K-Dramatic: How About Those Kdrama Makeovers?

Please welcome a new series of guest posts to the blog.  This series will be opinion pieces on all things related to Kdramas and why we like watching them or love to hate them.  These posts will be written by Joan M.

Makeovers: I love them and I hate them.

Ma Ri and Kang Mu Kyul are the poster children for bohemian chic.
(Some spoilers ahead)

Watch more than a few kdramas and you know that the makeover is a plot mover. Whether it happens because the girl is scruffy poor and her chaebol boyfriend wants her to look presentable, or it happens because the hero did not realize the heroine was even a girl, it’s the moment of transformation.

It’s when the hero realizes the girl is worthy of his love.

Here’s why I love them. Ever since I first saw that fairy godmother sprinkle sparkly magic dust over poor dirty Cinder Ella and transform her into a girl fit to dance with a prince, I have believed in the magical power of the makeover.

What’s not to love? You get your hair done. You get new clothes. Oh the possibilities. People see you looking as good as you possibly can and sometimes they think, hey, she cleans up nicely. Who knew? And while I prefer to buy my own clothes, the idea of someone giving you a luxurious wardrobe you might never be able to afford is seductive.

Discussing makeovers in K-dramas, K-Dramatic series.
Park Gae In's comfy style in Personal Taste.

And maybe makeovers actually don’t have anything to do with the clothes or the hair but just portray the idea that people can be transformed and when you know someone for a while, one day you look at them and see, hey, there’s a person I could really love.

That’s kind of the way it happened in “You’re Beautiful” when Hwang Tae Kyung sees Go Mi Nyu (aka Go Mi Nam) for the first time dressed as a girl. 

Discussing makeovers in K-dramas, K-Dramatic series.

Okay, he likes girls, so maybe that particular makeover is an important plot point that has little to do with fashion.

But then here is what I don’t like about makeovers. Some kdrama makeovers are about a guy making-over a girl in the image of what he thinks girls ought to be without asking for any input. Goo Jun Pyo from “Boys Over Flowers” literally kidnaps Geum Jan Di and dresses her up because he figures she belongs to him. He never asks what her ideal personal style might be. 

Discussing makeovers in K-dramas, K-Dramatic series.

The nerve. Of course she doesn’t want his couture welfare—and all the strings attached to it—and goes back to dressing the way she pleases.

When Ma Ri goes to work at her fiancĂ©’s office in Mary Stayed Out All Night, her contracted husband makes her over in the image of someone who would work in his office and her boyfriend Kang Moo Kyul (yes, don’t you love that in Kdramas, it is possible to have both) realizes that she looks good in his competition’s world and might want to stay there.

Discussing makeovers in K-dramas, K-Dramatic series.

Seeing her in a designer dress, he is motivated to fight for her, even though, she too prefers her own style.

Sometimes the makeover serves as a metaphor for becoming another person and its not always a good one. Kind of like A Portrait of Dorian Gray in which the clothes get better but the person does not.

A recent kdrama, “Cheomdamdong Alice,” is one long makeover. 

Discussing makeovers in K-dramas, K-Dramatic series.

As the heroine, Han Se Kyung, learns to dress with style so she can become part of the class that lives in the upscale Cheomdamdong neighborhood, she also learns to lie. She dresses carefully for a party in which she hopes to meet a wealthy husband, only to be treated more like a one-night-stand-for-hire rather than a potential spouse. The world she wants to enter is superficial and hyper-concerned with appearances.

The other thing I don’t like about the magical kdrama makeover is that they often focus on designer labels and not individual expressions of style. Fashion need not be a cutthroat competition in which the winner has the most expensive handbags. Clothes are about reinvention and fantasy. They can be a costume and your calling card. But most importantly fashion has to be fun and personal.

One of my favorite kdrama heroines is Park Gae In of “Personal Taste.” She’s prone to wearing the same sweatpants way too often, which is a phenomenon that I, as a writer, am familiar with. Her seemingly gay friend Jeon Jin-ho, played by Lee Min Ho, does lend her a little of his impeccable sense of style. As the arbiter of good taste, he helps her dress for the event but then doesn’t interfere with the rest of her wardrobe, letting her clean up her look in her own inimitable quirky style. 

Discussing makeovers in K-dramas, K-Dramatic series.

That’s my kind of makeover.

So, yeah I hate it—the makeover—but I love it. And if life were a kdrama I would have one. Just waiting for Lee Min Ho to offer.

cr. Joan Macdonald 

Do you have any favorite makeover scenes and if so, why?

You can watch all of these dramas at places like hulu, dramafever, viki and more.  There's even an app for that!

Image Source: dramabeanskoalasplayground.  Screencap of You're Beautiful by Oddness/Weirdness.



  1. You've exactly described my love/hate with the idea of a make-over. It is great fun to watch transformations in K'Drama's and to see how it fits with the story, whether it describes the true character or shows the superficial shallow qualities of the person. Thanks for the insight Joan!

  2. I'm glad you liked it. There will be more posts like this coming soon. :)


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