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Classical Ladies' Fashion Design and The Society Changing (2): Korean Hanbok

Updated on April 2, 2014

Korean Female Hanbok

Traditional Korean dress is called Hanbok in South Korea, and Chosõn-ot in North Korea. Nowadays, Hanbok in general, and mainly refers to from Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897). Changing through from ancient time to today, female hanbok embodys a perfect integration of an Oriental ethics and a plain beauty. Like Chinese Qipao, hanbok has been withdrawn from historic stage, not popular in current life any more, but as semi-formal or formal wear in special ceremonies, which is actually a displayment of a culture heritage. The design is characteristic of simple lines and vibrant colors. The curve of sleeves, white inner edge of the V-shape collar, and the broad long skirt are usually regarded as the three major contributing elements for its attractiveness. Short and small on the top and long and broad in the lower in general design shows a quiet beauty of Korean women.

Breast-high skirt of China Tang Dynasty
Breast-high skirt of China Tang Dynasty | Source
Mogolian marksmanship costume
Mogolian marksmanship costume | Source

Historical background

Hanbok changed from Chinese and Mongolian ancient clothing, including men's and women's. Hanbok was originally influenced by ancient Chinese clothing of Tang Dynasty (618-907), during which Korean clothing were almost exactly same with Tang clothing since the current Korean unified Silla Dynasty was closely related to Tang. In 1271, Mongolian people (created Yuan Dynasty in China in 1206) invaded into the current Koryo Dynasty of Korea, and since then Korea had been the tributary state of Yuan for 80 years. During that time, Koryo emperor married the daughter of Yuan emperor, and ordered that all his officials must wear Mongolian costume. From the middle time of Joseon Dynasty, Hanbok began to get developed independently, especially female style, which got changed to high-waistline skirt from the breast-high style of Tang clothing. Since then, Korean Hanbok had been more and more different from Chinese clothing.

Jeogori and Chima
Jeogori and Chima | Source

The Major Structure

One major feature of Hanbok is the random thinking in design dealing with color, lines and ornaments. Generally, at least two colors are chosen to make more colorful. Women's hanbok shows both curved and straight lines, and the arrangement of thin top and heavy bottom (Jeogori and Chima) makes women look decorous and elegant to underline their virtuousness and tenderness.

Jeogori, the short upper garment, has V-shape collar with inner and outer bands, which is to show the beautiful necks of women, and natural and soft curves of sleeve connects. Chima, the long wide skirt, can hide some flaws of body shape. For example, can make short women look tall, and skinny ones plump.


Cultural Taste

Hanbok is mainly made from silk, cotton and linen cloth, and the colors can see social status. Korean people is known for its kindness, generosity and good at singing and dancing. They more admire white color for the cleanness, simpleness and dignity, so has a good fame of "white nation". Therefore, white is the basic color of hanbok. In ancient time, commoners mainly wore white hanbok, and those with bright vibrant colors were allowed to them only in special days, such as wedding days, but upper-class people had diverse colors.


Royal female hanbok

In ancient time, the emperors' wives and princesses had hanboks with briliant colors and precious materials. That clothing with unique hair cuts made royal women dignified and luxurious, which was a symbol of social status.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Queen Royal Ceremony
The Queen
The Queen | Source
Royal Ceremony
Royal Ceremony

Hanbok in Daily Life Today

Traditional hanbok is structurally complicated, so people now only wear it in special days. Modern Hanbok does not exactly follow the actual style as worn in Joseon Dynasty since it went through some major changes during the 20th century for practical reasons, and more and more styles with simpler design are in modern life. Despite of diverse materials and various designs, these regular life hanboks not only tend to fit to modern taste but also remain traditional appreciation.

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Wedding Hanbok

In traditional weddings, wedding clothing is more glorious compared with regular hanbok. The bride wears yellow Jeogori and red Chima, and special hairpins with front accessories and a ribbon. Modern changed wedding hanboks keep major traditional features, but add modern fashion concept and are simpler.


Upon its unique changing history and designing concept, female Hanbok is to reveal the unique charm of Korean women known by the decency, the grace and the virtuous. Although it can be rarely seen nowadays in daily life, it still sticks to its important role in traditional and wedding ceremonies to prove the tradition complex of Korean. Therefore, like Chinese Qipao, Korean Hanbok embodies a strong cultural meaning, which carries the sense of national belonging.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Traditional weddingModern weddingMovie star Harisu in her wedding hanbok
Traditional wedding
Traditional wedding
Modern wedding
Modern wedding
Movie star Harisu in her wedding hanbok
Movie star Harisu in her wedding hanbok


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