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Hanbok is the Korean national costume that never ceases to amaze with its beauty and aesthetics. The literal translation of the word means "Korean clothes," but today hanbok (male and female) usually refers to the clothes of the Joseon Dynasty.

Interestingly, Korean fashion in the twenty-first century has made a real breakthrough: it has now taken the lead among Asian countries. However, innovation is quite combined here with conservatism - few places treat the national costume with such respect. There is even a separate fashion trend, which develops modified versions of the national costume!

Hanbok still occupies an honorable place in the closet of every Korean, and on some holidays it is compulsory dress code. But first things first.

What is the Hanbok ?

Half a century ago, the hanbok was an everyday item of clothing for both men and women. It is difficult to establish the exact birthplace of the costume, but it is known that similar clothes were worn by the Scythians and Mongolian tribes. The key characteristic of the suit is functionality: here everything is "sharpened" for comfort:

  • Wide pants on men and skirts on women provide comfort when riding;
  • The loose sleeves also do not restrict the movement;
  • Layered clothing is important for air circulation.

Of course, there are summer and winter versions of the hanbok. For the manufacture of the costume were always used only natural fabrics, lightweight, and at the same time keeping warmth: cotton, linen, silk.

Thee color of the costume has always had a symbolic meaning. For the Khanbok there were used five basic colors. White and yellow meant aristocratism, black meant creativity, blue meant prosperity, and red meant wealth.

The Hanbok's History 

One of the things with which Korea is clearly associated is the hanbok. The traditional outfit, now popular only on holidays, is distinguished by its flowing lines, loose fit, and centuries-old history of modifications. For Koreans, the hanbok is part of their country's culture, carefully preserved and handed down from generation to generation.

The uniqueness of the hanbok is that it really does not look like the traditional clothes of other countries. Its history goes back to the Three Kingdoms period (57 BC - 668 AD). It derived from the clothing of the northern Siberian nomads - their general style of dress first became known in the 3rd century B.C., when a burial site of the Hunnu, a tribe that inhabited the steppes north of China, was found in the north of Mongolia.

The elaborate comfort of the hanbok reflected the nomadic lifestyle of those who wore it - the hanbok was cut very loosely to make it easier to move around. That was when the basic details of the khanbok appeared: chogori (jacket), chima (skirt in a female hanbok) and paji (pants in a male hanbok).

The birth of the Korean Hanbok

After a peace agreement was signed with the Mongol Empire in the 13th century, Mongol princesses became wives of Korean ruling circles and brought with them fashion that began to dominate the native Korean tradition of dress - and this despite the fact that few fashion trends could have influenced Korea at that time. While the Korean version of the hanbok had long skirts and thigh-length jackets since the first century AD, after the influence of the Mongols the sleeves were rounded, the skirt and jacket were significantly shorter, and the jacket was tied with a ribbon on the chest instead of being belted.

The Joseon Dynasty's Hanbok (the hanbok as we know it now)

However, the hanboks that we now see on pop singers and actors are the hanboks that came into fashion during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), even though they have undergone many modifications since the 14th century. Chogori began to be worn slightly above the waist, rose to chest level by the first century, and became slightly longer again in the twentieth century.

The reign of the Joseon dynasty was characterized by the introduction of neo-Confucianism as the dominant ideology. This ideology placed great emphasis on etiquette and formality for dress at court, aristocrats, and ordinary citizens. There was a different style of dress for each occasion, from weddings to funerals. And because male rectitude and female chastity were highly valued, this was reflected in traditional Korean dress.

Under the hanbok, women wore a pair of pants and a corsage dress, as well as a jacket that was slightly smaller than the one worn on top. Earlier, however, the wives of the nobility were required to wear twelve skirts under the main - they wrapped them around the body and tied on the left side. Ordinary people were allowed to wear ten or eleven skirts. Accordingly, khanboks were sewn a couple of sizes bigger. This has remained in our time - nowadays, khanboks are sewn in double or one and a half width. Most hanboks have straps, which make wearing a wide skirt more comfortable. When walking, you are supposed to lift it on the left side, but very carefully, so as not to see the underskirt.

What does the Hanbok symbolize ?

As for the color of the hanbok, it was also full of symbolic meaning. The ruling class wore khanboks of bright colors made of silk or rami (fabric made of Chinese nettle fibers). Ordinary people, on the other hand, according to their financial means, wore hanboks made of cotton or hemp, which the law forbade to bleach, so the colors were light green, gray, or black.

The five colors of hanbok and their meanings

There were five basic hanbok colors, including white, the color of the nobility. Red meant good luck and wealth. It was present in the clothing of the ruling nobility and now in the outfits of brides. Blue was the color of constancy. This was the color of the clothes of court employees and officials. Black was for infinity and creativity. That is why this was the color of headdresses worn with hanboks. Yellow is the color of the center of the universe. It was present only in the clothes of the king and queen.

However, there was also social symbolism of the color. A bride during a wedding ceremony wore a red-yellow outfit symbolizing her as unmarried (chima was red, chogori was yellow). After the wedding and during the honeymoon the chogori changed to green After marriage the color of the khanbok corresponded to the status of the husband in society. The purple collar meant that the woman was married. The blue cuffs indicated that she had a son.

If we look at Hanbok colors from the position of Yin and Yang concept (where Yin is shadow and Yang is light), then the main five colors belonged to "Yang" - they immediately showed a place in society and embodied the main advantages. The same colors that belonged to the trimmings are classified as "yin" - they symbolize the hidden virtues.

The Hanbok, also a Symbol of Independance

The hanbok was such an important part of Korean culture, a symbol and foundation of the firmness of its foundations, that the Japanese, under whose oppression the country was for most of its existence, instituted a series of appearance reforms in the late 19th century. The reforms required the cutting of a knot of hair on the head (santhu), on which the kat, a headdress made of bamboo or horsehair that symbolized manhood, was held. If there was nothing to hold on to, the headdress would have to be changed and that meant changes in the costume itself. So the reforms led to a rise in nationalist sentiment and revolt. However, in the twenties the same Japanese introduced uniforms in educational institutions. In the forties the hanbok was influenced by Western clothing trends-the pants and skirts became shorter, and the traditional headdresses were replaced by soft felt hats.

Hanbok for Women

Korean women's costume looks very effective and elegant due to the combination of forms: a wide floor-length skirt and a short blouse or bolero jacket. The skirt is called chima (chhima) and the jacket is called chogori.

  1. Chima in our understanding is more like a sarafan: this skirt has an inflated waist and ties that secure the clothes. Chima may be single or multi-layered, pleated or quilted. The design of the skirt is either full-length (athon chima) or with a zapAh in the back (pul chima). The hem, as a rule, is decorated with intricate embroidery with floral or animalistic patterns.
  2. Chogori are usually equipped with a clasp on the inside to prevent the jacket from flapping. Their peculiarity is a short length, wide and rounded sleeves (peer), satin ribbons that fasten into a bow and a collar, a whale. The collar is embellished with a white tonjeong braid - it emphasizes the graceful lines of the neck.
  3. The kotsin shoes are the final part of the costume. They are made of silk and decorated with patterns. Tights are not worn with such shoes, women wear socks po-song.

One of the additional elements of Korean national costumes is a puche fan. There are more than 80 kinds of fans, round and folded, made of bamboo and hanji paper.

Hanbok for Men

Men are always conservative in their clothing, and Koreans are no exception. Therefore, men's national costume has undergone minimal changes. It consists of two main parts - a chogori blouse and paji pants. The baggy pants are very comfortable - their belt is regulated by a simple drawstring-skirt, which can be tightened as it is convenient at the moment.

On top of the suit is worn an elongated magoja jacket or chokki jacket. There are no garter belts or ribbons, as with women. A very long coat with wide brim of turumagi is also used. The kat, a high, wide-brimmed hat, completes the attire.

Hanbok for Kids

A child's hanbok is a charming garment that does not restrict the baby's movements. According to tradition, it is necessarily worn on tol, the first birthday. Boys are dressed in chogori blue or pink and blue korym cape and girls - in traditional skirt and tane - striped jacket. Of course, a photo shoot of the little ones wearing a hanbok is a must!