Fabric Market in Dongdaemun and being Plus Size in South Korea

Hi you all!~ ^^

Yesterday I have been to the famous fabric market in dongdaemun ! In Korean it is called 동대문 종합시장 ( dongdaemun jonghap sijang). Unfortunately sellers are pretty sensitive about photo taking so I could take two very quick snaps to give you a general idea. If you like DIY or sewing this is the perfect place for you! This shopping complex sells anything from fabrics, yarns, sewing materials, accessories, buttons and… Anything really!

To tell you the truth, I bought a mini sewing machine and decided to learn some basic sewing in order to make my clothes, or at least skirts and dresses; that is the reason why I went to the market. Being a plus size in Korea is really tough, the majority of people here are on the thin side and finding stores with the so called “big size ” is virtually impossible. By “big size”, I don’t mean just overweight people and let me explain why. Compared to Asians us foreigners have a different body structure; for instance, many tall Europeans struggle to find clothes and shoes that fit them both width and lengthwise.. We just have a different body build and it can be frustrating to find the best option for us. Even chain brands like H&M and forever 21 (understandably) sell products geared towards Asian customers, and are therefore very different in sizes compared to our Wester version of the same brand. Plus size stores have started to pop-up recently, although bigger Korean girls still struggle to find pretty looking clothes that flatter their body curves.

Although I’m struggling to lose weight, I would still love to wear something pretty throughout this process. Howevwr, even when I manage to find clothes that fit me (e.g. online or in a recent Korean brand called Lady Plus) they are simply TOO expensive for me to afford ( plus size clothing seems to be sooo overpriced simply for the fact that it is labeled as such..).

Anyhow.. I don’t want to annoy you further with my personal struggles in a country obsessed with plastic surgery and face values (don’t misunderstand me, Korea is a great country under many other aspects!), and I’ll go back to my original topic about the Dongdaemun fabric market.

Third floor of the fabric market
Some fabrics in the market

The place is HUGE! and I’m not kidding.. I spent 3 hours walking and getting lost before finding something that I liked to make a skirt. I can give you a few tips, although I am still not a master of this place. First, you need to speak Korean or go with a person that speaks the language. The reason for this is that the people selling are mostly old people, but also the young are not really good English speakers. If you want to strike a good bargain you need to speak the language; also, it would help you describe what characteristics you want from your fabric or simply seek advice. Lastly, the sole fact that you are a foreigner puts you at risk of being cheated at. I don’t like bargaining myself, so if the price they offer is acceptable I would just buy the product. Otherwise, if the price they offer is too expensive I would definitely think they are trying to charge me more because I am not a local and then I would try to bargain.

In English, you indicate the measure for your fabric in yards; in Korean you do so with “ma” (마). 1 ma is around 110×90 cm. I managed to get 2 ma for 6.000 won from one vendor and 7.000 from another. Since it was my first time I just went with the price, but I’m sure that if I’m more confident next time i might get the same products for 5.000 won each. Some vendors, the ones with small samples, have the price indicated on the samples themselves so you won’t risk getting ripped off 🙂

If you want to buy fabric on the spot, I recommend going to the D block of the building ( the building is divided in 4 main blocks : a b c d), as it is the one with more vendors equipped with big rolls of fabric ready to be cut. Most of the vendors in the other blocks only have samples ( thousands!!!) displayed on their desk and after u choose the fabric you can order (mostly they take orders in bulks) and they will have it delivered within the next day to your place.

Dont be scared and just go check the place out! The accessory floor has many very cute things!! (5th floor). For fabrics go to the 4th and 5th floor !~ ^^

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3 thoughts on “Fabric Market in Dongdaemun and being Plus Size in South Korea

  1. Nice that you posted your report on facebook thank you. I really don’t believe the vendors rip off foreigners at Dongdaemun Shopping Complex (fabric market). I have been buying fabrics there for many years and the prices are so really cheap compared to other countries I have visited. I always write down the number of the stalls and what I bought from each one so I can find them easily next time. When many of the vendors see one is serious about sewing they are really kind and often throw in another remnant for “service” when they get to know you! I don’t speak Korean but I have no problem making purchases – usually they will show you the price per yard on their calculator, they understand 100% cotton, poly, spandex and other English words relating to fabrics. There are one or two grumpy old men who are overtly hostile and flatly refuse to let me purchase from them – one who sells furs for collars or trims on the first floor. There is nice knitting wool at the basement level and you see people learning to knit inside the stalls. If you really get interested in sewing your own clothes you can join McCall pattern co.com, pay $10.00 per year for membership and buy patterns online. McCalls, Butterick and Kwik Sew are $3.99 each for members and Vogue patterns are $5.99 each. Sadly they have raised their postage charges recently $15.00 postage for 3 patterns and $25.00 for 4 to 6 patterns.

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    1. Thanks for sharing ur experience :).I’m sorry to hear a couple of them were rude to you. I think as foreigners it’s always very prudent about the prices wherever we go. Not saying everyone will definitely rip us off but there are some people like that and it has happened to me in other shopping places like namdaemun or myeongdong. I also took pictures of their stalls although im not confident about finding them next time aha that place is like a maze! I am sure you can get better deals from some vendors if you speak Korean. I’m curious about how much you paid per ma/yard?

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