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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
AUTUMN 1995 Vol.9 No.3
  Feature
  Charateristics of the Korean Costume and Its Development
  Cho Woo-hyun
Professor of Clothing and Textiles
Inha University
Text-Only in EnglishPDF in ChinesePDF in EnglishPDF in FrenchPDF in JapanesePDF in Spanish Single Column Print Advanced Search
 
A country's national costume is the most accessible clue one has to that nation's culture. Understanding the characteristic of its costume offers insights into the national consciousness and traits.
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The Korean word for garment, ot, 옷, has the shape of a person with arms and legs extended. This word, known to have been coined by the Choson Dynasty's King Sejong (r. 1418-1450), the inventor of the Korean alphabet hangul, embodie the idea that clothes reveal the character of the person wearing them. This article examines the basic principle and philosophy underlying the traditional Korean costume hanbok and how the costume evolved from ancient times.
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The types of hanbok currently worn by Koreans can be divided into daily wear, ritual wear, and costumes for special purposes. Nowadays, it is mostly the older generation who wear hanbok as their daily apparel. Women wear chogori, a bolero-like blouse, chima, a skirt, a sok shogori (undershirt) under the chogori, kojaeng-i (bloomers) under the chima,and thick padded sicks called poson. In the winter, a long overcoat, turumagi, is worn outdoors, Turnmagi are also worn on formal occasions. Men wear chogori, chokki, a vest, magoja, a jacket or short coat, and paji, trousers. For undergarments, they wear variations of the chogori and the paji. Men also wear poson and sometimes they wear a turumagi on top of the magoja.
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Ritual garments are worn on the occasions of rites of passage. On their first birthday, males wear k'waeja, a knee-length vest, a five-colored top coat and hogon or pokkon, pointed or plain hoods on their head. Females wear tang-ui outer blouse with hanging front lapels, on top of ch'ima and chogori, a small bejewelled toque called chokduri, and tara poson, quilted poson, on their feet. for weddings, the groom wears a gossamer hat called samo and a tallyong, a kind of topcoat with a rounded neckline and a belt, and the bride wears wonsam or hwalot, a long decorative jacket, on top of suran and taeran skirts that come down to the ground. For burial, in the past, the corpse of an upper-class man was dressed in the official attire of the highest office he held and that of an upper class woman was dressed in attire corresponding to the rank of her husband's last official post; lower-class men were dressed in tallyong, and women in hemp robes patterned after the wedding attire.
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There were special garments for rituals held in the royal shrine Chongmyo and for shamans folk dancers and other performers.
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Features of Hanbok
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Structurally, the hanbok belongs to the type of garments similar to the caftan that are open in the front and are fastened on the right, according to the classifications by A. L. Kroeber and Yasuro Ogawa. In the West, men's and women's clothing fastened on different sides, but in the East the determining factor was the wearer's way of life-whether agricultural or hunting-nomadic. This is an example of the cultural differences between the East and the West.
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Koreans used color symbolically in garments. White was the basic color most widely used by the common people, and it symbolized a modest and pure spirit Red signified good fortune and wealth, so it was the color used on women's wedding garments. Indigo, the color of constancy, was used for the skirts of court ladies and the official coats of the literati Black, symbolizing infinity and the fountainhead of all creation, was used for men's hats. Yellow, which represented the center of the universe, was used for royal garments and common people were forbidden to use it These five colors were firmly established as symbols of the four directions and the center of the universe, and as governing the cycle and order of the universe. Neutral colors symbolized the yin or the implicit virtues, so they were used for embroidery on garments worn below the waist, and the five colors, symbolizing the yang, or overt virtues, were used in patterns on garments worn above the waist The five-colored garments worn by children, the five-colored purses, and the five-colored dancing costumes are good examples of this symbolism. Colors symbolizing heaven and earth were used for wedding clothes.
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Koreans used tie-strings and belts or hands to keep their garments in place. Sometimes knots were used to fasten unlined chogori, military wear, or tallyong (the official topcoat), but regular garments such as chogori, ch'ima, turumagi and paji were fastened with tie-strings or held up with waistbands. Also, many garments were open at the sides or bottom for greater comfort and ease of movement. Chogori for casual wear were open at the sides, and the casual garments of the literati and the military were also open either on the side or the hack. Even ritual garments were open on the sides, so that it was possible to put on and rake off many layers of garments quickly.
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Headgear was of great importance to Koreans. So much so that even the coming-of-age ceremony was called kwallye, the hat ceremony, and males were regarded as adults only after they went through this ceremony and were officially allowed to wear hats. The head was regarded as sacred; men always carried a kalmo, an oiled paper rain hat to shield their heads and hats from the rain. Officials were excused from answering the king's summons if their garments and hats were soaked by precipitation, which made them unpresentable.
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Perhaps the most important and characteristically Korean garment is the chogori. In ancient Korea, chogori reached the hips, had borders on collars and sleeves, and were fastened by a band at the waist. It was the same for both men and women. The sleeves were originally narrow, as suited the hunting and nomadic life Koreans lived at the time and the cold climate of the region, but gradually grew wider over time. Chogori were fastened on the left in the early Koguryo period (37 B.C.-A.D. 668), but the fastening changed to the right in later years. The use of borders began to disappear during the Koryo period (918-1392), and the use of tie-strings became widespread Sometime during the late Koryo to the early Choson period (1392-1910), chogori with colorful trimmings and open sides appeared.
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Chogori were worn down to the waist, but from the mid-Choson period they began to be worn shorter. In the genre paintings by Shin Yun-bok (late Choson period), women are depicted wearing chogori that stop above the waist. By the late Choson period the chogori were so short that they reached the armpit and had rounded front panels to cover the breast. In the mid-twentieth century longer chogori became the norm. The collar of the chogori also underwent many changes, from straight to rounded and from stiff to soft Together with the detachable collar strip called tongjong, the collars served as eye-caching focal points. The tie-string fastener of the chogori, called korum, grew longer or shorter in inverse ratio to the changes in the length of the garment.
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Whereas the woman's chogori changed repeatedly over time, the man's chogori has remained more or less the same in form and length from the Shilla period (57 B.C-A.D. 668) to the present The long chogori with open sides that was worn by both men and women became exclusively women's wear from the mid-Choson period, and developed into the tang-ui, an overblouse with hanging lapels. The tongbang, a kind of chogori worn by Buddhist monks today, is almost exactly the same in form as the chogori appearing in Koguryo murals, except for the tie-string and the shape of the collar.
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Paji, or trousers, also reflected changes in lifestyle, The narrow legs suited to hunting and nomadic life became wider. Pap for men continued to be worn as an outer garment with divided legs, or cut slantwise. Paji for women evolved into undergarments, after having undergone many variations. Women wore son-gun and malgun, which were hybrids between paji and ch'ima, and after the Japanese invasion in the late sixteenth century numerous variations of the pap such as soksokkot, tansokkot and norun paji were worn under the skirt. The Japanese hakama, the voluminous, pleated trousers worn by Japanese men on ceremonial occasions today, derives from the Korean woman's tansokkot with front and back opening.
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Salwar trousers, of which the Korean paji is a variation, are a typical lower garment with long, loose legs worn by settled, agricultural people. They were worn over a vast region, from Southeast Asia to India, Iran, Turkey, Greece, and all the way to North Africa and Spain From this one can surmise that the Orient stretched much farther than is presently demarcated, a contention also supported by the widespread distribution of the straight-sleeved caftans.
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The ch'ima was imported from China in ancient times. Pleated skirts and color-striped skirts can be seen in Koguryo murals. During the Koryo period, ch'ima became voluminous and measured seven or eight yards in width. During the Choson period, women wore ch'ima as both casual and ritual wear. The man's skirt, called sang, which was part of official attire, was open on both sides. During the Choson period, chogori grew shorter and shorter while ch'ima for formal and ritual occasions became more and more voluminous, and was puffed up by many layers of undergarments which served as petticoats. The length and volume of the ch'ima and the way it was worn were indications of the wearer's status. Kisaeng, professional women entertainers, had to fold the left edge of the skirt over the top to allow a bit of their bloomers to show as an indication of their profession. Sometimes the wives and daughters of members of different political factions wore skirts in a certain way as a sign of their affiliation.
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The Korean ch'ima is a square or tubular garment similar to the sarong worn widely in Southeast Asia, Africa, and New Guinea. The Korean ch'ima is the most developed example of the sarong garments worn below the waist, having a high, pleated waistband and fastened with straps attached to the waistband. Whereas in other countries skirts are draped around the waist and fastened either with strips of cloth or by tucking a corner of the surplus fabric into the fold, in Korea the ch'ima is draped around the chest and fastened with the straps attached to the ends of the waistband (which is actually a chest band). This variation must have risen out of the different climate and habitation as a means to provide greater freedom of movement and to retain body heat better.
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The turumagi was originally ceremonial or thermal wear worn over paji and chogori Yasuro Ogawa contends that the Korean word for garment, "ot," derives from the Chinese word "a," meaning "outer coal," but ot, as previously mentioned, is widely believed to be a word coined by King Sejong. The turumagi in Koguryo murals have borders on the lapels and the sleeves, just like the chogori, and are fastened in the back or on the side to avoid overlapping with the chogori fastener. Like the sleeves of the chogori, the sleeves of the turumagi also became wider. Some scholars attribute this change in the width of the sleeves to influence from China, but such changes can and do occur spontaneously, as Fluegel's decoration theory explained, and a change in lifestyle no doubt stimulated the change. It is incorrect to explain the changes in the hanbok solely or mostly from the Chinese influence. During the Koryo period, the lines of the turumagi became indistinct, as can be seen in a painting titled Koryo Togyong (Illustrated Account of Koryo) by Hsu Ching of Sung China. A white hemp turumagi dating back to the mid-fourteenth century which was discovered with some Buddhist relics provides important clues to Koryo clothing. This white hemp turumagi has a stiff, straight collar, and apparently had tie-strings to fasten it. It is evidently a forerunner of the Choson turumagi pleated at the armpit During the Choson period, various styles of turumagi called ui, chingnyong, topo and chomni were worn by the literati, but they were unified into the narrower-sleeved turumagi worn after the 1894 Reforms. The fact that the belt around the waist to fasten the turumagi was replaced by tie-strings tied at the chest indicates that an active and functional lifestyle gave way to an inactive, sedentary one.
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Ritual Attire
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In general, aristocrats wore long, copious robes. During the reign of King Pophung (r. 514-540) of Shilla, a four-color official robe system was established and during the reign of Shilla's King Munmu (r. 661-681), the official robe system of Tang China was imported and put into practice for diplomatic activities and for reinforcing the dignity of the governing class. From the reign of Koryo's King Munjong (r. 1046-1083), elaborate dress codes were set up for the king, queen and various grades of officials. During the Choson period, the official robe system of Ming China was adopted and codified in the Code of State Government. The system continued to be observed for maintaining class distinction and preserving the dignity of royalty.
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With the changes in the style of daily wear, the variety of official robes was curtailed, and utensils for official rituals were also simplified. Ironically, however, the royal robe became more magnificent after Kojong (r. 1863-1907) proclaimed himself emperor and renamed the country the Great Han Empire. Shortly after, the country lost its sovereignty. The same thing had happened to the Koryo Dynasty which was toppled by a coup d'etat a few decades after King Kongmin (r. 1351-1374) wore the imperial garment that till then only Yuan Chinese emperors had worn. The color, patterns and tailoring of royal robes were full of symbolic meaning. A full set of King Kojong's ceremonial robes is on display in the Toksugung Palace Museum of Royal Heritage.
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Women wore the official robes corresponding to their husband's official rank. Some examples of Choson Dynasty court ladies' costumes are on display in the Sejong University Museum. It is hoped that they will be moved to a place more easily accessible to the general public.
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Other ritual dresses include those worn at weddings, funerals and commemoration ceremonies. Brides wore wonsam and hwalot.The color of the wonsam and the decorations on it were distinct for the different classes and ranks. Queens wore yellow wonsam with dragons stamped in gold; crown princesses and royal concubines of the highest rank wore red wonsam with phoenixes stamped in gold; and, princesses and low-ranking royal concubines wore green wonsam with stamped flowers. Commoners could wear only green. Hwalot, the bridal topcoat, was made of red cloth lined with indigo, the colors symbolizing heaven and earth. Phoenix, peony, butterflies, waves, rocks, and plants with longevity were embroidered on the front and the back of the hwalot, and male infants were embroidered on its shoulders. On the back of the hwalot was embroidered the verse, "Marriage is the source of all blessings. Let the couple enjoy longevity like a mountain and riches like the ocean." The primitive shape of the hwalot's collar indicates that it has not changed much from ancient times, further evidence that people tend to be conservative concerning rituals.
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For the literati funeral shrouds were tailored in the form of the official robes of the highest office held by the deceased. The mourning clothes worn by the survivors followed strict rules that took into consideration the wearer's relationship to the deceased, and were gradually removed with the passage of time. The wearing of mourning clothes put sobriety into the survivors' lives, enabled them to overcome the sorrow of bereavement and consolidated their kinship with other surviving relatives. The custom of national mourning for the kings, queens and crow n princes strengthened national identity and reinforced centralized power. Mourning clothes were removed in stages according to how long the wearer had been in mourning, and the gradual removal of the mourning clothes mitigated the sorrow of the wearer and helped the wearer to regain equilibrium. When the period of mourning was over, the mourners could resume their normal life.
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Originally, burial clothes consisted of any garment that friends and neighbors brought to clothe the deceased, but gradually men came to be buried in a shroud patterned after the robes of their last office if they had held one or patterned after their wedding garments if they had not held an office. Women were buried in shrouds befitting their husbands' ranks or patterned after their wedding garments if their husbands held no office. There were many taboos in connection with the sewing of shrouds. Shrouds prepared in advance had to be sewn in the leap month (which comes once every three years in the lunar calendar) by elderly women. In sewing shrouds, threads were not to be knotted. Shrouds were fastened on the left, unlike the garments of the living, which are fastened on the right. Rough hemp was usually used for shrouds, but in some areas silk was used. A complete shroud contained the same items of dress as the wedding outfit. This suggests that Koreans regarded death as a second wedding and believed in eternal life.
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Special attire such as stage costumes, folk ritual costumes, court ritual costumes, and military garments each had distinct forms and sym bolism, and had special accessories.
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The factors that contributed to the changes in the hanbok include external factors such as the natural and social environments, institutions and customs, government policies and religions, and internal factors such as personal and community temperaments and dynamics. The natural environment determines the basic character of a nation's costume, but the changes in a nation's social environment affect development of the costume. The external factors that have affected the hanbok include climatic changes, influences from neighboring countries, political and economic changes, shifts in social classes, development of handicrafts, and changes in religious practices. Understanding changes in clothing is helpful in evaluating the mores and values of traditional Korean society.
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The hanbok changed only gradually. Until the mid-twentieth century, few changes were made in the hanbok. This reflects the strongly traditional and stable character of Korean society and Korean people's strong sense of identity.
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The basic form of the hanbok has always been preserved, and changes have only involved modification and variation. Basically, Koreans always wore ch'ima, chogori pap and turumagi and the changes affected only length and width or other incidental features. Separate items or pans of items of the hanbok tended to change in inverse relationship with others. For example, when the chogori grew shorter, its tie-string became longer. When the chogori grew shorter and scantier, the ch'ima became longer and fuller. Unnecessary parts of the hanbok tended to disappear. In keeping with changes in ceremonial usage or ornamental value, parts that came to be regarded as unnecessary or insignificant either grew smaller or disappeared.
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On the other hand, ritual garments have occupied a significant place in the development of the hanbok. The Confucian ideology that governed the Choson Dynasty for over 500 years placed social order above natural order and the community above the individual. Therefore, as individuals derived their identity from the community or group, rituals which consolidated the group or community assumed supreme importance. Thus, ritual garments were considered to be of great importance.
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To study the history of a nation's costume is to understand the culture and character of that nation. Then, it is to be noted that the hanbok, like the traditional costumes of other nations, is worn increasingly as ceremonial or ornamental attire today.
 
 
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