Unlike Japan’s traditional dress—kimono or the Chinese cheongsam, Korea’s traditional dress hanbok has remained far from global recognition until recent years.
Donned by both men as well as women, traditionally it takes around two to three weeks to prepare a hanbok, as the concept of ready-to-wear does not exist for the dress, and every piece is made to perfectly fit the wearer’s body structure.
Hanbok for women basically comprises of two pieces—‘chima’ and ‘jeogori’. ‘chima’ is a full length voluminous skirt made with a petticoat called mujigi, while ‘jeogori’ is a long-sleeved top with two goreum that is long ties.
Men’s hanbok is comparitively simpler, with an overcoat, jeogori and pants and a traditional hat called ‘gat’. A ‘jjoki’ that is a vest can also be added as a variation to the dress.
The main element of a hanbok is the colour, which itself construes design. Embroidery though not excluded in the hanbok, traditionally has mainly been reserved to royal wears.
Colours of hanbok represented important classification like class of the wearer, but today it is more about the taste of the wearer and the occasion.
With regards to the hanbok’s prevalence in modern times, Koreans now don the hanbok only on special occasions like national festival or wedding. However, now it is meeting increasing demand from global fashion brands.
Drawn by the outfit over past few years, several leading global fashion designers have now taken up to give a modern outlook to the traditional dress. Designers are trying to compliment the traditional dress with new elements like floral-patterned fabrics, new colours and also some western accessories.
Korean designer Lee Il Soon, who runs popular store Kumdanje for over past two decades, recently presented her bridal line for 2013 mainly featuring white coloured hanboks promoted as modern day bridal wears.
White coloured hanbok’s were quite unusual in traditional times, just like pink colour, which was then reserved for young girls or engagement ceremonies only.
However, taking an exception, celebrities like Britney Spears and Paris Hilton both chose to wear pink hanboks during their tours to Korea.
One of the leading hanbok designers of South Korea, Lee Young Hee, in 2011 hosted a fashion show on the present-day hanbok in Dokdo Island.
Dior and Carolina Herrera also drew inspiration from the traditional Korean dress for their Spring-2011 collections.