Women’s hanbok is comprised of a wrap-around skirt and a jacket. It is often called chima-jeogori, ‘chima’ being the Korean word for skirt and ‘jeogori’ the word for jacket. Men’s hanbok consists of a short jacket and pants, called ‘baji’, that are roomy and bound at the ankles. Both ensembles may be topped by a long coat of a similar cut called ‘durumagi’. Hanbok worn today are patterned after those worn during the Confucian-oriented Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). Yangban, a hereditary aristocratic class based on scholarship and official position rather than on wealth, wore brightly colored hanbok of plain and patterned silk in cold weather and closely woven ramie cloth or other high-grade, light weight materials in warm weather. Commoners, on the other hand, were restricted by law as well as finances to bleached hemp and cotton and could only wear white, pale pink, light green, gray or charcoal colors.
The early Joseon Dynasty kings made neo-Confucianism the ruling ideology. Its emphasis on formality and etiquette dictated the style of dress for the royal family and the aristocrats and commoners for all types of occasions including weddings, and funerals. Integrity in men and chastity in women became the foremost social values and was reflected in the way people dressed.
The Beauty of Hanbok
The beauty of hankbok lies in the harmony of its colors and its bold, simple lines. Most ‘jeogori’ have a snap tie ribbons on the inside to hold them closed. The long ribbons of the jacket are tied to form the otgoreum. The ‘otgoreum’ is very important because it is one of three things by which the beauty and quality of hanbok is judged. The other two are the curve of the sleeves, ‘baerae’ and the way the ‘git’, a band of fabric that trims the collar and front of the jeogori, is terminated. The ends of the git are generally squared off and a removable white collar called the dongjeong is placed over the git. The regular pleats of the chima stretch downward from the high waist and increase in width as they reach the lower end of the traditional skirt, creating a sense of gracefulness.
The durumagi is a traditional overcoat worn on special occasions over the traditional jacket and pants.
Baji refers to the lower part of the men’s hanbok. Compared to western style pants, it does not fit tightly. The roomy nature of the cloth is due to a design aimed at making the cloth ideal for sitting on the floor.
The kkotsin refers to silk shoes on which flower patterns are embroidered. They play an important role in completing the graceful line of the lower rim of the chima.
Jeogori The jeogori makes up the upper part of hanbok. Men’s jeogori are larger and simplistic while women’s jeogori are rather short and characterized by curved lines and delicate decorations.
Dongjeong The dongjeong refers to a white collar attached along the rim of the neckline. It contrasts and harmonizes with the overall curve of the neck.
Otgoreum (Cloth Strings) The otgoreum is a women’s ornamental piece, which hangs vertically across the front of the chima (women’s skirt).
Baerae (Jeogori Sleeve)
The baerae refers to the lower lines of the sleeve of either the jeogori (traditional jacket), or the magoja (outer jacket). It features a circular line which is naturally curved, similar to the line of the eaves of the traditional Korean house.
The chima is the women’s outer skirt. There are different kinds of chima: single-layered, double-layered, and quilted. Pul-chima refers to a chima with a separated back, whereas a tong-chima has a seamed back.
Traditional patterns graceful lines and color combinations enhance the beauty of hanbok. Plant, animal, or other natural patterns are added to the rim of chima, the areas surrounding the outer collar shoulders.
The beoseon corresponds to a pair of contemporary socks. Although the shape of the beoseon does not reflect any difference in the gender of its users, men’s beoseon are characterized by a straight seam.
Kinds of Hanbok
The various kinds of hanbok are classified according to the social status, class, gender, and age of those who wear them. Today, hanbok is worn mostly on special occasions, and is divided into categories based on its function. These include, but are not limited to, weddings, 61st birthdays, first birthdays and holidays.
Koreans traditionally show their respect to their parents early in the morning on the first day of the New Year by bowing deeply. Customarily, both parents and children wore hanbok. Children’s hanbok usually consists of a rainbow-striped jeogori (jacket) and either a chima (girls’ skirt) or a baji (boys’ pants).
The first birthday of a child, the dol, is traditionally celebrated with wishes for longevity and health. Children wear the dol-hanbok or dol-ot on this special day. A boy usually wears a pinkish jeogori (jacket) with a long blue goreum (cloth strings). Girls usually wear a rainbow-striped jeogori for special occasions. Currently, the trend is for girls to war a dangui, a kind of ceremonial coat.
Hoegabyeon is when children throw a party to celebrate the 61st birthday of either parent and wish for their longevity. Men who turn 61 wear a geumgwanjobok, while women wear a dangui, a kind of ceremonial dress for special occasions.
Hollyebok (Wedding Hanbok)
Unlike hanbok for daily use, hanbok worn as a traditional wedding costume is marked by its bright appearance. The bridegroom wears the baji (pants), the jeogori (a jacket), the joggi (a vest), the magoja (an overcoat), and the durumagi (an overall coat). The bride wears a green chima (a skirt), a yellow jeogori (a short jacket), and a wonsam (a bride’s long overcoat). Her hair is prepared using a jokduri (a special head ornament).
The use of rational hanbok follows complex rules, and requires meticulous attention. Because of this, a simplified version of hanbok has been introduced for daily use which incorporates simplicity and convenience. An increasing number of people want to express their individuality by wearing something that combines traditional beauty and modern simplicity. The modern version comes in a wide variety of styles and fabrics.