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Cultural Notes: Korean Hanbok Traditional Clothing

The Hanbok Korean Traditional clothing was worn everyday up until a century ago, but it still remains an important part of Korean culture, as you can see people wear it on special occasions and holidays.

The Korean hanbok was originally designed for ease of movement. The clothing is not tight, but flows gracefully. I've always been so astonished when I would see Korean women wearing their traditional dress. It's stunning, and elegant, and the colors are so beautiful.

The Hanbok's fundamental features were established during the time of the Three Kingdoms of Korea (57BCE to 668CE). The three major features of the dress are the jeogori (jacket), baji (trousers) and chima (skirt).

The design was established long ago, and the design has stayed relatively the same since then. Nowadays, the hanbok isn't worn everyday, but worn for special occasions, and holidays. Adults will wear it to their wedding ceremonies, children at their first birthdays, and people will even wear them at funerals.


Hanbok was designed to flow, with soft elegant lines, similar to the sloping eaves of the Hanok (traditional Korean houses). You'll also notice that the colors are vivid and outstanding. Traditional hanbok had vibrant hues that corresponded with the five elements of the yin-and-yang theory: white (metal), red (fire), blue (wood), black (water) and yellow (earth).

Colors traditionally also symbolized ones social position and status. Traditionally muted colors were worn by middle aged men and women, while bright vibrant colors were worn by children. The upper class wore bright colors, while the working class was required to wear white but dressed in shades of pale pink, light green, grey and charcoal on special occasions. A persons social status could also be determined by the quality of the material. The working class wore material made of cotton, whereas the upper class wore better quality materials.

Beautiful patterns were embroidered on the dress to represent the wishes of the one wearing the dress. For example, peonies on a wedding dress signified a wish for honor and wealth. Whereas lotus flowers represented the hope for nobility. Royals and high ranking officials could have dragons, phoenixes, cranes, and tigers embroidered on their hanbok.

Modern Day

As Korea became more influenced by western culture more western suits and dresses became the norm. Still, in modern day Korea you can see people wearing their beautiful traditional clothes at special occasions and holidays such as at weddings, and Lunar New Year.

Today the Hanbok remains a rich part of Korean culture. It's valuable not only because it's a part of Korea's' traditional clothing, but also speaks to the artistic heritage of Korea.


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