Quantcast

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

5

Spring Fashion Hurdle: The Korean Cockatoo T-Shirt Dress

Every six months or so, I go to Hong Kong for work. I love these trips because I grew up in Shanghai and Singapore; ducking through narrow streets and crowded markets makes me feel at home. There’s one tiny clothes shop in Sai Ying Pun, surrounded by butchers and tire shops, that I visit religiously, even though I’ve never written down the address, so I always have to wander the neighborhood for a good half hour before I stumble upon it again.

This last time, the shopkeeper, a quiet, bespectacled Chinese woman in her late forties, wearing a sweatshirt and leggings, informed me that Korean fashion is now where it’s at. She pointed at several of the shirts I had in my hand. “Great quality,” she said. “Everyone wants to wear Korean designers now.”

From what I saw in that shop and in similar establishments, Korean fashion “now” involves a lot of what can best be summed up as the T-shirt dress.1 It’s a look I would have appreciated being “in” when I was 13 in Shanghai, where I went around in a large, shapeless green sweatshirt that came down past my thighs. Perhaps as a way to indulge that old yearning, I purchased a couple of these T-shirt dresses. One featured an enormous cockatoo surrounded by roses and peonies. The other was a nauseating ochre hue with the inarguable statement “Miniskirts have been in fashion for the past few years” in no-nonsense font across the front.

(I also purchased a pair of black floral jeggings with rhinestone-studded pockets, luckily available in my American-woman size, XXXL: that translates to an 8 in the States.)

The “Miniskirts” T-shirt dress was a smirk purchase, the kind of thing you buy in Hong Kong because it’s so damn goofy. But I was thrilled about my cockatoo T-shirt dress, which felt like an intriguing new look. I live in Berlin, where fashion is extremely understated and shruggy: very “Yeah,” (shrug) “I just threw this on.” Munich and Hamburg are where Germans dress up, in pearls and riding boots; Berliners are the kids at the back of the bus who couldn’t care less. But I care, at least sometimes. I emerged from my green sweatshirt chrysalis in college and now I like choosing outfits.

But the first night I attempted to put on the cockatoo to go out, I realized the inherent challenge of the T-shirt dress: it is basically a nightshirt, and the distinctions between the two clothing genres are pure semantics. Especially when your T-shirt dress is essentially a large, white, cotton T-shirt, like something made by Hanes. And who’s to say a blissful cockatoo, surrounded by roses, wouldn’t make for a lovely nightshirt motif? I tried to pair it with skirts, leggings, and sweaters–anything that would signify dressiness. Eventually I came to the conclusion that the only way to wear the T-shirt dress was to admit to myself that I was wearing a nightshirt with a large cockatoo on it. That was just my outfit.

I had come to this type of realization once before, in tenth grade, when I came back from the States to Singapore, and had to embrace the year-long nickname of “Moonboots” after I went to my high school armed with fresh, white basketball shoes that I thought even cooler than the de facto black hi-tops. It was like that when I arrived at the restaurant in my cockatoo T-shirt dress and my friend gave me a hug and said, kindly: “Nice shirt. You’re bringing grunge back!” before we sat down. I didn’t correct her and point out that technically, the shirt was a dress. A T-shirt dress. What would have been the point?

And anyway, just ask Rihanna: fashion right now is all about blurring the lines between inner and outerwear. Witness her recent attire at the MTV Music Awards. Sure, you could call it a bathrobe. Or, you could call it what I call my cockatoo T-shirt dress: a really elegant choice for a night out, something perfect for the red carpet, or any occasion at all.

[1]  Disclaimer: I’m a fiction writer, not a fashion expert, so by “Korean fashion now” I’m only referring to the Korean attire I saw on sale in several shops in Hong Kong, not what’s happening on Seoul’s runways. Although this and this shot on Sol-Sol, a Seoul Streetwear tumblr, seem to give some credence to my theory, as does this Steve and Yoni look at a recent Seoul Fashion Week show. Or the hockey jersey/ tacky tourist T-shirt dresses sported by two members of the Korean pop sensation 2NE1.

Brittani Sonnenberg is a writer based in Berlin. Her debut novel, Home Leave, is forthcoming this June from Grand Central.



5 Comments / Post A Comment

Stephanie Dallas@facebook

I'd try pairing it with a black belt and black leggings/tights. I feel like that might pull the outfit into not-a-nightshirt territory.

harebell

@Stephanie Dallas@facebook

If she belts it, the belt will cover up the cockatoo! And you won't have the whole "giant t-shirt" drapey look (which is actually in in Berlin right now, as well as apparently in Seoul). Don't do it!

Black tights or ripped black jeans could be a way to go. Or you could dye the t-shirt background to be a light grey -- something to kill the vibe of "this is a white t-shirt," which is really what's doing you in, I think.

milenakent

OMG! Absolutely amazing. @n

More Or Yes

Black treggings (the thick leggings that ALMOST pass as pants), leather look if possible + heels will dress it up. Thinking either layered/chunky gold necklace to bling it up will help make it seem more festive for a nigh out. And to keep the whimsy of the print, add a hair accessory (e.g. ban.do has some great poufs).

Hellcat

Maybe just basic skinny jeans and flats? With dangly earrings or lots of bangles or something shiny? Or faux leather leggings!

Post a Comment

You must be logged-in to post a comment.

Login To Your Account