I’m a woman who likes stylish yet affordable shoes and clothing. I’m also a big/plus-sized woman who happens to live in one of the skinniest nations in the world. Yay, Korea! Chances are, if you’re a Westerner in Korea, you’re probably considered “big” here as well. Yes, I’m looking at you Ms. Thang who wears a size US 6, 8, or 10. Translation: although there is an abundance of shopping options everywhere you look in this country, if you are as big-hipped as I, you won’t be able to partake in 90% of it. I currently wear a size US 14/16 in clothing and a size US 9.5 (sometimes wide) – 10.5 in shoes. In Korea, I’m a 3X in clothing and a 260 – 270 in shoes. Despite limited options when it comes to stylish clothing, I have found a few gems in the Seoul area.
Here are my go-to brick and mortar spots:
1) Payless Shoesource
Yep, that’s right. The same budget shoe retailer from the US now has a presence here in Korea. I’ve only been to 1 (out of several) locations, but it has just about everything I need. They carry wide sizes and even go up to a size US 11.
How to get there: Take line 4 to Myeongdong exit 6. Take right stairway out of exit. Turn left at Uniqlo then right on the small alley. Store is on your left. Update: January 2014: The Myeongdong location is now closed. Many of the payless stores are located within Emarts. Hat tip to commenter Jamie below who shared this gem:
Payless is inside the emart at Times Square mall at Yeongdungpo subway stop on line 1
This place is definitely no-frills, so don’t go in expecting department store glamour. But don’t be fooled, either! Kimmie (one of the owners?) has some great finds in sizes ranging from a US 8 or 10 to as big as a US 22 Women’s. There may even be bigger or smaller sizes than that available, but I’ve never looked. From what I can tell by the defaced inside labels, the clothes are from US retailers like Macy’s, Nordstrom, Ashley Stewart, Lane Bryant, Kohl’s, and Talbot’s, but I recently scored a cute top from Forever 21 (the one in Myeongdong has been closed for renovations since my arrival). The dressing room is her storage area – an open space with a clothing rack and a few mirrors. Don’t worry. You’re in Korea now, you should be used to getting undressed in front of same-sex strangers. As for costs, you can expect to pay regular (read: non-sale) US department store prices on most things, but there are some deals to be found as well. My most recent haul netted me: 3 pairs of shorts/capris (₩15,000 each), 1 top (₩15,000), and 1 summer dress (₩36,000).
How to get there: Take line 6 to Itaewon station exit 2 and walk towards KFC. The entrance to OKBT is on the 2nd floor of a building with “Italy Shoes” written on the awning. Walk into the shoe store and take the stairway to your right.
3) A & H NY State Outlet
The selection in this store is likely among the best I’ve seen in my limited time in Korea for women with big (anything over US 8) feet. In fact, it was recommended to me by Kimmie in OKBT. It looks like most of their shoes came from a shipment that never quite made it to Macy’s 😉 The prices are a bit inflated, in my opinion, but it is nice to have more shoe options in another brick and mortar store.
How to get there: From exit 4, walk away from the station with Baskin Robbins on your left. Slow down once you get near the bus stop and look on your left for a basement level store with the A & H sign. If you hit Outback Steakhouse or Subway restaurants, then you’ve gone a few stores too far.
4) Itaewon Underground Market
If you’re into cheap, quick, Korean fashion, then this is the place for you. While the vendors here aren’t technically selling big sizes, you’ll still be able to find some staples if you’re around my size. What you’re looking for here is “Free Size.” Though, I’ve had horrible luck with free size in most places, I found 2 vendors here with free size clothing that will fit me comfortably. Both speak some English and are willing to work with you on reasonable price negotiations.
How to get there: Follow the directions above to A&H NY State Outlet. Continue on the same main street for several blocks past OKBT. Turn left into the alley between the Itaewon Underground Market sign and Soul Train/Corner Bag Shop. Walk into the other opening of the underground market and go to the last row of vendors. Store #1 is the first vendor on the last row (corner) and Store #2 is the second to last vendor on the same row before the bathroom hallway.
5) Big Clothing (Uijeongbu)
This may not be the actual name of the store, but it’s what’s written on the awning so let’s just roll with that, mkay? Anyway, I happened upon it quite by accident in my city of Uijeongbu. The selection is the more mundane side of Korean fashion – lots of stretchy leggings and jeggings and over-sized shirts and jackets. Maybe the summer clothing wasn’t ready yet when I last arrived, but I was very disappointed at the lack of color and variety in this place. The prices can also be a bit ridiculous given the low quality of clothing, but I go here for basic leggings and cheap T-shirts when I don’t want to trek into Seoul. The sizes range from Korean Large to 5X.
How to get there: From Uijeongbu station exit 6, walk away from the station with the “Man on the horse” statue on your right. Stay on the main road and turn right on the second alley. The shop will be a few yards down on your right just past the piercing place.
Here are some recommended online retailers:
Free standard shipping (9-20 days) and returns to Korean addresses and APO’s from this UK retailer. I love this site because everything is on-trend and they do a great job of mixing high- and low-end pieces. They have shoes and clothing for “conventional”, Petite (below 5′ 3″), and Plus sizes (UK 14 – 26). The international site is the UK site, not the US site that many of you fashionistas have been using back home.
A Korean retailer with on-trend selections in a variety of sizes. If your Hangul skills are very limited like mine, you may want to solicit a Korean friend to help you navigate the site and ordering process. I’ll post a funny story about how I discovered this site in the near future.
This is Korea’s equivalent to Amazon. There is a section for plus size clothing, though I have never ordered clothing from this site, I will likely bite the bullet before winter hits for some affordable fleece lined tights. If you’re an English teacher, have the package delivered to your school address or a nearby convenience store so you’ll be sure to get it.
Hopefully, this list should get you off to a good start. I will update this post with new information as I find more places that have clothing or shoes to fit women with lusciously big hips, strong thunder thighs, ample bosoms, and/or big feet.