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Past Webzine
WINTER 2008 Vol.22 No.4
Kimchi
Beauty of Korea
Byeoru (Ink Stone)
Background and Development of Korean Kimchi
Kimchi Ideal Health Food for a Well-being Lifestyle
Regional Influences Create Wide Varieties of Kimchi
Sharing Kimchi with Consumers Around the World
Seoul Hosts XXII World Congress of Philosophy 2008
Poet Ko Un “I am my own future!”
Archery Craftsman Yoo Young-ki Blends Strength with Resiliency
Elegant Earthenware Figurines Reveal Silla’s Spirituality
Magnum Korea Exhibition Images of Korean Society’s Diversity
Kevin O’Rourke Passionate Translator of Korean Literature
Sung Shi-yeon A Humble yet Forceful Presence at the Podium
Jeongseon’s Natural Beauty Endures the Passage of Time
Yaksik Rice Cake Tasty and Healthy Treat
Korea Delivers with Speed and Agility
Dance of Exorcism at the Fringe of Existence
SPRING 2003 Vol.17 No.1
  Feature
  Traditional Wedding Attire : Dressing Up for the Day of a Lifetime
  Hong Na-young
Professor of Clothing and Textiles, Ewha Womans University

Photos by Lee Dong-chun
Text-Only in EnglishPDF in ChinesePDF in EnglishPDF in Spanish Single Column Print Advanced Search
 
Korean society under the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) was class-oriented, with a strict dis-tinction maintained between the ruling class, or yangban, and the lower classes. Accordingly, people of different classes had to wear different clothing made with different fabrics and dyes. The restrictions were particularly rigorous for ceremonial costumes. However, an exception was made for one of the most important events in a person's life: their wedding. Even among commoners, the bride was allowed to wear the kind of dress normally worn by a princess, while the groom appeared decked out in the finery of a royal son-in-law.
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The Groom's Wedding Attire
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Irrespective of social rank, the groom was allowed to don the ceremonial costume worn by the sons-in-law of kings. His hair was put up in a topknot, a manggeon, a horsehair band tied around his forehead, and a samo, a stiff cap with wings on the sides, placed atop his head. Many grooms chose to wear the samo over a bokgeon, a hat with a black triangle of cloth trailing behind it, usually worn by young boys and Confucian scholars.
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The groom's clothing included the baji, baggy pants, and jeogori a short, vest-like jacket, of the Korean traditional costume hanbok. He also wore a dopo, a long topcoat, and over all of this the dallyeong, a blue or maroon robe with a patch on the chest embroidered with two red-crested white cranes. Cotton was always sewed into the waistband of the groom's baji, regardless of the season, to symbolize the hope that his family fortune would multiply like cotton plants. He wore beoseon, white padded socks, mokhwa, ankle boots, and around his waist a gakdae, or belt. He went to the wedding with his face veiled.
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Such a costume, commonly known as samogwandae, was the everyday dress of government officials who had passed the gwageo, the state-administered examinations for higher civil office. But a man need not hold a government post to wear samogwandae for his wedding. The chest patch of the dallyeong was embroidered with white cranes if worn by a civil officer, and with tigers if worn by a military officer, but a groom without an official position would also sport the white crane patch.
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The Bride's Costume
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A bride had to go through elaborate preparations for her wedding. Normally, the only Joseon women who wore heavy makeup were the courtesans known as gisaeng. For her wedding, however, a bride would powder her face. A few days before the wedding, she would remove any fine facial hair to ensure a better surface for the powder. While leaving the fine hair around her ears, she would remove some hair from her forehead, because the Joseon ideal of feminine beauty mandated a straight forehead and long hair at the temples and ears.
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The bride also wore an assortment of ornamental headgear, which she could put on only after pulling her hair back tightly and knotting it at the back of her head. To give her hair more volume, she used a gache, a switch of braided hair, and a dari, a large braided wig, producing a big chignon, or nangja ssanggye. Ssanggye was the term for hair plaited into two braids, a Chinese symbol of unmarried status for both men and women. Nangja ssanggye designates a pair of braids tied side by side at the back of the head. The bride wore nangja ssanggye during the wedding, but after the nuptial night, she plaited her hair into a single braid. After putting up her hair, a married woman would tie it with a simple red hair ribbon, or jjokdaenggi, and as long as her husband was alive, she would go on wearing the red jjokdaenggi into her old age. On the other hand, widows and women in mourning for their parents or grandparents could not wear a red jjokdaenggi, no matter how young they were.
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The basic undergarments worn on the wedding day were no different from those of ordinary days. Korean women wore dari sokgot, a white diaper-like form of underwear made of a piece of cloth folded and worn with a tie around the waist. Over this, they wore soksokgot, an inner petticoat, and bloomers. They wore a pink undershirt, sokjeoksam, and a short pink jacket, sokjeogori, beneath their outer garment. It was customary for the bride to wear a light ramie under-jacket even when the wedding took place in freezing weather. This custom was said to help the bride feel less constricted while living with her stern, demanding in-laws.
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Brides from noble families sometimes wore several additional sets of undergarments, including extremely wide bloomers, neoreun baji, a petticoat similar to the Western type, mujigi chima, and a wide, starched petticoat, daesyum chima. Unlike Western petticoats with their conical shape reaching down to the ground, the longest mujigi chima was only knee-length, and it created a billowing contour below the bosom, like a temple bell. The daesyum chima was worn to make the lower part of the outer skirt puff out.
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On top of these undergarments, the bride wore a red skirt and a green or yellow jacket. Unmarried women of Joseon usually wore a yellow jacket, while a green jacket was customary for newly married women. For the wedding, the choice of jacket color was determined by family custom. Commoners wore a two-layered red skirt, but brides from noble families wore seuran chima, a long and wide skirt with gold stamped decorations, and instead of a plain yellow or green jacket, they wore samhoejang jeogori, a jacket with purple trim on the collar, ribbons, and cuffs. The collar on the bride's jacket was lightly padded with cotton, again symbolizing the hope for flourishing family fortunes.
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Wonsam and Hwarot
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Brides also wore hwarot or wonsam, robes with the sides split from the armpits, the back being 20 to 30 centimeters longer than the front and the cuffs lined with white or rainbow strips. Hwarot, a crimson silk robe with embroidered decoration, was worn by princesses. Wonsam, a court costume worn by the queen and noble women, differed in color and pattern according to the social rank of the wearer. For example, only the empress or queen could wear a yellow or red wonsam decorated with gold and with phoenix and dragon designs.
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Brides wore the green wonsam of the princess. Those from noble families wore wonsam with gold-stamped floral patterns, while commoners wore green wonsam without the gold stamping. The wonsam worn by court ladies was longer and had much wider sleeves than that worn by commoners, and was decorated with gold. The shorter wonsam worn by commoners had striped sleeves in many colors. A daedae, a long belt of red woven silk, was wrapped around the wonsam or hwarot and tied at the back. Gisaeng or dancers tied the belt in the shape of a butterfly when they wore wonsam, but for court ceremonies and weddings, the belt was tied loosely twice and allowed to hang down behind.
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Sometimes, the daedae was decorated with knotted pendants called norigae, or with small purses, folding fans, or other ornaments. Usually, upper-class women wore norigae on their jacket ribbons or at their waist, but for their wedding, they wore a samjak norigae, one with three strands of knots and three ornaments, on the daedae. Daesamjak norigae, a knotted pendant with a pair of jade butterflies and ornaments of amber and coral, was worn by court and noble ladies and passed down as a family heirloom. Even a simple norigae with three silver ornaments made a stunning accessory, but poor commoners could not hope to wear a norigae even on their wedding day.
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Whether the bride wore a wonsam or hwarot depended on family tradition or wealth. Brides from noble families sometimes wore wonsam for the marriage ceremony and changed into hwarot for pyebaek, the subsequent ritual in which the bride offers gifts to her parents-in-law. A hwarot might be decorated with a phoenix and nine phoenix chicks, a small child holding a lotus flower, fertility symbols such as pomegranates and bats, longevity symbols like waves and rocks, and peonies or other symbols of wealth. It might also be embroidered with Chinese characters representing good fortune, health, and happiness, as a way of wishing for these boons. Lotus patterns and Chinese characters of Buddhist significance were also used. The gold stamped decorations on daenggi, skirts, and wonsam also included images of bats and pomegranates as fertility symbols, along with various Chinese characters representing good luck and happiness.
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Hair Ornaments
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On her head, the bride wore jokduri or hwagwan, two types of ceremonial coronet. The jokduri tended to be worn with wonsam, and the hwagwan with hwarot. Depending on family custom, the bride might wear a jokduri in the form of a small box covered in black cloth, or one lined with cotton. The top of the jokduri was adorned with various precious stones. Usually, jade, amber, coral, and pearl beads were sewed on in order of size to form a peak, and a gilt butterfly or bird was attached on a spring, causing it to flutter whenever the bride moved her head. The front, sides, and back of the jokduri were embroidered with symbols of happiness, long life, and good fortune, or lined with jade or coral plates engraved with butterflies and bats. The front was decorated with pearls and colorful tassels, which came down almost to the bride's forehead.
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The hwagwan was made of stiff paper, with open sides revealing its inner structure. The outside was covered in black silk, the inside in red. Like the jokduri, it was decorated with various gems, though some hwagwan, such as those worn in Gaeseong and Pyeongyang, had artificial flowers of silk instead. Although they looked different, the hwagwan of Gaeseong and Pyeongyang were alike in being covered entirely with these beautiful floral ornaments.
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Into her hair, the bride inserted a long pin, or binyeo, and a number of smaller hairpins and flowers. Binyeo with a dragon or phoenix head were for royalty and could not be used by other women except at their wedding. Whatever the design, the binyeo used for a wedding had to be as long as the bride's shoulders were broad in order to suspend an apdaenggi, a strip of red silk about 6 centimeters wide and 120 centimeters long, from each end. The apdaenggi were wrapped around the binyeo, starting at the center, and left to hang to the shoulders. The ends were decorated with ornamental tassels sewed with pearl or coral beads.
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A larger strip of silk, variously known as the keundaenggi, dwitdaenggi, or doturak daenggi, was attached to the back of the head, hanging down the back. It was made by folding a piece of purple cloth, about 11 centimeters wide and 2.5 meters long, in half, so that the upper part formed a triangle, then sewing the folded halves together into one piece. The cloth was stamped with gold patterns and decorated with various jewels. Some regions used brilliant embroidery threads molded into the shape of flowers, while others favored decorations of the "seven treasures" (gold, silver, lapis, crystal, coral, agate, and pearl).
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Yeonji and Gonji
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After powdering her face and penciling her eyebrows, the bride adorned her face with three red spots the size of a small coin: one on each cheek, yeonji, and one at the center of the forehead, gonji. The red spots were formed either from rouge or from circles of red paper. Because it was considered taboo for the bride to keep her eyes open during the ceremony, sometimes pomade made of beeswax and sesame oil was applied to her eyelids to keep them closed. She was led to the wedding with her face covered by a myeonsa, a large purple cloth veil decorated with gold patterns. She wore white padded socks and silk shoes similar to those worn in daily life.
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The only major difference between the wedding costumes of the ruling class and of commoners was that the ruling class was able to use expensive materials like silk and jewels, which commoners could ill afford. Noble families considered it vulgar to hold extravagant weddings, even if they had the financial means. Out of consideration for the poorer commoners, they upheld the wise and beautiful custom of holding simple, modest ceremonies. Some families even kept ready-made wonsam, which they lent to relatives and villagers.
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In the past, there were great variations in wedding dress between different regions of Korea. For example, the wedding attire of Jejudo Island and the coastal areas of the Jeolla-do provinces included the jangot, a long hood worn by women when they went outdoors, while that of Pyeongyang added a baeja, a fur vest.
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Korea's wedding culture lost much of its diversity in the process of Japanese colonization, the Korean War, and industrialization. Today, we would do well to rediscover the wisdom and aspirations of the Koreans of old as embodied in their traditional wedding clothing.
 
 
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