In South Korea it has been difficult to indulge in my avid love affair with sewing, not for lack of fantastic fashion around every corner, but more due to the lack of zippers and thread. The mecca for sewing supplies in South Korea must be Dongdaemum a fashion district in Seoul, the countries capital. Basically Seoul is the place to be for K-Pop star spotting, obscene drink and food prices and the fabulousness that is modern South Korea and Dongdaemun is the place to get all the hardware to produce the image of South Korea. Dongdaemun contains many of the city’s historical sites such as the Dongadaemun gate and the cultural historical park. Not to mention over 5000 shops, housing a variety of goods from fabrics, clothing, wholesale merchandise, food to exotic pets, like prairie dogs and fowls. My recent trips to this area has been to purchase something for my winter wardrobe and to find fabric for a dress that I’m going to make for myself, for a friend’s wedding. To follow is a short rant of the difficulties and eccentricities that I have faced venturing into this crazy and thrilling part of the city.
My excursions to Dongdaemun have been interesting, fabulous and totally disconcerning at the same time. Mostly confusing. As someone who has lived in South Korea for nine months, I am still baffled by this country daily. About a month ago I went to Dongdaemun for some winter shopping, being South African, the concept of having a white winter is far from a reality, but I already started to feel the cold sink into my biltong deprived bones, and thought that the time would be ripe to invest in some winter essentials. I arrived early and ready for a day filled with spending my hard earned Wons, but alas it was not meant to be. First I hit the shoe market, where I unfortunately can only window shop, due to my ‘big feet’ and then I hit the fashion wholesale market, armed with my list of winter must-haves for 2013. I came I saw and was concurred. Just when I thought I had a handle on things and knew how things worked in this country, I found myself being locked out of my shopping dream,at 12 o’ clock in the morning. Literally five floors filled with the newest winter wear, many from young Korean designers, and if you have ever seen or heard of Korean fashion you know what I am talking about. Absolute heaven, slowly being taken away from me stall by stall. They were closing the whole market at twelve o’clock!In country known as the, land of the morning calm.Meaning that basically nothing happens before ten o’clock! Everything was being shut down!It was like watching your favorite sports team loose and being unable to do anything , just sit and watch and feel dejected. Obviously, they do things differently in the BIG CITY than in my town up north. So as I was unable to obtain almost any of the ticks on my shopping list I ventured elsewhere in hopes of finding something,but the day yielded nothing special.
Back to my original story, as an avid sewing enthusiast I was thrilled to uncover the treasures of the Dongdaemun fabric market, like manna from heaven , my eyes welled up with salty happiness of my inner Donna Karen when I saw the oasis unfold before me. Isle after Isle, floor upon floor of the most beautiful, intricately delicious fabrics that I have had the pleasure to eye ball. Dongdaemun became my ”happy place” in Korea in an instance.Unfortunately in true Korean fashion, happiness is fleeting here for a foreigner…Many of the high end fabrics are only on sale in bulk to the public if you are a designer and can show proof of your business, thus the best fabrics are unattainable. This being said, there is a huge range of other fabrics in the plaza, together with a mind numbing variety of beading products, buttons and basically you name it, they have it.All except for the basic dress zipper and matching thread for my fabric. The shops around the central fabric market are laden with zippers, any color you can imagine, but again they are all for commercial use all sizes are above 30 cm and are meant for heavy duty clothing pieces.
Now I am faced with the upward battle of finding matching thread and a size appropriate zipper for a still imaginary dress for my friend’s wedding. At least I have an idea, having been in a very conservative society for over a year and not being able to wear a strapless dress ,without someone looking or pointing at me, I’m opting for something out of my comfort zone when it comes to cocktail dresses. I’m thinking knee length , with a slit or an asymmetrical hemline, a draped bodice all in a lovely dirty, blush pink. All to better soak up the dearly missed South African sun, after this cold, cold Korean winter. So,that’s the dream let’s hope the reality comes out like I see it in my minds eye. As soon as I’m done, I’ll show you the finished product, but for now here is my inspiration.