By no means am I a shopaholic. I would rather wait for a unique, kooky find to crop up than go on a spree and buy any old thing for the sake of it. Yet this didn’t stop me from doing my fair old share of shopping in Korea.
Looking back at my year there, and then rummaging through my wardrobe, I can safely say that not only is Korea a shopaholic’s paradise with areas like Myongdong in central Seoul to quench that shopping thirst, it is also a haven for great finds for a bargain magpie like me!
Here are my 10 favourite buys, some of which I still use regularly, some that have been lost in transit, but all to be cherished lovingly forever….
10) Cutie plimsolls from E-Mart
These were bought in my local Korean supermarket. To be paired with a short skirt and t-shirt for effortless cool.
Keeping in with the supermarket theme, I found these little gems in my local Tesco for just £6. K-style at K-price, yay!
9) Summer dress from stall at Chongnyangni station, Seoul
Who needs designer stores when you can find stylish summer dresses for less than £1 at a railway station stall? I still use this stripy number for holidays and trips to the beach.
London’s less ‘trendy’ markets are great for picking up bargains like this. My favourite is East Street Market, where you can find summer dresses for £5. And don’t be afraid to haggle, that’s part of the fun of market shopping.
8 ) Miffy mask from LivingMart, Chuncheon
This is so much more than just a health mask. I used to wear it when I was cycling to protect me from the city’s fumes. Moreover, it adds a quirky, cool look to whatever you may be wearing.
Health masks haven’t taken off in London yet (watch this space!) I do love this sweetiepie eye mask (£6 from Artbox) though.
A trip to Korea’s electronics Mecca Technomart can easily take up a whole day. When tired of browsing camcorders, the shops on the ground floor provide some welcome “girly shopping” relief. Apricot sells home furnishings, cosmetics and handmade clothes with a vintage feel. The dresses and nighties are particularly lovely.
I’ve found the most amazing shop in London, and just have to share it. Covent Garden’s Terminal D is run by a Korean designer, and sells solely handmade clothes. Summer frocks and tea dresses range from £20-£40, and fabrics are gorgeous. They don’t don’t have a website, so just nip there and take a look for yourself.
6) Animal hats
I have a few of these, my favourite being the pink goat hat shown below. In Korea, I’d wear it to keep warm in the snow, but in nowadays in England it makes appearances at summer festivals!
H&M and Claire’s Accessories have been the first to catch on to Korea’s fave current trend, as you can see here.
5) Jumper dresses from Kim’s Boutique, Itaewon, Seoul
Birdies, kitties, flowers, dots and stripes, all knitted into pretty, cosy jumper dresses. I fell in love with this boutique store and its beautiful winter wear. With so much to choose from and priced at £15 each, I couldn’t resist buying a few of these, including this cherry dress that I now always wear at Christmas:
Kim’s Boutique sales advisors assured me that their dresses would soon be making it on to the shelves of Topshop in the UK. I’m sure they will be there this winter, but expect to pay at least 3x the original price. Or shop around in New Look and other high street stores for the best bargain and cutest design you can find.
4) School Uniform from SkoolLooks, Chuncheon
Like Harajuku chic, the Korean way. These are real school uniforms, but also worn for fashion (Big Bang were the faces of SkoolLooks when I purchased mine, check out the photos here). I wear the blazer to work as an everyday jacket, and team the skirt with a cartoon tee for a sweet, casual look. The whole ensemble can be worn for maximum impact and style!
The closest I could find in London was this Cosplay Sailor Dress from Tokyo Toys. It’s far more extreme than its Korean cousin, but would work well for Halloween or fancy dress parties.
3) Vintage dress from Hongdae, Seoul
My favourite area in Seoul is not short of vintage stores. As it’s more “hipster” than other districts, the prices come higher than at most of the other Korean places I’ve mentioned, although it still comes cheaper than buying vintage in the UK. I found this cute ’50-style dotty dress to be a perfect fit, and it’s still one of my favourite outfits.
Vintage is big in London right now, which means that it’s harder than ever to bag a good find at a great price. Still, Beyond Retro has a wide range of in-store outfits, as well as a great website that details the exact condition and size of each item so that you can make more informed shopping choice. Definitely my fave for London retro buys.
2) Polaroid camera from Janganpyeong Market, Seoul
This market really is a bazaar, and visiting it is like going to the best car-boot sale ever. There are piles of guitars and violins, shelves crammed with cameras and typewriters and boxes full of all manner of odds and ends to root through. For those like me who take the ‘magpie’ approach to shopping, this is sheer heaven!
Again, jumble sale culture in London is very “in”, and so prices have sky-rocketed. Tucked away in Lower Marsh, though, is Radio Days, a genuine, charming little shop full of bric-a-brac goodies at very good prices. If you’re into vintage items, this is a must.
1) Mint bike (Ellie) from Chuncheon Myongdong Bike Store
I miss Ellie! I cannot believe that such a gorgeous, colourful bike cost me only £40 (again, haggling came into play here). Sure, cycling in Korea was far safer than in London, yet a cycle along the Thames on a summer’s day can be just as idyllic as circling the Chuncheon river.
I spotted this lovely bike at Decathlon. It’s reasonably priced and includes a basket, however only comes in “one size fits all”, that being too big for my 5’2″ frame. Aside from this, I think that e-Bay is the best option, with lots of second hand beauties to choose from. Just remember to check size!
Whichever city you live in, take some time to seek out Korean-style bargains. You never know what treasures you’ll stumble upon…