If you love Korean dramas, especially historical, you may know what hanbok is and how it has changed over the centuries. However, if you’re not sure what it is, don’t worry! We'll give you a crash course in all things hanbok!
What Is It?
Hanbok is a traditional Korean dress for semi-formal and formal events such as festivals, ceremonies, and celebrations. Hanbok is from the Joseon period, worn as everyday clothing for commoners and those of high social status. Commoners typically wore plain, white hanbok, only dressing in colours during special occasions, while those in with social status stood out due to their vibrant-coloured hanbok, worn daily.
What Makes Up Hanbok?
Jeogori is the name of the blouse or coat that both men and women wear. It has long sleeves and a white removable collar that squares off the shirt. There are coat strings called goreum that tie the jeogori. Women may have kkeutdong, a different colour cuff at the end of the sleeves. Jeogori has changed for women over the years, it became the shortest in the 19th century; however, modern hanbok is longer than the original, ending above the waist. Also, the goreum used to be short and narrow, but modern goreum are long and wide.
Striped, patchwork, and gored skirts are known from the Joseon period. Chima is the skirt, and the petticoat is referred to as sokchima. Traditionally, chima was made from a large piece of fabric that was pleated or gathered into a skirt band. The waistband extended past the skirt fabric and created ties for tying it around the body. Sokchima was made in a similar way of an overskirt until the 20th century when straps were added. It then was made to be a sleeveless bodice and is covered by the jeogori.
Baji are the pants that men wear under their jeogori. The pants are loose and airy to make it easy and comfortable for sitting on the floor. Baji can be made from any form of fabric depending on the designer and have a band around the waistband to fasten them.
Po refers to the outer robe or coat, and was a common style for the period of the Three Kingdoms up until the late Joseon period. A belt was used to tie it until it was replaced by a ribbon. There was a special type of po used to protect from the cold called durumagi.
Jokki is a type of vest and magoja is another type of overcoat. These two were created near the end of Joseon Dynasty during the time when Western culture began influencing Korea’s style, yet it is still considered traditional pieces. It was created to wear over the jeogori for warmth. But women used to wear magoja for style and not warmth.
Children would usually wear hanbok during Korean New Year and were gifted new shoes and clothing. In present-day, it is worn during dol, celebration of the child’s first birthday.
Material and Colour
The upper class wore hanboks made of high-grade materials that were lightweight in warmer weather. For the rest of the year, they wore plain and patterned silks. The lower class wore hanboks that were made out of cotton and were white for everyday wear. During festivities, they wore light pinks, greens, greys, and charcoals. The color of the chima also showed which social status you were in, and only those of the royal family could have gold colored leaves at the bottom of theirs.
Both men and women wore their hair in long braids until they were married and then the hair would become knotted. Men wore their hair in a topknot and women rolled theirs into a bun and set just above the top of their neck. Women would wear a long pin called a binyeo to fasten their hair as well as decoration. Each binyeo varied on social class, which would determine the length and material used.
They also wore a ribbon, daenggi, to tie back and decorate braided hair.
Men wore a gat, a type of traditional hat from the Joseon period, and varied from social class.
Hanbok was the traditional everyday wear, but now Koreans wear hanbok on a few occasions throughout the year to celebrate. As discussed earlier, children wear hanbok to celebrate their first birthday, resembling the hanbok of adults and comes with headpieces for the children to wear.
A big and special occasion where hanbok is worn is for a wedding. It resembles hanbok mixed with western bridal and groom wear.
White is most common, however, it can be colourful depending upon the couple getting married.
Hanbok is also worn during Chuseok, Korean Thanksgiving, and everyone travels to their hometowns to be with their families. There are also festivities at the National Folk Museum of Korea to enjoy.
Hanbok is also worn during Korean New Year. This is the first day of the lunar calendar and is a very important holiday, lasting for three days. People visit families, shrines, eat traditional food, and children receive money as well.
Hanbok has changed throughout the years, mostly for women. Though it was once everyday wear and then only worn during special occasions, it’s making a comeback for everyday wear! Many designers are putting in the effort to make hanbok modern so it can be worn any day of the year. It is mainly focused on women’s fashion and are either dresses, shirts and skirts, or shirts and pants.
Dresses are made to look like traditional hanbok with jeogori and chima, however it is a shorter length are shows off more collarbone. Which makes it modern and chic. It still has the long sleeves and wide band above the waist, giving it a unique look!
There are also dresses that take on the wraparound look of hanbok, but are one pattern, making it look like any modern day dress.
Skirt and shirts that look like chima and jeogori are perfect if you want to be able to switch looks and pair certain tops with certain bottoms. The chima is shorter than the original and the jeogori generally has a modest look to it.
Some designs are very fun and flirty, making them a summer outfit.
Pants and tops are popular for both men and women.
There are so many different types and forms to modern hanbok, each one taking a spin on the old hanbok to make it something new for this century.
Hanbok is a special and important part of Korea’s history and is still worn to this day. The popularity of hanbok is starting to grow outside of Korea and into Western cultures.
Thanks to social media and Korean dramas, people are wanting to wear traditional and modern hanbok and to learn more about Korea’s history, appreciating more aspects of it with growing interest. If curious about other looks of hanbok, search modern hanbok on Instagram and you will find many posts about it!
Written by Ashton Carson