadays, it's clear that clothes have become very bright," said Kim Su-jong, a Pyongyang resident. "In the past, the colors were a little dark," she said. "Now, everyone likes bright colors."

The DPRK's top trendsetter is Ri Sol-ju, leader Kim Jong-un's wife, who is higher-profile and more fashionable than the spouses of the previous two leaders, Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. Her short hair and dresses have undoubtedly influenced many Pyongyang women.

A bigger reason for the change may be that modern styles have become easier to attain in Pyongyang, thanks to more imports from China and an increase in the money supply circulating in the capital.

Looking preppy

Men may lag behind, but the young, at least, are catching up.

There is a clear trend for young men to wear more flattering, tighter shirts, with back darts and sharper collars. Overall, the look for young men and women is basically old-school preppy, with an emphasis on clean and simple lines.

One exception is trousers. Pyongyang still prefers the stovepipe style, wide from the waist to the ankle. Skinny is out.

For older men - and leader Kim Jong-un - the homegrown style is still the rule. They favor a kind of boxy, big-shouldered and open-necked suit. Usually in sober colors of navy blue, gray or silver, the style is so common it's called pyongsanbok - normal clothes.

The fashion sense of Kim's father, Kim Jong-il, also lives on. The "jumper" - a khaki, zip-fronted top and trouser suit famously favored by the late leader - is still widely worn by men in the capital and across the country.

But when it comes to jeans, which are closely associated with American tastes, you don't see people wearing the same blue denim that is common almost everywhere else in the world.

White was a popular color for women this summer. But jeans are a touchy topic. So touchy, in fact, that just bringing it up is likely to raise hackles.

"We don't have to like jeans," said Kim Su-jong, the Pyongyang woman who favored brighter colors. "Why should I wear that kind of jeans? It looks ugly. We have our own style."'

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