A Beginner’s Guide to K-pop Fashion Stars

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Magnetic, globally captivating, and undeniably cool are all ways I’d describe K-pop. Though I didn’t come to the genre all on my own—I have to credit my cousins for making me watch Netflix’s documentary Blackpink: Light Up the Sky—since discovering it, I’ve developed a profound respect for all aspects of K-pop: the music, the culture around it, and especially that incredible K-pop style. These days all eyes are on everyone’s favorite K-pop stars, which means all eyes are on what they wear and what they do.

Before we dig into the niceties of K-pop fashion, here’s a little primer on the genre for those who are not yet totally obsessed. As intersectional as it is influential, K-pop, short for Korean pop, unites all aspects of music, art, and dance, fusing inspiration from all over the world. This planet-spanning approach has earned K-pop an equivalently global fandom, with the United States just the latest nation to jump on the bandwagon.

The origins of K-pop go back to the 1950s, pop music’s first heyday. The South Korean music group the Kim Sisters are believed to have laid the foundations, singing renditions of American hits to GIs during the Korean War. Word quickly spread about the group in the US, and soon they were signed by American producer Tom Ball.

In later decades, Korea set up its own hit factory. The indigenous industry can be broken down into three generations, with the first emerging in the 1990s. Boy group Seo Taiji and Boys meshed Korean and American pop music with hip-hop-inspired dance choreography. The group also wore designs inspired by American fashion and street style, helping introduce South Korea to US aesthetics. They were pioneers of K-pop as we know it now. HOT, a boy group also popular in the ’90s, emulated the professionally trained skill, iconography, and style we see in the genre today. The band often rocked matching outfits, from head-to-toe leather to colorful oversized suits.

The first decade of the new millennium spawned the second generation of K-pop, composed of acts like Girls’ Generation, Apink, and TVXQ ( to name a few.) These groups too performed in matching stage outfits, but their style was relatively relaxed—a far cry from the grandeur and glitter K-pop is known for today. Second-gen group Wonder Girls, for example, sported street style clothes as seen in their “Tell Me” music video, and Girls’ Generation took to the stage in casual jean-tee combos, sporty sweatshirts, and skirts.

Today, the third generation of K-pop (2010 to present) reigns: Thanks to bands like BTS, Blackpink, and Twice, K-pop has entered its world-domination phase. Boy band BTS became the first K-pop group in history to be nominated for a Grammy in 2020, for their hit song “Dynamite” (which gained 12.6 million streams on Spotify on the first day of its release). Meanwhile, K-pop artists serve as global ambassadors to such luxury brands as Chanel, Fendi, and Loewe and launch new trends via their stage outfits and videos. Below, see some of the best looks from the biggest K-pop stars.


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Blackpink made global headlines in 2019 after becoming the first all-female K-pop group to perform at Coachella. Its members sported black-and-silver stage outfits, with Lisa in a bejeweled halter-neck crop top and belted skirt and Jennie in a bandeau top, choker, and shorts with a glittery fringe skirt.

The group’s members are so renowned that they have served as ambassadors for many luxury brands: Lisa for Celine and Bulgari, Jennie for Chanel, Rosé for Yves Saint Laurent and Tiffany and Co., and Jisoo for Dior and Cartier. Rosé also became the first female K-pop icon to attend the Met Gala in 2021.


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Before wooing the world and receiving a standing ovation for their performance at the 64th annual Grammys, BTS dazzled on the red carpet in head-to-toe Louis Vuitton. Member Jungkook posed in a yale blue set with a cropped band-collar jacket, baggy pants, and chunky black loafers.

In their “Dynamite” music video, BTS gave us their version of the best looks throughout the decades. Emulating ’90s heartthrobs, the band members rocked backward Kangol hats, oversized button-downs layered over white tees, and Canadian tuxedos while giving odes to Michael Jackson and ’NSync choreography. J-Hope sports one of the best looks of the video in ’70s-inspired head-to-toe Gucci: He wears a red leather button-down, jeans, and a black belt.


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In 2019, Twice posed for the South Korean show M Countdown in a range of galaxy-themed metallics. Alternating between wide-leg pants and miniskirts, the group channeled an out-of-this-world look filled with glimmer and shine.

During their performance of the song “The Feels” on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Twice wore fashionable versions of sports jerseys and knee-high lace-up shoes, with Dahyun standing out wearing a white high-neck minidress layered with glittery fringe.


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Twice’s Nayeon debuted her solo career with “Pop!” in June. As she defined her own voice with the song, she also debuted her individual style in the music video. Never a wallflower, Nayeon favors pops of color, often wearing luxury brands and matching sets. In the video she rocks red-belted Prada jacquard mini shorts and a matching altered Champion top, as well as other major brands, like Louis Vuitton, Alexander McQueen, and Lirika Matoshi.


Marc Piasecki

Solo artist and actor Lee Ji-eun, who goes by the stage name IU, has a sweet sense of style, exemplified by the off-the-shoulder gray gown she wore at the Cannes Film Festival in 2022.

Continuing to channel the schoolgirl-next-door look, IU wears an oversized cardigan with a crochet hat and a patterned pink dress layered over a white top in her “Strawberry Moon” music video. Similarly she wears a casual preppy look in her “Blueming” music video, with a purple knit cardigan layered over a white tee and beige trousers.


Han Myung-Gu

Always down to play with color, Momoland embraces each member’s individuality while sticking to a bright theme. For their performance at the 27th annual Dream Concert in South Korea, no two members looked the same, though the group wore all pastels.

Similarly in their “Yummy Yummy Love” music video, each member put their spin on a black-and-red theme. Group member Ahin wears a black halter top and black leather skirt with one side draped in red tulle, creating a half-dress look.


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Another K-pop group that takes individual style to another level is Got7. At the 2018 Mnet Asian Music Awards, members displayed their take on red-carpet glam.

The opening scene of Got7’s “Nanana” music video also shows members flaunting individual dapper styles. Their looks range from yellow-orange ombré suits and patterned jacket-and-pants combos to brightly colored knit sweaters. BamBam was among the best dressed in a shredded pink tweed two-piece, complete with a cropped jacket, matching high-waist pants, and a simple black shirt underneath.

NCT 127

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Boy band NCT 127 served nine shades of gray when promoting their fourth album, 2 Baddies, in 2022, making the case for in-sync dressing with their matching monochromatic ensembles—though it’s not the first time they’ve done so.

In the video for “Fact Check,” their most recent drop, members sport different iterations of all-white looks, with Yuta topping his baggy cargos with a cropped Moncler Genius vest. But NCT 127 doesn’t confine itself to coordinated styles, as proven by Johnny’s standout look: a semi-sheer mesh top from Charles Jeffrey Loverboy and a shimmery argyle suit atop.


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Solo artist Chuu had her own break-the-internet moment when she was papped filming the music video for “Howl,” a song on her debut mini album. Carving out her own sound and style, the star stuck to a fairy-grunge aesthetic: a mix of fairycore and the well-known ‘90s style. My all-time favorite look from the video finds Chuu the ultimate Gen Z poster girl in Demonia platform boots and a Chopova Lowena tartan miniskirt.

Red Velvet

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This girl group has been churning out iconic looks since their 2014 debut. Just take the goth-tinged teaser imagery for their third album, Chill Kill, which earned Red Velvet the moniker concept queens from K-netizens.

And their music-video style is just as noteworthy. My personal highlights are Irene’s look in “Birthday,” pairing a brown baby tee and a camo miniskirt (both by Marc Jacobs Heaven), and Joy’s Vivienne Westwood corset top.


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On the red carpet, these girls exemplify elegance—see the opulent black and white gowns they wore at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. But off the carpet? They have a Y2K aesthetic reminiscent of TLC’s “No Scrubs” or Britney Spears’s “Oops…I Did It Again.” In teasers for the album Drama, their style could be described as cybercore or futuristic Y2K. Nowadays, the aesthetic exhibited in these shoots would most likely be considered AI or metaverse adjacent, but I’ll call it what it is: iconic.

In their Kill Bill–style music video for the single “Drama,” the stars rock a collection of must-have pieces. Karina wears that viral Jean Paul Gaultier x Knwls pink fur-trimmed jacket, and Winter wears a logo-embossed long-sleeve bodysuit and spiral split-hem jeans—both Mugler.

Le Sserafim

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Another girl group worth mentioning for their oh-so-fashionable taste: Le Sserafim. Apart from their color-coordinated stage looks, the stars make equally sensational statements with their online and street style. Their playful NBA Lakers look is a lesson in styling sportswear.

Le Sserafim makes another case for fashionable sportswear in their music video for “Perfect Night,” which dropped in collaboration with the video game Overwatch 2. As a fan of both the game and the fashion statements made in Le Sserafim’s music video, I’d say they nailed the brief, blending wearable real-life pieces (e.g., decorative ribbons and football jerseys rocked pantless) with just as desirable in-game looks. K-pop is expanding its domination to the virtual world—and I’m not surprised!

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