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For K-pop Stans, Style Is Liberation

“Fashion is a way for me to find myself and find out more about me.”

12/14/2020 11:35:00 PM

'Everybody is always trying to find themselves. And fashion is a way for me to find myself and find out more about me and what I like and who I am as a person.' –0914hanie

Fashion is a way for me to find myself and find out more about me.”

— and staging her own photoshoots, something she used to do with her friends. She views it as a way to express herself and her support for her favs. "You know how when idols come out with something lots of people express their excitement through different mediums, like fan art or covers? For me, I need to replicate that outfit," she says. "I feel very confident using myself as a medium. It's fun to become the concept. I'm not very good at expressing myself with words, they get stuck in my head, but the one way I can express myself is through visuals.”

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But recreating doesn’t mean creating a 1:1 copy for Elora. She feels it's important to evoke the spirit of Johnny's "simple but not" style in her everyday looks without necessarily copying his looks to a tee. "I started doing that in high school," she says. "There's this outfit I did inspired by [EXO member] Suho where he wore a light blue sweater and I did something similar and added accessories that I thought would match." Elora completed the ‘fit with bunny earrings, a subtle-for-locals nod to

’s leader. "My accessories reference the idol. Suho is often called a bunny, so I wore a sweater and bunny earrings. That was just something I knew."AdvertisementA familiar feeling would be carrying your favorite member's photocard in the back of your phone. It's an accessory only you and other K-pop stans would be able to recognize and know the significance of. headtopics.com

Carolina Malis, a 30-year-old fashion and beauty content creator from Brooklyn, New York, calls this "the new merch." She recently purchased a Fear of God t-shirt from a sample sale. Fear of God is a staple in hypebeasts’ closets but this simple tee carried a deeper meaning for Carolina. "It's the shirt that [BTS member] Suga wears all of the time," she says. "I would never have bought it if it wasn't something he wore."

Courtesy of Carolina Malis.Wearing the Jerry Lorenzo creation in public, she's acutely aware of the fact that if you know, you know. "It's so weird that some people are just going to see a shirt and others will see Suga's shirt," she adds. "It connects you with other fans. That's when the fashion item turns into merch. It's not about the fashion of it, it's about what it means."

Brands aside, Carolina says K-pop helped her clarify her style. It started with a singular folder on her phone, a place for her to save her favorite promotional images and fan site photos of idols. She collected them, she says, just so she "could stare at them and be amazed." But she quickly outgrew just one folder and created another for images that directly inspired her fashion and beauty choices. Then, a pattern — or really, a style — emerged amidst the dozens of airport looks. "One day, I saw it and I realized I had

astyle. It was very easy to see what I liked by looking through that folder. I started realizing what I wanted to wear. That's when my own style came out."That style, she says, is a mix of normcore basics and baroque period detailing. "I love to mix the feminine and the masculine," she says. "I love really chunky shoes with a dress. I feel like I discovered that through K-pop." For Carolina, BTS member headtopics.com

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Vis who best exemplifies this dichotomy. "While I won't wear the same things that he wears, [his style] speaks to me in terms of how he wears clothes and how he's mixing [pieces]," she says. "I search for his photos a lot. If BTS is at the airport, I want to see what he's wearing."

AdvertisementCourtesy of Carolina Malis.For fans, there's a big difference between inspiration and imitation. "It would be easy to think that K-pop fans are just copying," says 26-year-oldMeaghan, from Los Angeles. "Or that they're only wearing things because their favorite idols do. I don't think that's generally the case. A lot of the times I have my own sense of who I am and what I like and how I like to look, and this idol matches that and has that same aesthetic sense — and now I'm seeing a whole new world of aesthetic possibilities through them."

Read more: Teen Vogue »

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