Ooh the triumph I feel when I figure out a second way to wear a difficult piece. This strange open sweater was a pretty fantastic find in the cheap Chinese warehouse clothing markets around Dongdaemun plaza. It was one of my first nights out with Ntiense, a good friend I made on my floor in the dorm I stayed in at Yonsei University.
It took me over a week to begin meeting good people at the program in Seoul. Ntiense was someone I always ran into after Korean class everyday at 6 PM exactly. While my already stoic self was grumpy after two hours of Korean, Ntiense was always bubbly and happy and bright. We regularly made small talk, but it wasn't until I found her one morning alone in our 5th floor lounge that we shared our frustration planning outings with the other students. I had entered the lounge to make myself some instant ramen– my friends had overslept after a night out and so I decided to eat in my boredom. She woke up to the same situation, watching a Korean variety show (Running Man rerun I believe?) in the lounge as she too waited for her friends to wake up. The New Yorkers in us connected as we vented about not being able to make the absolute most of our time studying abroad. She and I were both seniors and felt a sense a urgency to do as much as we possibly could in Seoul before I went off to banking and she to med school. Naturally, waiting for people to recover from their hangovers was not an option for us.
And so from then on we became friends and planned multiple outings together. One of our first was a touristy trip to DDP. After checking out the LED roses in middle of the futuristic architecture, we headed off to the Chinese wholesale markets where I found this sweater. She used her fantastic Korean to bargain, and I felt some of my Chinese haggling skills slipping out (all of the shopkeepers spoke enough Chinese to speak to all the thousands of Chinese tourists in Seoul), only to be confronted with confused stares from the sellers as a black and brown girl spoke to them Korean and Chinese. Afterwards we wandered looking for cheap BBQ, and found a perfect place where we sat, tired, replenishing ourselves with incredible Korean marinated beef.
As we sat and enjoyed the food and accompanying banchan, she would interject our conversation with the gossip she heard from around us. While I did stay in Korea for the semester, my Korean is still beginner at best. Ntiense on the other hand had taken years of Korean, and most of the Koreans around us didn't expect my black friend to speak the level of Korean that she did. So she often played dumb as she heard those around her discussing her appearance. We exchanged similar experiences, discussing the looks and the stares we received looking the way we did in a very ethnically homogenous nation. And while my blog is not the place to discuss the intricacies of such a topic, I can say that it was comforting finding someone who had a very similar experience to myself in this regard.
This is just one memory encapsulated in this seemingly plain but strange black sweater. Others included my first day of Seoul Fashion Week and more I'll perhaps get into in future posts. And while you shouldn't attach emotions to material things, I'm thankful that I'm reminded of such nights and memories on a day that ended up being pretty mundane because of a surprise snow fall. I've experimented with this piece a number of times, but it seems to work best with a simple black top underneath and some plain jeans. I added my old Karachi scarf that is fraying from the sides and matched a dark lip with it... which is coming out in the photos as a hot pink. But in reality it is a deep wine red that my mom thought was "too dark" for a young girl, and so I wasn't allowed to wear it until I went to college. Now I sport all the deepest and darkest blacks and reds on my lips– for some reason they make me feel indestructible.
sweater - DDP
shirt - Uniqlo Heattech
scarf - Karachi
jeans - Zara
shoes - Hongdae