culture(07)_hanbok.jpg "Hanbok" is the traditional attire of Korea. Its history dates back as far as the Three Kingdoms' Period (57 B.C. - A.D. 668). Koreans weaved cloth with hemp and arrowroot and raised silkworms to produce silk. It is divided largely into daywear and ceremonial wear, with differences between each age, gender and season.

   culture(08)_durumagi.jpg A Hanbok is characterized by a two-piece outfit without pockets and buttons that is closed with strings, belts or cords. Men traditionally wore a "jeogori" (jacket), "baji" (trousers) and "durumagi" (overcoat) with a hat, belt and pair of shoes. The women wore a jeogori with two long ribbons tied to form an "otgoreum" (knot), a full length, high-waist wrap-around skirt called "chima" and"beoseon" (white cotton socks), and boat-shaped shoes.   

  >>  Two mannequin women in Hanbok. One on the left has durumagi, the overcoat



Hanbok comes in several styles: there is "dolbok" the clothing for a baby on its first birthday; "gwanryebok" the clothing for the coming-of-age ceremony; "hollyebok" the clothing for the wedding ceremony and "hwarot" the bridal gown; "sangryebok" ( or "sangbok"), the clothing worn by the bereaved during the mourning period and "suui" the shroud worn by a corpse and finally "jeryebok" the clothing for religious services.

<<  Hwarot, the bridal wedding gown

culture(10)_Royal-wedding-gown.jpg Hanbok boast vivid colors based on natural hues that accord with the yin and yang theory of East Asia. White was the basic color most widely used by common people, symbolizing a modest and pure spirit. Red signified good fortune and wealth, commonly used in women's garments. Indigo, the color of constancy was used for skirts of court ladies and official coats of court officials. Yellow, which represents the center of the universe, was worn by royal families. The clothing has been handed down in the same form for men and women for hundreds of years with little change, except for the length of jeogori and chima.

Traditional royal wedding gown at HanStyle 2008 Fashion Show >>

In summer people would wear Hanbok made of either "sambe" (hemp) or "mosi" (ramie) that both allowed air to circulate and dry any sweat. Sambe was for the commoners' clothes, due to its easy cultivation, and mosi for the aristocrats' clothes for the opposite reason. Mosi was especially valued for its light texture.

In winter, people wear Hanbok made of cotton or silk. Again, cotton was for the commoner's clothing and silk for the rich and the aristocrats. Extra cotton would be inserted inside Hanbok to make the clothes even warmer.

How to wear Hanbok

When wearing Hanbok a woman should put on inner trousers, then inner skirts first, followed by beoseon. She should then put on the chima-dress and bind them well with string. On top, inner-wear, or "sok-jeogori" must come first then the full jeogori. Tie it well with two knots of otgoreum.

When leaving the house, a proper woman was also required to wear a durumagi overcoat.

The process is simpler for men. A man should put on inner trousers first, then jeogori and beoseon next. The only addition is that man should tie a "daenim," a kind of string around his ankles to hold the flowing trousers there. A man would then put on vests and "magoja," like a kind of waistcoat, followed by his durumagi for going out.

culture(11)_mosie.jpg In the early part of the 20th century, western wear entered Korea, and during the period of rapid industrialization in the 1960s and 1970s came to to largely replace traditional attire. Hanbok these days is usually worn on special occasions like family celebrations weddings, birthdays, and so on and holidays like Seollal (Lunar New Year) and Chuseok (Harvest Season). 

 << Mosi, or ramie cloth is used for making summer wear in Korea

Recently however, with widespread campaigns to revitalize Hanbok, many new designs and variations of traditional clothes are available at stores. They are now easier to wear, wash, iron, as well as being environment-friendly and updated in style.

Among the famous Hanbok designers there is Lee Young-hee, one of the early pioneers of Hanbok design in modern times, who contributed to familiarizing the word "Hanbok" abroad. She was the first Korean to appear at a pret-a porter collection in France and won numerous awards including the "Korean Designer's Award," "Golden Needle Award," "Korea Fabrics Award," and "Korean Designer's Award." Her Hanbok designs range from royal court dresses to those of commoners, monks and shamans. She donated 16 of her Hanbok dresses to the Korea Gallery at the Smithsonian Institute and runs a small museum of Korean Culture in New York. It was also Lee who began the boom of "Saenghwal Hanbok," or "gae-ryang Hanbok" reformed for daily wear in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Other noted Hanbok designers in Korea include Park Sul-nyeo, Kim Ye-jin, Lee Hyo-jae, Kwon Jin-soon and male Hanbok designer Seo Dong-jin. Many are strong upholders of traditional style Hanbok, making dresses for Korean period dramas and high class weddings. They too incorporated the lines or the cut of Hanbok and traditional fabrics such as hemp and ramie to give new flavor to the dress. Not only celebrities like movie stars, but also presidents and First Ladies have sought out their dresses. Then there are Andre Kim and Kwon Joo-yeon who are more open-minded about reformed Hanbok and presented a modern adaptation of the traditional dress.

This, added to the popularity of Korean historical dramas overseas, has helped people to once more appreciate the traditional garb even more. There are about 50,000 Hanbok producers, several Hanbok festivals and a "Monthly Hanbok" magazine in Korea.


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