Korean national dress in the twenty-first century is rather an element of exotic culture and ancient traditions that are carefully preserved and protected. Today's Koreans have already abandoned the clothes worn by their great-grandfathers in everyday life. They prefer western style, but various national and family celebrations are not without traditional attire.
What is a hanbok ?
Recently korean culture has become more and more popular in the western world. Often the interest starts with its modern manifestations (K-Pop, South Korean serials (doramas), cosmetics, etc.), but many also have a desire to learn more about traditional culture of Korea, and then an exciting journey through the pages of the history of the Korean peninsula begins. The hanbok, a traditional Korean costume, is an integral part of what we understand as Korean culture.
Literally, the word hanbok (한복) can be translated as "Korean clothes," but it should be understood that this is the name adopted in South Korea, whereas in North Korea the traditional Korean costume is called "joseonot" (조선옷), which literally means "Joseon clothes" (Joseon was the Korean state from 1392-1897). The history of the Hanbok dates back to ancient times and its main elements were formed during the period of three states (Goguryeo, Baekje and Silla; 1st century B.C. - 7th century A.D.).
A woman's hanbok consists of a chogori (저고리), which is a blouse with an open collar, a chhim (치마), that is, a skirt. The main difference between the men's hanbok and the women's is that it includes paji (바지), the loose pants, instead of a skirt. Turumagi (두루마기), a slip dress, is also often worn.
At first glance, a hanbok has a unique beauty and grace, but at the same time it can emphasize completely different qualities depending on its characteristics and on who is wearing it. For example, a woman's khanbok of light colors is like a light cloud, carelessly traveling along the heavenly paths, and therefore it seems to reflect the joy and happiness in the eyes of the girl wearing it. But at the same time, the majestic hanbok on the king's shoulders, which is often shown in Korean dramas, creates a very different atmosphere: it seems to radiate the wisdom, fortitude, and justice that should be characteristic of a ruler.
In the past, the fabric and color of a hanbok could tell a lot about the person who wore it. For example, ordinary people could not afford expensive fabrics, so their hanboks were usually made of cotton and hemp (a fiber made from hemp stalks), while noble people had the opportunity to wear a hanbok made of rami (a fabric made from Chinese nettles) and silk. The color of the hanbok could vary greatly and often reflected a person's age or status. For example, married women often chose green chogori and red chima.
In Korea, the national costume is treated with special attention and pride, and they strive to preserve the tradition even in modern times. Of course, the hanbok is not worn to go to the office, but on special holidays, many Koreans pull out the costume they keep in their closets and wear it. The older generation does this more often than their children, but young people don't forget their country's culture either. There are many occasions in Korea for wearing the national costume: it may be a local occasion such as a wedding to which the bride's mother is likely to wear a beautiful bright hanbok, or a public holiday such as the traditional autumn Chuseok holiday when the family gathers together.
The evolution of the Women Hanbok
Women's hanbok: features Korean fashion for more than fifteen years sets the tone for the development of the fashion industry in Asian countries. Sometimes it's hard to imagine the unusual for the Europeans combinations of clothing elements and colors, which Koreans use for their modern ensembles. However, during the fashion shows in Seoul, they necessarily demonstrate the Korean national costume. The colors of fabrics, their structure and types change, new themes of embroidery appear, but the classic elements and details of such attire remain unchanged.
Until the mid-1960s, hanbok, a traditional Korean costume, was the main garment of the Korean Peninsula population. Now it is part of the culture. It is rarely worn in everyday life. Usually, women wear it to various ceremonial events, family celebrations, national holidays, and weddings. Men wear hanbok less frequently, so the women's attire undergoes fashion changes while the men's remains authentic. In South Korea, there is a whole trend in fashion that deals with the modification of traditional national clothing. Such Korean clothes look beautiful. It is elegant, elegant, lightweight. Let's try to understand what the hanboks are. To begin with we should specify that this costume is very old: such national costumes are known since the Scythian times. It is believed that all the nomadic tribes living in Siberia and Mongolia wore such spacious clothes.
Of course, costume has changed over the centuries. Today's Korea favors outfits that were worn five hundred years ago during the Joseon Dynasty. Let's look at the details that make up the costume in men's, women's, and children's variants. Let's start with the aristocratically refined toilets of Korean women. Korean traditional women's national attire consists of:
What are the different elements of a woman’s hanbok ?
Chima : The Woman's Hanbok Skirt
This is the name of a long and wide skirt. It is made from a rectangular piece of fabric that is gathered at the waist or pleated. It has its own characteristics:
- The skirt can be single layer, multi-layered or quilted.
- There are chimeras in one-piece and with zakah, which is usually located at the back.
- In the past, the skirts had to be in the tone of the top of the suit, but now use different color combinations. It is important that the tones were soft and gentle.
- The hem of the skirt was traditionally decorated with embroidery, in which floral and animalistic ornaments prevailed.
Jeogori : The Woman's Hanbok Short Blouse
Jeogori are blouses, jackets or shirts worn with chima. This piece also has its original features:
- Women wear jackets so that the bottom edge reaches the waistband of the skirt, but there are also shortened versions. Sometimes such shirts and blouses are tucked into a skirt.
- This piece of women's clothing is distinguished by the elegance given to it by lush, spacious cone-like sleeves. The sleeve cuff is usually decorated with lace or beautiful embroidery.
- The neckline of blouses and jackets is triangular. It completely covers the chest.
- The collar has a white or black ribbon, called a jeong. This detail visually extends the neck, emphasizing the femininity of the figure, the elegance of the silhouette. Long ribbons are sewn on the jeogori in the front, which fall down the entire length of the skirt. As a rule, they are placed at the base of the neck, forming beautiful bows.
Despite the fact that women's hanbok is spacious and hides the figure, it looks very elegant and graceful, emphasizes the tenderness and femininity of its owner.
Designers are experimenting with the details of the hanbok: changing the skirt, making it similar to a bell or reducing it to knee level, raising the waist, using prints, making sleeves on blouses of organza or netting. However, such suits are already far from the traditional attire.
What are the different women hanbok’s tops ?
1. The Min Jeogori : The Simplest One
The min jeogori is the favorite jeogori for summer. Indeed, this blouse, made of linen, is extremely light and allows it to stay cool even when it is very hot. This blouse is short and single-colored. This jeogori is the simplest of all, it is composed of only one color. It is a casual and simple top that can be worn in your hanbok outfit every day if you want.
2. The Hoijang Jeogori : A Classic
The hoijang jeogori is more colorful than the min jeogori. In addition to its main solid color, it has specific areas which are in another color, and that can be found at the end of the sleeves, on the neck of the jeogori or on the knot to close the jeogori. As you can see, there are two distinctive colors on the hoijang jeogori: the main color, and the secondary one on the sleeves, the collar or the closing system. This hanbok is very appreciated for the elegance it gives off by the contrast between its two colors. It is a classic!
3. The Samhoijang Jeogori : The Rarest
Although it is rarer than the samhoijang jeogori, the samhoijang jeogori is so close that it could be confused. Indeed, the only difference of samhoijang jeogori is the presence of the secondary color under the armpit, which is called "gyeotmagi" in Korean. It has like the hoijang jeogori the color on the sleeve ends, the collar and the bow to close the jeogori.
4. The Saekdong Jeogori : The Multicolor One
The saekdong jeogori is the most colorful of all jeogori. Indeed, here there is not only a secondary color but a rainbow of colors, especially on the sleeves. The knot offering the possibility to close the jeogori is also often colored. On the other hand, the collar remains the same color as the trunk, the main part of the garment. Very bright and inspiring good mood, the saekdong jeogori is mostly worn by children and babies. However, it happens that women wear it for certain occasions and festivals such as the New Year for example.
5. Geot Jeogori
As well worn by men as by women: the Geot Jeogori was a flagship under Joseon. Made of silk, the geot jeogori is thicker than other jeogori and is worn over it like the dangui. Thicker, it was the jeogori of choice to keep warm during winter.
6. The Dang Jeogori, also called Dangui
Women could also wear another jacket called Dang Jeogori (long in the shape of a half circle). The Dang Jeogori is said to come from the Three Kingdoms period (57-668). Indeed, it would have appeared when the alliance between the Korean kingdom of Silla and the Chinese dynasty of Tang was established and would thus have Chinese origins. The queen as well as all the women of the court and the high nobility wore the Dang Jeogori (a more padded Dang Jeogori was worn during the winter in order to keep the body warm). As for the length of the Dang Jeogori, it reached the hips and sometimes the knees. Most of the time, out of respect for the tradition, the fabric was yellow and the ribbon called 'Goreum' was red.
It can also be noticed that the queens and princesses wore it decorated with flowers and animals, from the shoulders to the wrists, in the front and in the back. At weddings, the only particularity of the Dang Jeogori was that it was worn over an additional skirt called Daeran Chima.
Did you know that ? The dangui of the queens and princesses also had gold leaf woven patterns like flowers, lucky writings in chinese.
The dangui is clearly a work of art, once reserved for royalty. Nowadays, many women choose to wear such a dang jeogori for their wedding day, to feel like a princess!
Finally, the Dang Jeogori was also worn by the Buchaechum (traditional fan dance) dancers during their performance.
Why wearing a hanbok ?
Excellent question! There are several answers to this:
1. The modern hanbok for women has become a casual outfit
Indeed, with the arrival of Western fashion in Korea in the early 2000s, many things have changed. And the traditional hanbok did not escape. Now, in addition to the traditional hanbok, there is the : modern hanbok which as its name indicates is a more current version of the original hanbok.
This hanbok can be similar to a dress for the uninformed people. Indeed, the skirt is often of a plain color and the top has a floral print like many summer dresses. But it does is a hanbok! Therefore, you can wear the hanbok without there being a special occasion. But preferably the summer because the modern hanbok is light and is rather suitable for hot weather, or spring temperatures.
2. The traditional hanbok for women : to be worn for special occasions
The traditional hanbok is the hanbok as it was worn by everyone just under 60 years ago. Today, the traditional hanbok is mainly worn festively on weekends when the cherry blossoms begin to bloom and to visit traditional districts and palaces.
3. The wedding hanbok for women
In any culture, the wedding is a moment full of history and symbolism. The hanbok will always find its place naturally with the wedding hanbok. The difference with the traditional hanbok is its level of refinement, embroidery and gilding more pronounced. It is typically the hanbok that were worn by people of very high social class at the time.