When it comes to style, we can always count on a good K-Drama for endless inspiration. From fantasy to romantic comedy, even mystery thriller and legal dramas, Korean shows and its leads are notoriously well-dressed from the first to the final episode. We find the characters’ styling is always intentional, the littlest nuances of any personality subtly woven into the story through fashion just as fabric and thread are sewn together to make a piece of clothing.
Art by Raff Colmenar
While outfits featured in earlier titles may now seem dated, the influence of K-Dramas in fashion is just everywhere. With the advent of on-demand streaming, there’s more and more sartorial inspiration to go around as we gain access to thousands of Korean shows.
As we reach the halfway point of 2020, Metro.Style goes back five years to rank the best styled K-Dramas we’ve watched so far. (Minor spoilers ahead for some of the titles if you haven’t seen them!)
What’s your personal pick for best styled K-Drama? Make sure to let us know in the comments!
Best Styled K-Dramas
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#10 Tomorrow, With You (2017)
Lee Je-hoon and Shin Min-a top-bill this romantic fantasy drama as Yoo So-joon and Song Ma-rin, respectively. The show follows the story of So-joon, the CEO of a real estate company, who can travel through time using the subway. Unfortunately, he sees his future isn’t exactly happy. He then marries Ma-rin, an amateur photographer, who he believes can change his fate even if he doesn’t love her.
A romantic drama set in the courtroom, Hyena stars Ju Ji-hoon as Yoon Hee-jae and Kim Hye-soo as Jung Geum-ja—two competitive lawyers whose clientele belong to South Korea’s 1%. They chase after their prey like hyenas, but eventually find themselves inevitably chasing after each other.
The pair is characterized by their distinct styles: Jee-hae’s sleek ensembles speak volumes of his perfectionist and egoist attitude, while Geum-ja’s playful spin on power dressing calls attention to her do-what-it-takes personality.
Hee-jae is the elite of elite lawyers. A real hotshot in and out of the court, he’s brilliant and he knows it—and you can see the confidence dripping from the many tailored suits he wears in the series.
The webtoon-turned-hit TV drama Itaewon Class was a hit among audiences for tackling social taboos throughout its emotionally driven 16 episodes. Headlined by Park Seo-joon (Park Sae-roy) and Kim Da-mi (Jo Yi-seo) who appear in a love triangle with Kwon Na-ra (Oh Soo-ah) as well as a stellar supporting cast, the show is something we won’t soon forget not just for its daring story but also for the awesome styling!
The show covers more than 10 years of Park Sae-roy’s life, so we inevitably see his growth from boy to man ingeniously shown through the evolution of his style. As he crawls his way to success, he goes from hoodies to bomber jackets to tailored coats.
Oh Soo-ah, on the other hand, develops a more classic, sophisticated style as she learns the ropes and climbs to the top of Jangga Co. Her final look in the series featuring a matching tweed jacket and mini-skirt pairing, is the perfect way for her character to make a lasting impression as the series ends.
The tale of two women from different rungs of the social ladder: Kim Hee-sun’s Woo Ah-jin is the wife to a chaebol heir who sits at the top and falls from grace, while Kim Sun-ah’s Park Bok-ja is a caregiver who schemes her way from the bottom to secure her place at the top. A great mix of mystery and comedy, Woman of Dignity was unsurprisingly one of the highest-rating shows of 2017.
Ah-jin, in particular, stuns throughout the series with her elegant style. Embodying every bit of her status as the daughter-in-law in a rich family, she’s often seen in the most luxurious fabrics seen in the show.
We now give the spotlight to the gents, courtesy of 2016-2017’s record-breaking Goblin. The drama that bore the lasting bromance between Gong Yoo (Kim Shin) and Lee Dong-Wook (Wang Yeo a.k.a. Grim Reaper) features the two male leads as immortals with vast fortunes and dapper style to go with it.
As Wang Yeo, he understandably dresses in deep and dark shades to bring to life the bringer of death. With a closet filled with a myriad of textured fabrics and a solid palette of blacks, grays, and navy blues, Goblin’s Grim Reaper is possibly the most stylish incarnation of the supernatural entity.
Yook Sun-jae’s Yoo Deok-hwa is introduced at the beginning of the drama as Kim Shin’s “nephew,” but is really the last descendant of the family that promised to serve Kim Shin when he became immortal. Apart from the show’s female leads, Deok-hwa is the trendiest among the three men when it comes to his style.
Another high-rating TV drama, Sky Castle revolves around four mothers who live in the prestigious Sky Castle compound. Married to accomplished husbands who work at Junam University, Han Seo-jin (Yum Jung-ah), Noh Seung-hye (Yoon Se-ah), Jin Jin-hui (Oh Na-ra), and Lee Su-im (Lee Tae-ran) are tasked to raise equally accomplished children amidst Korea’s overly competitive education system. In order to achieve this, they find themselves entangled with admissions coordinator Coach Kim Joo-Young (Kim Seo-hyung).
Meanwhile, Seung-hye is the wildcard who doesn’t seem to ascribe to one particular style as she bounces from rich housewife to powerful madame in one episode. All we know is that her outfits are definitely A+ despite her sons’ mediocre grades!
We can’t forget the stylish kids in the Castle, too—the most notable one being Seo-jin’s perfect princess Kang Ye-seo (Kim Hye-yoon). Throughout the series, she wears a myriad of beautiful headbands to top off her preppy chic style.
The World of the Married, based on the British TV series Doctor Foster, follows Kim Hee-ae’s Dr. Ji Sun-woo as a woman who seemingly has everything—a thriving career, family, and personal life—that is, until she didn’t. The 16-episode drama reveals “a whirlwind of revenge” as she unfolds the betrayal of those closest to her.
IU top-bills tvN’s highest-rated drama of 2019 as Jang Man-wol, the 1,300-year-old owner of the titular Hotel Del Luna. The fantasy drama centers around her as the show reveals the mysteries and secrets of the hotel that caters to ghosts passing through.
Man-wol, who has lived through a millennium, is dressed in all manner of old-fashioned dresses from bygone eras. She has a specific look for every occasion, and IU’s wardrobe for the series has been revealed to cost over US$8,000 per episode.
Her style is primarily vintage, often featuring pieces in luxe fabrics and tailored silhouettes to show off her expensive taste. Her accessories aren’t to be ignored, with statement jewelry that polish off her old-fashioned ensembles.
The romantic fantasy drama that brought together powerhouses Lee Min-ho and Jun Ji-hyun as its leads, the series follows con-artist Heo Joon-hae and mermaid Sim Cheong from Spain to South Korea in a story that later reveals them as the reincarnations of nobleman Kim Dam-ryeong and mermaid Se-hwa from the Joseon era.
While on vacation, Joon-hae finds Sim Cheong inside the villa he’s staying in in Spain.. When hired gunmen chase him around town to seek revenge for a businesswoman he conned, he decides to tag her along because of the Jadeite bracelet she wears.
The Queen of Romantic Comedy herself, Jun Ji-hyun gives us life with Sim Cheong who is literally a half-fish out of water in Legend. Without any sense of fashion and style, she is dressed in whatever she finds along the way. This time, it just happens to be a Dolce & Gabbana sequined dress.
In reality, while the show played up Sim Cheong’s style as “wear whatever,” it really isn’t really as meh as it sounds. This Loewe coat and Elephant mini-bag combo is proof—and there’s even more throughout the show!
We all know Crash Landing on You as the K-Drama that kicked off 2020 and landed a perfect 10 among many viewers. With Hyun Bin (Capt. Ri Jeong-hyeok) and Son Ye-jin (Yoon Se-ri) leading the drama alongside Seo Ji-hye (Seo Dan) and Kim Jung-hyun (Goo Seung-joon) as supporting leads, the drama’s beautiful cast was impeccably dressed from North Korea to South Korea.
As the woman behind her eponymous fashion, beauty, and lifestyle empire Se-ri’s Choice, Se-ri is undoubtedly the most stylish of them all. She has no choice but to keep it low-key while in North Korea, but we see just how fashionable she is when she’s back in the South.
We can’t help but add a few honorable mentions to this list, the first being 2014’s My Love From The Star. Jun Ji-hyun’s Cheon Song-yi is an egoistic Hallyu star with a closet coveted by many. No wonder Do Min-joon (Kim Soo-hyun) can’t help falling in love with her!
The romantic comedy starring Park Seo-joon (Ji Seong-joon), Hwang Jung-eum (Kim Hye-jin), Go Joon-hee (Min Ha-ri), and Choi Si-won (Kim Shin-hyeok) also makes our list for Best Styled K-Drama if only for Go Joon-hee’s Ha-ri. She stood out throughout the show as a style star, the statuesque beauty always dressed in the trendiest styles.