Fashion is constantly changing—old styles leave, new fashions come, and the cycle repeats itself. The K-Pop industry is known for its unique and iconic fashion trends, and some items come and go through the fashion cycle. Let’s look at how fashion trends evolved for K-Pop girl groups in the past ten years.
If the late 2000s emphasized vibrant-colored leggings and funky hairstyles as seen on 2NE1 and Wonder Girls, then the early 2010s emphasized stiletto high heels and sexy concepts.
In 2014, K-Pop girl groups were still in the “sexy” era. Girls’ Day captivated audiences with their long slit skirts, high heels, and seductive choreography in “Something.”
AOA had a similar concept with a song title that portrays the fashion trend this era was all about: “Miniskirt.”
Then around 2015, K-Pop girl groups started dressing more comfortably, with sneakers, comfortable heels, or lace-up boots. The concept also slowly transitioned out of overly sexy concepts with mini skirts that are difficult to perform in. Although it is difficult to pick one item to represent a whole era of fashion, one item comes to mind when thinking of K-Pop girl group fashion of the late 2010s: tennis skirts.
One of the significant influences that helped lead the growing tennis skirt trend was the popular audition program, Produce 101. Having a new format of being an audition program for trainees under labels, Produce 101 became a huge hit, and so did the iconic pleated skirt.
The popularity of the tennis skirt soared, with so many girl groups wearing different colors and variations of the skirt. From Red Velvet wearing matching white tennis skirts in “Russian Roulette” in 2016…
…to WJSN (also known as Cosmic Girls) wearing blue tennis skirts in their 2016 performance of “Mo Mo Mo.”
Of course, I.O.I., who debuted after being picked from Produce 101, rocked this fashion trend as well. They all wore tennis skirts in their remake project “Hip 2016” for the television program Sugarman.
Along with the tennis skirt, K-Pop girl groups resorted to a more “comfy and hip” look showcasing their individuality, as shown through BLACKPINK‘s debut song “Whistle” in 2016.
TWICE also wore colorful plaid tennis skirts in a unique way with their song “Yes or Yes” in 2018!
However, the fashion trend continued to move actively. After the hot surge of tennis skirts came a trend that fits with the shifting fashion and mindset of the new generation. Unless they were clothes for the song’s special concepts, a lot of K-Pop girl group fashion was comfortable, cool, and trendy—representing a Generation Z era of K-Pop idols.
Gen Z is all about being yourself and being proud of it, which was perhaps why fashion was also shifting in that direction. For example, 2020 was filled with a variety of looks. Aespa introduced themselves to the world with their debut, “Black Mamba,” which they performed with sparkly outfits showcasing their AI concept.
Everglow‘s “LA DI DA” outfits matched the “can’t stand the haters” energy of the song, and they showed that K-Pop girl groups can still pull off the sexy concept—less in a “short skirt and high heels” way but in a powerful “black leather and combat boots” way.
IVE debuted in 2021 with “ELEVEN” and showcased two different outfits (out of many others): a classic white suit with royal blue gloves as an accent and outfits with prints that could be considered tacky a few years before but are now considered cool because Gen Z is bringing it back.
ITZY also represented the “I’m unique the way I am” concept of the Gen Z trend, just like their debut song “Dalla Dalla” is all about. In 2021, the outfits for their song “LOCO” indeed showed what it meant to be different—each outfit was unique, with so many prints, colors, and patterns combined.
As new girl groups debuted in the K-Pop industry, the more “Gen Z” the fashion became. The Gen Z fashion trend blossomed with new girl groups, such as LE SSERAFIM, NMIXX, Kep1er, and NewJeans.
NewJeans especially pushed for a Gen Z concept that mirrored the 1990s and early 2000s fashion trends. Their debut song, “Attention,” showed the members wearing baggy sweatpants, oversized basketball shorts, neon jerseys, bandeaus or bandana tops, and Timberlands. More than color coordinating like K-Pop girl groups did in the past, their fashion was more about the individuality of each member.
Whereas high-waisted bottoms have been the trend for the past ten years, K-Pop idol groups now tend to wear more low-waisted pants. A couple of NewJeans members wore low-waisted pants in their performance of “Hype Boy.”
Low-rise pants were a trend in the late 1990s and early 2000s, which means the “retro” trend is back—this means butterfly hair clips, baby tees, fingerless gloves, platforms sneakers, and oversized baggy pants with studded belts were back! NewJeans often dresses in this throwback fashion when performing their songs—”OMG” included.
Among the many 1990s/2000s fashion items that are making a comeback are cargo pants. Many female K-Pop idols are seen wearing cargo pants during performances and in their daily fashion.
(G)I-DLE‘s Minnie even styled her low-rise cargo pants with a trucker hat, a studded belt, dad sneakers, a sleeveless tee with a print, and a mini bag—all items popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Within ten years, the fashion industry shifted to a reminiscent “Gen Z” concept, and it definitely showed in the K-Pop industry. Like the Gen Z mindset of accepting everyone’s differences, K-Pop idols are not only singing about “being yourself” but are showing it through their unique and individualistic outfits. They’re also showing how fashion is a repeating cycle!
What fashion trends will K-Pop girl groups follow next?