Plus-Size and Big Shoe Shopping in Korea

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

Payless in Myeongdong

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

2) OKBT

OKBT in Itaewon
OKBT in Itaewon courtesy of Google Maps

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.

Honorable Mentions:

3) A & H NY State  Outlet

A&H NY State Outlet in Itaewon courtesy of Google Maps

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

Itaewon Underground Market courtesy of Google Maps
Itaewon Underground Market courtesy of Google Maps

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:

6) ASOS

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.

7) Elysia

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.

8) Gmarket

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.

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23 thoughts on “Plus-Size and Big Shoe Shopping in Korea

  1. Bangkok is just as bad if you don’t want to spend a fortune. I still have to wait for a trip home to buy shoes and underwear. Asos is my saviour 🙂

    • lavieinpink,
      Wow! Didn’t realize how fortunate I was living in the States and having great access to clothing/shoes until I moved abroad. I’ve been losing a bit of weight here recently and will need new underwear soon if it continues. May just bite the bullet and have my family ship an order from home, but I do second that ASOS sentiment.

  2. Totally bookmarking this! I’m a US size 10-12, 5’8″ and US shoe size 9.5. I struggle just getting clothes here because it’s all in the hips with me – Will definitely need to track down some of these stores.

    • Bookmark away, Ceri! You should be able to find clothes easily by shopping at Gap, Zara, Forever21, or H&M. You may even fit into Korean sizes at their cute stores. Shoes have been the most heartbreaking for me. There are plenty of cute and inexpensive shoe stores here and none of them carry our size. Shopping the Western brands I mentioned will open up your options. I’ll update this document if I find any other stores.

  3. Hi

    Could you help me with the http://ely-sia.net/. I want to order the cloth from them but my Korean is Zero and now i just study in korea for a week. I’m like US 16. I don’t know if i’m going to fit the L or XL one. The korea’s size is so confusing.

    • I’m a US 12/14 now and my size fluctuates, but here’s what has been working for me:
      Bras/tops in 95 (100 if I want a looser fit). Bottoms are a 99/L.

      At a US 16 you may be able to do XL if it says 100-120. My best advice is to measure yourself in cm at the chest, hips, and waist before you go shopping so you’ll know what sizes will fit as every store has different size points. Here’s a website that gives a general idea of sizing.

    • Sadly, Payless in Myeongdong is closed. I’m told there are several stores still open within Emarts around Seoul. There’s one near Seokgye station that a friend frequents. The search for shoes continues… Still no love for big feet women in Korea :/

    • Universally, fat/overweight people are the topic of many jokes. However, I will say that a lot of my anxiety and discomfort with my size when I was much bigger came from my own insecurities. A look around the country and you’ll see Koreans in all shapes and sizes.

  4. I am crying over shoes in Korea, definitely. I live about an hour from Seoul, so I don’t go into Seoul much and I don’t know much about it, either. Do you know where I can find the brand stores such as H&M and Forever 21? Also, what are their prices like? I am a student, so I’m on a very tight budget!!!

    • H&M and Forever21 are both in Seoul and larger cities like Daegu. Their prices are similar to what you’ll find in the US. Areas like Apujeong, Gangnam, and Myeongdong are good places to start in Seoul. You could also try shopping in Uniqlo if you’re a US size 12 or smaller. There’s also a plus size area of the department store Doota in Seoul’s Dongdaemun area. They have bras, clothing, outerwear, hosiery, and shoes in the basement area called “Big Zone.” Another option for someone on a budget is to look on FB expat groups for clothing swaps. I know I gave away a huge bag of clothes and shoes while I lived there.

      • I just want to add that the only western stores in Daegu are H&M and Zara… there has never been a Forever 21 for as long as I’ve been here which has only been a year.

    • There are several in Emarts throughout Seoul. One in Yongsan area in Times Square Mall (Line 1 to Yeongdeungpo Station. Exit 3 cross the street and it’s after the Shinsegae).

  5. Hello, I’m going to korea this friday… I just bought some clothes here in Canada, so I think I’m good, but if I wanted to buy clothes in korea I don’t know what I would have to look for ;-;. I don’t know my number size but I range from a extra small or small and rarely medium in t-shirts and I’m a size 7-9 in pants depending on how small they run, I’m also around 5foot7 or 8 ish… Would I fit in korean clothing or do I have to go the plus size sections? I’m really confused when it comes to that, sorry for the weird question. Anyways thanks!! 🙂

  6. Update for anyone who uses blogs to search for stuff: they no longer have plus or big size clothes. Asked information & they said no.

  7. Hi! Thank you so much for your blog post! I am about to come back to Korea again in a few weeks. I am fairly standard height and shoe wize.. But battle sooooo much with finding tops that fit my bust size (D cup). I will def be looking in these places. Thank you!

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