K-Pop Stage Fashion Evolution in 10 Years
Fashion is constantly evolving, and fashion trends from even just a decade ago might be completely different from today’s fashion trends. K-Pop is well-loved for its nostalgia factor—boy bands and girl bands who dance to bubblegum pop music is reminiscent of the Western music industry in the late 90s and early 2000s—but that doesn’t mean that K-Pop has not evolved and grown over the years as well.
As K-Pop continues to grow internationally, both the music and the fashion will be influenced by global trends. Let’s take a look at some K-Pop hits released in the past decade and how fashion in K-Pop has changed since then.
2011: Hands Up – 2PM
Here’s a fun fact for you: the music video for 2PM’s Hands Up was actually filmed in Singapore! Being a club banger hit, of course the styling for the song has to be both glitzy and glamorous.
Fitting for a club outfit, black forms the base of their outfits, but in order to keep the styling interesting, the black base is accented with bright colours, patterns, and even stud details.
2PM rock club chic in Hands Up / Image: Daum
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2012: Like This – Wonder Girls
Wonder Girls is undoubtedly one of the top girl groups of the second generation, coming back with hit after hit. In 2012, Wonder Girls released Like This, an upbeat summer dance track.
Befitting the genre and concept of the song, the members of Wonder Girls are dressed in casual clothes that are easy to move around in. Just like their label mates 2PM, the Wonder Girls’ outfits feature bright colours and patterns as well.
Wonder Girls going from retro to dance anthems / Image: Twitter
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2013: I Got A Boy – Girls’ Generation
Another top second generation girl group, Girls’ Generation took the K-Pop industry by storm when they released I Got A Boy in 2013. Since their debut, Girls’ Generation were defined by their girly concepts, so seeing them do a more street-style inspired concept was completely unexpected, but they pulled it off amazingly!
Even as early as 2013, streetwear was gaining popularity, and you can already see some similarities between I Got A Boy’s styling and today’s streetwear trends. The members of Girls’ Generation look super cool in their cropped tops and sweatpants, a look that’s still popular today.
Girls’ Generation proving that they can pull off any concept / Image: Twitter
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2014: Boy in Luv – BTS
If f(x)’s Rum Pum Pum Pum and EXO’s Growl kick-started the school uniform trend in K-Pop back in 2013, then BTS’ 2014 release Boy in Luv solidified it as a top fashion trend. The title track was part of their Skool Luv Affair album, so it only makes sense that they would be sporting school uniform inspired looks.
Collared shirts and blazers may seem a little too grown up, but BTS dress them down and give their overall look a youthful vibe by matching them with sneakers and other accessories, such as necklaces and bracelets. Jimin sports a leather jacket instead of a blazer, giving him a certified bad boy look.
BTS looking like the perfect bad boys in school / Image: Instiz
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2015: Crazy – 4Minute
4Minute have always been known for their more hip hop oriented sound, and their 2015 release Crazy was a way for them to get back to their roots after trying out more public-friendly songs for their previous two comebacks. Fans and critics alike had much praise for Crazy, and the styling for this comeback definitely matched the hype of the song.
One of the highlights of their styling this comeback was the bucket hats that featured each member’s name. While idols had been seen wearing bucket hats in their downtime, this was the first time bucket hats were featured so prominently on stage. While there was still debate on whether bucket hats were fashionable, it was undeniable that 4Minute made bucket hats a cool, must-have accessory.
4Minute popularised bucket hats with Crazy / Image: Tumblr
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2016: Navillera – GFRIEND
During their rookie days, GFRIEND was well-known for their youthful and innocent concepts. While they were often dressed in white for their first few comebacks, Navillera was much more colourful. However, the pastel colours allowed them to still retain their sweet image.
The styling for Navillera was also reminiscent of school uniforms, due to the pleated design of their skirts, as well as the combination of black oxford shoes and white socks. Eunha also wears a pastel-coloured vest over a collared shirt, adding to the uniform vibe.
GFRIEND going from innocent to sweet with the help of pastel colours / Image: Twitter
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2017: As If It’s Your Last – Blackpink
Blackpink have established themselves as girl crush icons ever since their debut, and their 2017 release As If It’s Your Last was their first foray into a more upbeat sound. And to reflect the change in sound, the styling for this comeback was also different from their previous styling.
Dressed in bright colours, the members of Blackpink manage to look both refreshing and cool. Jennie even rocks a colourful tie dye patterned top, giving her a cool 80s vibe. Lisa also changes things up by wearing an oversized shirt as an off-shoulder top, finding the perfect balance between cool and sweet.
Blackpink’s first ‘Pink’ concept / Image: Pinterest
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2018: Boss – NCT U
2018 was the first year NCT released an album as a group with all 18 members (they’ve added 5 new members since then!), and their 2018 album Empathy was full of title tracks with various different concepts. Boss was one of the title tracks of the album, and while Boss is known for their military uniform inspired outfits, they also rock streetwear fashion in the music video.
By 2018, streetwear trends had already evolved into a style more similar to today’s streetwear (compared to Girls’ Generations’ styling for I Got A Boy). The members of NCT U’s Boss Unit rocked hoodies and athletic jackets, as well as loose-fitting pants, looking very much like bosses in their own right.
NCT U look both fierce and cool in Boss / Image: Twitter
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2019: Jopping – SuperM
Known as the Avengers of K-Pop, SuperM debuted with a bang with Jopping, an epic song reminiscent of Marvel movie soundtracks. A joint project between SM Entertainment and Capitol Records, SuperM was a way to bring K-Pop to a wider Western audience. While the song had more of a Western vibe, the styling and fashion for Jopping was distinctly ‘K-Pop’.
The members of SuperM rocked bright colours and bold patterns effortlessly. While each member had their own distinct styling, there were still enough commonalities between their outfits that they managed to look cohesive as a group. Mark, Taemin, and Ten all rocked red in their outfits, Lucas, Mark, and Taeyong rocked animal prints, while Baekhyun and Kai were dressed more lowkey in black and white.
SuperM combining K-Pop styling and Western music with Jopping / Image: Twitter
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2020: Wannabe – ITZY
ITZY had a strong debut with Dalla Dalla, and they continued their teen crush concept with their 2020 comeback Wannabe. Teen crush falls somewhere between the girl crush and teen concepts, and ITZY’s outfits for Wannabe embody teen crush perfectly!
The use of plaid patterns in their outfits and pleated skirts is reminiscent of school uniform inspired looks, but pairing them with cropped tops and accessories like chokers give their overall look a bit more of a badass vibe, compared to the more innocent vibe of regular school uniform inspired looks.
ITZY rocking the high teen aesthetic / Image: Pinterest
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2021: ASAP – STAYC
Despite having debuted for less than a year, STAYC have been making waves in the K-Pop industry. Their upbeat bubblegum pop-leaning songs are reminiscent of old school K-Pop, and their styling is equally nostalgia-inducing! STAYC’s styling is very much a modernised version of classic K-Pop looks, combining the bright colours and bold patterns of classic K-Pop styling with more modern cuts, such as tighter-fitting cropped tops and high-waist skirts.
The bright pastel colours and tennis skirts are also reminiscent of the high teen aesthetic, popularised by Blackpink’s Jennie. This style is known for looking both youthful and luxurious, and STAYC fits it perfectly.
STAYC rocking classic K-Pop styling with a modern twist / Image: Twitter
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While fashion trends have changed quite a bit in the past decade, there are some aspects of K-Pop fashion that remain the same. For example, many K-Pop groups still wear eye-catching outfits that feature bright colours and bold patterns. However, there have been changes in the types of colours and patterns that have become popular.
While neon colours and various loud prints were more common in the past, nowadays K-Pop fashion consists largely of pastel colours and more consistent patterns such as plaid. The cutting of clothes has changed as well, moving from mid-rise fits to more high-waist fits. However, the overall vibe of the outfits remain similar and uniquely ‘K-Pop’.
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