Hanbok is the traditional dress of the Korean people, with a history as colourful as the clothes themselves. It was worn daily until about a century ago, and it is still an important Korean icon. Hanbok comes in various shapes and colours that reflect the culture and lifestyle of people from South Korea. Locals still donate to the hanbok on special occasions and holidays.
Let’s take a closer look at the hanbok, the traditional Korean dress.
What is hanbok, the traditional dress of South Korea?
Hanbok is the term that applies to traditional men’s and women’s clothing dating back to the third century. The core of hanbok lies in its graceful shape and vibrant colors. It has a creative and expressive design with a slim top and a full bottom. The basic structure of a hanbok for women includes a jeogori (jacket) and a chima (skirt). A man’s hanbok consists of a jacket and baji (trousers). The form-fitting jacket reflects the shape of the upper body, and the wide, flexible skirt flatters the wearer’s grace by hiding the movements of the lower body. The unique lines of the hanbok are most prominent when the wearer is in motion. It looks like the person is floating in the air!
The design creates a delicate flow of lines and angles, as does the balance in the structure of a hanok, a traditional Korean house. The balance of curved baerae (bottom line of jacket sleeve) and sharp angles of dongjeong (wrinkled white lining of jacket collar) exemplifies the softness and elegance of traditional Korean aesthetics.
It can be incorporated into a ceremonial and everyday dress.A more diverse distribution of ages, life stages, and seasons provides a great deal of variety.Regardless of the differences in these categories, the basic layout of all hanboks is the same.It is centred on the Korean belief in naturalness, the desire for above-natural zegenings and protection, and the Confucian dress code.
Another important factor to consider is the longevity of the colors.The stof has been coloured with natural dyes, giving the hanbok a depth and richness that is not found in artisanal dyes.Colors can also represent a person’s social standing and legal standing.The upper classes wear a variety of colors, while the common people wear white.
The History of Hanbok The hanbok
was originally designed to facilitate ease of movement. The fundamental structure of hanbok has its roots in the Gorguryeo Kingdom (37 BC–668 BC). Over the years, the design features have remained relatively unchanged.
In the early years, both men and women wore short baji and jeogori to the waist. Traditionally, hanbok boasted vibrant hues that corresponded to the five elements of the yin and yang theory – white (metal), red (fire), blue (wood), black (water), and yellow (earth).
Over the years, the influence of cultures such as the Mongol Empire and internal fashion changes have led to changes in the hanbok. Women began to wear longer skirts and shorter jackets that were tied at the waist. And men followed these trends by wearing looser pants and jackets tied around their waists.
Today, the traditional dress is only worn on special occasions and celebrations such as weddings, the Lunar New Year, ancestral rites, and dol, a child’s first birthday.
The modern Hanbok
The hanbok has undergone many changes over its centuries-long history. It continues to develop even today. South Korean designers such as Leesle Hwang and Kim Hye have quickly turned these classics into more comfortable items for everyday wear. They are wearable, with designs that display traditional patterns and textures in simple cotton, linen, leather, and lace.
Modern interpretations have taken their place in the fashion world around the world. In 2015, Karl Lagerfeld presented his Korean dynasty-inspired Chanel cruise collection in Seoul, including his own take on the silhouette. Carolina Herrera collaborated with the South Korean government in 2016 to create three custom hanboks, which were displayed at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York. Even Sandra Oh’s mom, Jeon Young-nam, wore one on the Emmy red carpet in 2018.
Some people see this modern interpretation of the hanbok as an absolute affront to tradition. Others argue that the reinvented version keeps the tradition. It fits today’s fashion trends and is a simplified version that is tailored for everyday use.
Where to Rent or Buy a Modern Hanbok in South Korea:
Buying a hanbok is expensive unless you plan on using it more than once. If you want to experience the traditional Korean clothes called hanbok, you can rent them from many local boutiques. You will find these shops near tourist attractions. Most rental shops are walk-ins, but for convenience, you can pre-book online. Not only is it hassle-free, but you can even get some discounts.
In recent years, photos of young people posing in hanbok have flooded social media, and tourists are clamouring to add their posts to the trend! While visiting Hanok, traditional Korean houses, you can dress up in local clothes and take beautiful photos for Instagram! It will be like travelling back in time!
No matter how much it keeps changing, the hanbok remains a beautiful part of Korean heritage. Not only is it historically valuable, but it is also an important representation of Korean artistic talent. When you go exploring Korea, make sure you grab the chance to experience this part of the local culture.