In the UK we fill our magazines with glossy pictures of models wearing daring bright clothing, breaking the boundaries of fashion, but it is our CHOICE to follow what trends speak to us. We are free to wear a woollen jumper with a PVC Skirt if the mood takes us. This is not the case in other countries such as North Korea.
What if tomorrow the government turned around and told you not to wear your heels? You could not wear trousers? Or you could only wear your hair in a certain style? These are the restrictions in regards to styling. The women are told to style their hair “Not too long, Not too short and not too much volume.” As you can see below these are all the options you may have.
This is only one fraction of the real everyday life of men and women of North Korea. They have many [unwritten] rules on styling which is enforced by a young group of communists.
If this was England we would rise up, Who are the government to tell us what to wear? who to be? I agree they do a lot that dictates our way of life but we British are non conformist at heart. You tell us no? We do it anyway! And this is the response of many North Koreans. After decades of absolute control, Pyongyang’s iron grip on the lives of ordinary citizens is finally slipping.
The people of North Korea have now been leaving their homes for work even going to China which is forbidden. Now with China being more lax on their strict rules on culture and individuality this comes as quite a culture shock to these people. It has opened their eyes.
After reading a story in the guardian I was amazed at how the fashion aspect worked in their country. One woman named Han gave her account of a simple day of buying a pair of boots. Just a black pair of boots with a zipped on the side.
“They were pretty, and new, and everyone was curious,” Han had said and she bought them even though they would be considered rebellious. In fact when she had bought them someone approached her and scolded her for wearing them! No one told her why they where unacceptable, they just where.
“How to manage one’s body, what to put on one’s body, and how to present one’s body in public and private lives do not seem to belong to a realm of individual choices in North Korea. Rather, it is a matter of strict state policies and regulations,” – Suk-Young Kim an expert on North Korean culture.
Pyongyang now have ‘the fashion police’ for lack of a better term these are unpaid members of the government-run Kim Il-sung Socialist Youth League. It’s Mission? To control every aspect of people’s lives, even as the growing trade with China increases exposure to outside influences. New fashions and trends are going to be very hard to ignore . Below is what is considered an acceptable woman’s attire. Its is very loose-fitting and concealing but none the less it is a beautiful cultural fashion piece. I find it very graceful and feminine and I would probably wear it if I ever went to that corner of the earth to experience their culture. But for the rest of my life? No, I could never conform and have someone tell me what to wear, I like what I LIKE.
But the good news is you can now wear trousers! Women’s trousers are scrutinised as they must be loose-fitting, so no leggins, Blue jeans? Forget about it as they scream America! Skimpy clothing is a no-no, so dispose of those cami tops; sun hats are suspicious. The regime also doesn’t tolerate any tops with Roman lettering upon them. Anything too decorative or simply too unusual gets attention: the worst kind. Above all, clothing must not look “foreign”.
But now the people are fighting back and are no longer taking this. If the government are saying ‘wear only straight cut trousers’ people are donning flares, men and women are getting more daring and defiant in their choice of clothing. This is a country with years of being told what to do and wear and [Slowly] it seems to be changing.
After a while Han [the Lady who bought the boots] saw more and more people like herself wearing them and they just became acceptable. It seems to be happening more and more. In 2012 Kim Jong-un unveiled an all female band for what he called “a musical act for the new century”.
Their sound is undoubtedly out dated and politically motivated. But for a country with overwhelmingly Conservative ideals, many where startled by their appearance. Short boy cut hair and their sequinned miniskirts where not the norm on Korean T.V.
“Normally you should follow what’s on TV, but I don’t know if short hair is OK now. I wonder whether it’s possible,” Han said doubtfully.
At the end of the day this is all about control, but with people fighting back hopefully there will be an uprising, like a phoenix from the ashes the people will take back their fashions, their individuality and more importantly their lives.
For more information on the North Korean fashion, their dictatorship and a closer look at this country please see the links below where I have sourced my material.
The Guardian– Please watch the Video