Fashion of the centuries
Q: I saw pictures of a Korean friend’s wedding, and several of the female guests were wearing traditional silk gowns with long, billowy skirts. The outfits are so lovely — what’s up with them?
A: When they say the hanbok is “traditional,” they ain’t kidding. The outfit, in various forms, has been around for a couple thousand years. According to the Korean Ministry of Culture and Tourism, tomb paintings from the Goguryeo Kingdom era, which started around 37 B.C., showed men and women wearing early versions of the hanbok.
Today’s hanbok are two pieces — a short jacket and long, loose skirt for women, and for men a longer jacket and pants. For super-dressy occasions, a long gown is worn over the basic pieces for both men and women.
Now mostly dictated by fashion and preference, the color and design of hanbok once signified the wearer’s social rank and wealth. Patterns decorating the otgoreum — the long sash across the front of the outfit — and the bottom of the skirt usually have some sort of natural theme. And the lines and curves of hanbok are designed to celebrate nature, according to the culture ministry.
While hanbok used to be everyday attire, now it’s worn only for very formal occasions such as weddings or funerals and during traditional festivals, such as the new year period. But lately there are efforts to bring the hanbok back into everyday fashion. Simplified cotton versions are hitting stores, and word is sales are brisk. So if you see hanbok popping up in more and more social settings, you heard it here first. Who needs Vogue?
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