Produced as part of Hallyu! The Korean Wave

Title: Hanbok: Traditional Korean Dress 

Address: V&A South Kensington, London, UK

Closes Sunday, 25 June 2023

Hanbok, the traditional Korean dress, is characterized by its vibrant colors and simple lines, which reflect the elegance and aesthetics of the Korean people. The attire is typically made of silk, satin, or other high-quality materials, and is worn during special occasions, such as weddings, festivals, and other celebrations. Hanbok is composed of two main parts: the jeogori (a short jacket with long sleeves) and the chima (a full wrap-around skirt for women) or baji (roomy pants for men). The attire is also often accompanied by various accessories like norigae (decorative pendants), po (overcoats), and headgear.

Originating during the Three Kingdoms period (57 BCE – 668 CE), hanbok has evolved over time, reflecting changes in Korean society, economy, and culture. The design of the hanbok has been influenced by neighboring countries, such as China and Mongolia, while also maintaining its unique Korean identity. Throughout different historical periods, hanbok styles have varied, with the attire becoming more ornate and intricate during the Goryeo and Joseon dynasties.

The hanbok is imbued with deep symbolism, as the colors and patterns used represent various aspects of Korean culture and beliefs. The color scheme follows the five elements of yin and yang theory, which include blue (east), white (west), red (south), black (north), and yellow (center). These colors hold great significance in Korean culture and are often used in combinations to create harmony and balance. Additionally, hanbok designs may include symbols of nature, animals, or plants, each carrying its own unique meaning.

In the 20th century, hanbok underwent a decline in popularity as Western-style clothing became more common in Korea. Many people opted for the convenience and practicality of modern clothing, leading to a reduction in the use of traditional Korean dress. However, in recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in hanbok, with modern designers incorporating elements of traditional Korean attire into their creations. This has led to a revival of hanbok as both a symbol of Korean identity and a fashionable statement.

The contemporary hanbok movement has seen the emergence of various adaptations, with designers experimenting with new materials, patterns, and styles. These modern interpretations of the traditional Korean dress aim to preserve the essence of hanbok while making it more accessible and wearable for today’s society. The popularity of K-pop and Korean dramas has also played a significant role in increasing the global appeal of hanbok, as these cultural exports often feature hanbok-clad performers and actors.

In conclusion, hanbok is a traditional Korean dress that has evolved over centuries, reflecting the culture, history, and aesthetics of the Korean people. While the use of hanbok declined in the 20th century due to the influence of Western clothing, recent years have seen a resurgence of interest in the attire. Modern designers are now creating innovative adaptations that fuse tradition with contemporary fashion, ensuring that hanbok remains a relevant and cherished part of Korean culture.

Young Jin Kim, a renowned hanbok designer, creates both traditional custom-made hanbok, consisting of dansokkot (underwear), chima (skirts), and jeogori (jackets), and modern reinterpretations of traditional designs through her fashion brand, Tchai Kim. With a hybrid approach to design, Kim blends global styles with local folk culture. In a film, she introduces her signature Cheollik Dress, a ready-to-wear item based on a traditional men’s horse riding outfit, and her extravagant Shamanism Collection from 2020.

Seonock Park, a Korean designer, founded her contemporary fashion brand Guiroe in 2015. Specializing in tailored suits for men, Park combines elements of traditional Korean dress (hanbok) and Western fashion. In a film, she discusses the materials and techniques used to create the unique hanbok suit design, her sources of inspiration, and her pride in working with traditional Korean fashion.

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