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A recent interest in Korean fashion led me to sign up for the Korea Textile Tour, a ten day exploration of traditional Korean culture and textile art. It was my first trip to Asia and needless to say, I was most excited!

Limited to ten women, our group included mostly quilters and a couple of us interested primarily in fashion. We were based in Seoul, South Korea with three leaders:

  • Youngmin Lee, a Korean transplant to the Bay Area and Korean textiles artist.
  • Mirka Knaster makes her home in Northern California and is a writer and an artist working in fiber arts.
  • Lissa Miner is a quilter who hails from Berkeley, CA but currently lives outside of Seoul, South Korea.

 

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Studio of Kyung Yeal Kim, master craftsman. This is where we took the safflower dye workshop.

The days were packed full but we kept to a reasonable pace. Each day we walked an average of five miles, so no need to worry about getting enough exercise. We took docent led museum tours, strolled neighborhoods, met master artists who led us in workshops, including indigo dye and safflower dye. We stayed in Insadong, which is an older part of Seoul known originally as the neighborhood of calligraphy and paper artists. It was a great place to be, located near two subway stations and within walking distance of many galleries and shops. Speaking of subways – I was very impressed with the efficiency (never waited more than 5 minutes for a train), and how clean the stations and trains are kept. Sure it gets crowded and the older folk will push you out of the way but overall the system was a pleasure to ride.

Our hotel was the recently renovated Sunbee. I’m told that it was bought by a retired pharmacist who handed the business over to her son to run. Each of us had her own room, which are remarkably spacious as are the bathrooms. At the end of a busy day, it felt good to come back to a comfortable space. There’s a cafe off the lobby where we met each morning for the included breakfast. Plus free laundry facilities and Wi-Fi.

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Public Library.

As for language, it helps to know a little Korean, at least hello and thank you. In general, many young people speak English and most older people do not. Traditional Korean restaurants don’t have menus in English but some do have pictures to point to. I was lucky to have Youngmin’s help  – often she checked ahead with restaurants to see what accommodations could be made for my egg allergy.  (Several meals are included in the tour.) Modern neighborhoods have English speaking staff  in shops and restaurants. I found that communication is possible and actually fun with a few words in common and a willingness to try.

Tourism in South Korea is on the rise, so people are used to non-Korean speakers. But Korea is not yet on the American radar and I spotted very few of my follow citizens.

What is on the radar of young Koreans is western food. Especially coffee, bread, and pastries. We saw many a French bakery and cafe. Also health food, such as organic salad, is very popular in the modern neighborhoods.

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Handbag Museum.

Among some of my favorite activities on the tour was the trip to Gwangjang Market. The first permanent market in Korea and the main market for fabric, this place is mecca for high quality rare fabrics such as ramie and silk. It was a treat to see. There’s also a food market on the first floor, offering just about any kind of Korean street food you’d like to eat.

I really enjoyed visiting Ewha Women’s University Museum where we had a docent led tour of the special exhibit – Undergarments from the Joseon Dynasty, 1392-1897 (undergarments worn with Hanbok).

On one of our free days four of us visited the Simone Handbag Museum. A few years ago I had read about this museum, which opened in 2012 and displays antique to modern, handmade to designer handbags. The building itself is in the shape of a handbag.

While exploring on my own one day,  I unexpectedly stumbled upon the public library in Bukchon. Another charming historic neighborhood, Bukchon is located near two palaces and is known as a center for traditional arts and artists’ studios.

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Really, I enjoyed everything because it was all new to me. Much of the tour is focused on Korean history and culture, which as Mirka pointed out, gives a context to the traditional art we looked at and talked about. I have come home with a desire to learn more about all things Korean.

This was the second year for the Korea Textile Tour and plans are already in the works for 2019. A list of interested travelers is growing. Click here for more information.

There are lots of photos of my trip on Instagram. Follow OverDressedforLife:

#overdressed4life

Check back for more fashionable adventures in Seoul, South Korea.

 

 

 

 

 

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IMG_20180903_175500There are many, many regulations in North Korea on how a woman should look. You’re not meant to put your hair down, skinny pants are frowned upon, jeans aren’t allowed, and there are definitely no short pants. If you’re ever caught breaking these rules you’re forced to write a self-criticism report; or if you have long hair, risk having it cut short. Nevertheless, some girls turn a blind eye to these penalties, all in the name of beauty. 

This quote is by a North Korean defector and contributor to the book Ask a North Korean: Defectors Talk About Their Lives Inside the World’s Most Secretive Nation (Tuttle Publishing).

Why would I be reading this book? Well, I saw it in on the shelf at my local library and I took an interest because as you read this I’m in Seoul, South Korea on a ten day textiles tour.

I’ve been reading about both North and South Korea. I had no idea that Seoul has the fastest Internet in the world. Or that North Korea had a famine in the 1990s that pretty much stopped all governmental aid to the people. Seoul is a serious fashion city, with world renowned designers creating avant-garde looks. I was first introduced to fashion in South Korea last year at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum’s Couture Korea exhibit. At the time I was also taking a textiles class at SFCC.  Both opened up new worlds to me and when this opportunity to travel to South Korea fell in my lap, I decided to take it.

This is my first trip to Asia. What an adventure it will be and you bet I’ll be writing about it. Stayed tuned.

 

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IMG_20180602_104927702_HDRMeet Lizzie! I spotted her sitting outside of Cake Cafe on Chartres Street in the Marigny neighborhood of NOLA. She looked effortlessly-chic while quietly enjoying the sunny afternoon under an umbrella.

Lizzie’s shirtwaist dress is feminine and flattering and yet also comfortable, making it ideal for hot weather. Note the vintage details: polka dot fabric print, ruched elbow-length sleeves, sweetheart neckline, and full skirt. All the styling is achieved with just the dress. Nothing else is needed – how easy is that?  (Added bonus are pockets. We do like our pockets.)

Lizzie is wearing some slightly oversized shades in a color that goes well with the red/cream colors of the dress. Her flats are an excellent choice with the hemline and keep the look casual but still fashionable.

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One more thing – chatting with Lizzie I mentioned her vintage vibe and it turns out that she works at Trashy Diva and naturally, this is a TD dress.

Thanks a bunch, Lizzie. You are a NOLA star.

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Bette-Nash4In the old days, we saw a lot of mink coats. Today, we see a lot of flip-flops.

Bette Nash, American Airlines flight attendant.

Ms. Nash, 81, just celebrated her 60th anniversary working as a flight attendant.

I chose this quote (from an article by Lori Aratani for The Washington Post) because it’s sadly funny and pretty much says it all about how far we’ve descended into sartorial sloppiness.

I know flying is hard. It’s crowded, long, and unpleasant. But what if at least some of us made the effort to look nice? Maybe not a fur coat but a blazer? A pair of slacks instead of yoga pants or jeans. Add a scarf and a cap. Perhaps our experience would be more positive and we just might inspire other travelers to up their game.

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Question: What’s the difference between a well-dressed bicyclist and a poorly dressed unicyclist?

Answer: Attire.

 

Haha. As a bicyclist myself I admit I have not brought my fashionable best to the handlebars. I usually cycle for exercise around my neighborhood in the mornings and well, my hoodie, cropped sweat pants, and a pair of Pumas go on so easy.

But I often think of the San Francisco Tweed Ride (or London Tweed Run), which gathers a dapper biking crowd to cycle together on vintage bikes and in vintage attire – such as tweed jackets, jodhpurs, caps, and argyle socks. En masse all around the city they go creating quite a picture. I ran into them once in Civic Center and it’s super fun to see all the different outfits, early 1900s to the 1930s and lots of mixing it up.

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But the Tower Bridge steals the show in this photo.

I may be casual at home but last October in London I stepped it up for a bicycle tour of the city with Tally Ho! Cycle Tours. I sported wide-leg wool slacks paired with a Pendleton jacket, and a cloche hat. It was a challenging ride thanks to all the city traffic, but I was lookin’ spiffy and after three hours tooling around, I made it back to tell the tale.

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IMG_0292One more London story! On my visit last October, I set out to find the Beau Brummell statue. Erected in 2002 the statue stands just outside Piccadilly Arcade on Jermyn Street.

It’s not easy to find. But we did and much to my surprise we also found a couple of bums hanging at the feet of Mr. Brummell. I suspect they were not not there to pay homage. Ha! I doubt they had any idea who this man was or his importance in fashion history.

George Bryan “Beau” Brummell (1778-1840) was London born and a general man-about-town with royal connections. He was known for gambling and unusual sartorial choices. In the British Regency period (1811-1820) the trends for aristocratic gentlemen were embroidered coats and waistcoats (Brit speak for vests), knee breeches, white stockings and shoes with gem encrusted buckles. They sported tall wigs, white powder makeup with red stain in their lips and fragrance.

It was too much for Mr. Brummell who pushed back with a simply tailored “suit” the first of its kind – a white linen shirt underneath a tan waistcoat, black coat with tails, fitted pantaloons paired with tall boots, a cravat (predecessor to the tie), and top hat. No wigs, no makeup and most of all no scent! He believed in bathing everyday, which was not the done thing at the time.

The story goes that it took him several hours to dress each morning and men would line up outside his flat in Mayfair hoping to secure a place inside to watch how he did it. Among the admirers was the Prince Regent, later to become King George IV.

He had quite a lasting influence on men’s attire.

I’m a fan of Mr. Brummell’s for his contribution to fashion but also, he was an interesting character with high style standards and a quick wit. I was more than a little annoyed by these two men just sitting with no intent to leave, even after noticing my photo taking. But I after awhile I began to enjoy the irony and humor of the dapper dandy standing confident and tall over a couple of shoddy fellas. I imagined him poking his walking stick at one guy and offering a nice swift kick to the other. Indeed, at the feet of Mr. Brummell is exactly where these two belong.

Have I piqued your interest in Brummell? I recommend the biopic called Beau Brummell: The Charming Man (2006).

And/or the biography by Ian Kelly, Beau Brummell: The Ultimate Dandy (Hodder & Stoughton).

 

 

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amelia-earhartWhen I’m flying in my little plane, I usually wear a sports costume with a rather full skirt and a close-fitting hat. Sometimes I slip a leather windbreaker on under my coat, for the temperature drops as one ascends.  … Usually on a solo flight, I wear low-heeled shoes, because with low heels it is easier to keep my feet braced on the rubber bar … On the Friendship flight … the trip was pioneering one, and comforts were not thought of. For instance, there was no step from the pontoons to the door, and I couldn’t have jumped into the plane in a skirt. Further … we had dumped everything to sit on, to save weight. Squatting on a rolled flying suit, or kneeling on one knee, or sliding between the large gas tanks wouldn’t have left much of ladylike ensemble.

Amelia Earhart (1897-disappeared 1937), pilot and first women to fly solo across the Atlantic. This quote is from an essay Ms. Earhart wrote for Harper’s Bazaar in 1929.

Ha! And we think we have it hard flying these days.

Ms. Earhart created her own style for flying, which often included trousers, button down shirt topped with a leather jacket and a scarf. Looking at photos it seemed she felt more comfortable in sporty attire than the more traditional feminine frocks of her era.

Speaking of flying and attire, as I get ready for traveling this week I’m pondering what to wear in flight. It is tough in these days of overcrowded airplanes balancing comfort with looking presentable. Anything tailored is too restricting, skirts are impractical for sitting, and who wants to risk our really nice pieces of clothing to the grit and grim of airline seats?

I usually go simple in corduroy pants and a long-sleeved cotton t-shirt. I add a scarf and my trusty beret for a little chic factor – accessories can upgrade any outfit. Outerwear might be my tweed coat or this time of year I think I’ll go with a puffer vest. Oxfords rather than sneakers also keep the look sharp. (Although, sneakers are looking pretty darn fashionable lately.)

How about you, my fashionable readers? How you do manage to look nice and stay comfortable while flying? Vintage-loving readers, how do you keep vintage while traveling?

Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment.

 

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