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You've got your passport and booked your flight to Seoul. You've even promised friends you'd sample kimchi and snap a photo to prove you got some of this pungent Korean treat down your throat. Now, it's time to decide what to pack. Unlike some countries on the Pacific Rim, South Korea has no mandated religious restrictions that prohibit you from wearing Western clothing. Matter of fact, South Korea has its own hip fashion scene, and if you wear stilettos or platforms, you'll blend in. That said, don't pack too much -- no self-respecting fashionista needs a translation for this directive: "Shop 'til you drop at every opportunity."
Summer in South Korea
The good news is that South Korea has four distinct seasons. The bad news is that summers are hot and wet, so in addition to making room for light and breezy fashion that will keep you cool, pack a poncho or raincoat and an umbrella. Summer is monsoon season (changma) in this East Asian nation, and if you were forced to read Somerset Maugham's "Rain" in your English lit class, you know that when monsoons blanket Asia in the summer, you'd better duck for cover or remember how to dog paddle. Oh. Forgot to mention the occasional typhoon passing over South Korea in late summer. Bring deodorant and hair spray.
It's Not the Heat; It's the Humidity
If you travel a lot, you know that it's not the heat that can turn a relatively pleasant summer day into purgatory -- it's the humidity. For that reason, pack for Miami or Houston, not Phoenix. Prepare to find Korean women who are gorgeous, hip and as crazy for designer fashions as you are. They know how to look cool without breaking a sweat, so follow their lead in separates made of bamboo, cotton and synthetics that can be sink scrubbed and hanger dried. Bring several pairs of summery kicks -- unless you plan to go hiking, at which point sandals are going to be wildly inappropriate.
Join the South Korean Fashion Scene
A lightweight gabardine topper makes an ideal go-to cover-up if you can find one that works with day and nightwear. Pack nylon and cotton intimates and a lightweight robe. There are no dress restrictions in Seoul and big South Korean cities, so mini-skirts and dresses are appropriate. Visiting rural villages? Dress more conservatively if you want to be taken seriously. A scarf for temple visits and headbands and clips to get your hair off your neck are essential. Buy and wear one traditional silk Korean dress. The price is right and the style is empire, so even if you gain weight during the trip, nobody will notice.
Check Out Fashion Suzy
Head for the Fashion Suzy's website before you pack. Fashion Suzy covers the South Korean fashion scene. One warning: This and other South Korean fashion sites might get you thinking that packing lots of outfits makes no sense. Once you arrive and get enough sleep to get you through the jet lag, you've gotta shop Seoul. The cute tops, tees, denims, knits, handbags and shoes you saw on the Fashion Suzy site are nothing compared to the adorable fashions found within the shops of Seoul. Smart cookies have been known to pack a Korean translation guide, shoes, panties and rain gear and then shop for the weather on-site.