Many cultures have their own unique style of clothing, and these traditional costumes are just as different as the people who wear them.
Korea is no exception.
The Hanbok is a garment that is not only beautiful, but it also gives you a glimpse into the rich history of Korea.
This blogpost is brought to you in collaboration with Studio KJD.
What is a Hanbok?
The Hanbok (한복) is a traditional Korean attire.
Up until about a century ago, it was worn daily. However, now it still remains an important piece of Korea and is worn on special occasions and holidays.
The Hanbok through history
The Hanbok has had some design changes between the 15th century to the 18th century, however afterwards it remained relatively unchanged.
Originally, it was designed to facilitate ease of movement. However, over the years, it became more fitting.
In the 15th and 16th centuries, the Hanbok trends came from the elite class. However, in the 18th and 19th century, the middle class culture flourished and they began to wear shorter and tighter Hanbok jackets – which eventually became a trend even in the elite class. The royalty living in the palace started to incorporate the designs of the commoners.
The Hanbok and its role in symbolizing position and status
Although nowadays it does not matter which colour or material you wear, in the past these aspects played a big role in symbolizing one’s position or status.
The material of a Hanbok identified the social position of the wearer.
In the warmer months, those in the upper class dressed in Hanbok made of closely woven ramie cloth or high grade lightweight materials. Throughout the remainder of the year, their Hanbok would be of plain and patterned silks.
Commoners, on the other hand, were restricted to wearing cotton.
Children would generally wear bright colours. In Shamanism, which heavily influenced the Korean culture at that time, colours meant protection from evil.
Unmarried women would wear yellow and/or red.
And married women would wear red or green, and navy for those with sons.
White was the colour reserved for commoners. However, on special occasions they were dressed in shades of pale pink, light green, gray, and charcoal.
Hair has meaning
You could tell whether a woman was married or single just by looking at the style of her hair.
Married women used to have big wigs with their Hanbok. These wigs, however, would tend to be 7-8kg in weight! Therefore, over time they became smaller and smaller, and eventually the government banned the culture of having these big wigs.
Instead, married women would put their hair up in a bun.
Single women, on the other hand, would wear their hair in a single braid.
Foreigners in Hanbok – is it okay?
The general consensus is that it is okay for foreigners to wear Hanbok.
It was explained to me that Koreans appreciate seeing foreigners choose to wear Hanbok while they are visiting Korea.
However, they must be respectful because this is a beautiful article of clothing that is rich with Korean culture and heritage. It is not a play thing or something to make fun of, instead it is something to appreciate and respect.
Meet Studio KJD for your Hanbok experience
Approximately 3 years ago, Studio KJD opened its doors when its owner realized that many of the Hanbok shops around Seoul didn’t rent out Hanbok that properly represented the Korean culture or aesthetic, or if they did, were ill-fitted. Thinking that it was unfortunate for tourists to not be able to enjoy this aspect of Korean culture, he decided to begin Studio KJD.
Here, you have the option to choose between many beautiful Hanbok to wear, have the full experience of getting your hair done, and/or take part in a photoshoot, among other things.
The staff are friendly and the experience is a one-of-a-kind glimpse into a beautiful part of Korean culture and heritage, so I would recommend it to anyone visiting Korea.
For more information, please check out Studio KJD’s website here.
Do you have a cultural dress where you are from?
What does it look like?
Let me know in the comments below!
For more blog posts about Korea, click here!