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Traditional Korean dress
Hanbok (female and male).jpg
Typical designs of traditional Korean dress
South Korean name
North Korean name
Hanbok accessories
Children in Washington DC wearing hanbok

The hanbok (in South Korea) or Chosŏn-ot (in North Korea) is the traditional Korean clothes. The term "hanbok" literally means "Korean clothing".[1]

The hanbok can be traced back to the Three Kingdoms of Korea period (1st century BC–7th century AD), with roots in the peoples of what is now northern Korea and Manchuria. Early forms of hanbok can be seen in the art of Goguryeo tomb murals in the same period, with the earliest mural paintings dating to the 5th century.[2] From this time, the basic structure of the hanbok consisted of the jeogori jacket, baji pants, chima skirt, and the po coat. The basic structure of hanbok was designed to facilitate ease of movement and integrated many motifs of shamanistic nature.[3] These basic structural features of the hanbok remains relatively unchanged to this day. However, present days hanbok which is worn nowadays is patterned after the hanbok worn in the Joseon dynasty.[3]

The clothing of Korea's rulers and aristocrats was influenced by both foreign and indigenous styles, including significant influences from various Chinese dynasties, resulting in some styles of clothing, such as the simui from Song dynasty,[4] gwanbok worn by male officials were generally adopted from and/or influenced by the court clothing system of the Tang,[5][6] Song,[6] and Ming dynasties,[7] and Court clothing of women in the court and women of royalty were adapted from the clothing style of Tang and Ming dynasties,[8][9] the cheolik from the Mongol clothing and bestowed from the Ming court,[10] and the magoja from Manchu clothing. The cultural exchange was also bilateral and Goryeo hanbok had cultural influence on some clothing of Yuan dynasty worn by the upper class (i.e. the clothing worn by Mongol royal women's clothing[11] and in the Yuan imperial court[12]).[13] Commoners were less influenced by these foreign fashion trends, and mainly wore a style of indigenous clothing distinct from that of the upper classes.[14] However, the closure of the jeogori to the right is an imitation of the Han Chinese jackets.[15]

Koreans wear the hanbok for formal or semi-formal occasions and events such as festivals, celebrations, and ceremonies. In 1996, the South Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism established "Hanbok Day" to encourage South Korean citizens to wear the hanbok.[16]


The first recorded evidence of the name hanbok is from a 1881 document Jeongchiilgi (Hangul: 정치일기).[17][18] In the document, hanbok was used to distinguish Korean clothing from Japanese traditional clothing and Western clothing. Hanbok was used in a 1895 document describing the assassination of Empress Myeongseong to distinguish Korean clothing from Japanese clothing. Origin of the name remains unclear, because these documents predate the Korean Empire (Hangul: 대한제국) which popularized the hanja han.

Beginning in 1900, Korean newspapers used the hanja han in words that describe Korean clothing, such as hanguguibok (Hangul: 한국의복), hangugyebok (Hangul: 한국예복) and daehannyeobok (Hangul: 대한녀복). Hanbok was used in a 1905 newspaper article, which described the righteous army wearing Korean clothing. After the March 1st Movement, hanbok became a significant ethnic symbol of Koreans.

Influenced by rising nationalism in the 1900s, hanbok became a word that means unique clothing of Koreans that can be distinguished from others, such as Japanese, Western, and Chinese clothing. Other words with the same meaning, uriot (Hangul: 우리옷) and joseonot (Hangul: 조선옷), were concurrently used. Joseonot, which was more popular in the north, replaced others in North Korea after the division of Korea.

Construction and design[edit]

  • A diagram of the hanbok's anatomy
  • 1. hwajang
  • 2. godae
  • 3. somae buri
  • 4. somae
  • 5. goreum
  • 6. u
  • 7. doryeon
  • 8, 11. jindong
  • 9. gil
  • 10. baerae
  • 12. git
  • 13. dongjeong

Traditionally, women's hanbok consist of the jeogori (a blouse shirt or a jacket) and the chima (a full, wrap-around skirt). The ensemble is often known as 'chima jeogori'. Men's hanbok consist of jeogori and loose fitting baji (trousers).[19]


The jeogori is the basic upper garment of the hanbok, worn by both men and women. It covers the arms and upper part of the wearer's body.[20][21] The basic form of a jeogori consists of gil, git, dongjeong, goreum and sleeves. Gil (Hangul: 길) is the large section of the garment on both front and back sides, and git (Hangul: 깃) is a band of fabric that trims the collar. Dongjeong (Hangul: 동정) is a removable white collar placed over the end of the git and is generally squared off. The goreum (Hangul: 고름) are coat-strings that tie the jeogori.[19] Women's jeogori may have kkeutdong (Hangul: 끝동), a different colored cuff placed at the end of the sleeves. Two jeogori may be the earliest surviving archaeological finds of their kind. One from a Yangcheon Heo clan tomb is dated 1400–1450,[22] while the other was discovered inside a statue of the Buddha at Sangwonsa Temple (presumably left as an offering) that has been dated to the 1460s.[23]

Jeogori and chima

The form of Jeogori has changed over time.[24] While men's jeogori remained relatively unchanged, women's jeogori dramatically shortened during the Joseon dynasty, reaching its shortest length at the late 19th century. However, due to reformation efforts and practical reasons, modern jeogori for women is longer than its earlier counterpart. Nonetheless, the length is still above the waistline. Traditionally, goreum were short and narrow, however modern goreum are rather long and wide. There are several types of jeogori varying in fabric, sewing technique, and shape.[24][22]


Chima refers to "skirt," which is also called sang () or gun () in hanja.[25][20][24] The underskirt, or petticoat layer, is called sokchima. According to ancient murals of Goguryeo and an earthen toy excavated from the neighborhood of Hwangnam-dong, Gyeongju, Goguryeo women wore a chima with jeogori over it, covering the belt.[26][27]

Although striped, patchwork, and gored skirts are known from the Goguryeo[20] and Joseon periods, chima were typically made from rectangular cloth that was pleated or gathered into a skirt band.[28] This waistband extended past the skirt fabric itself and formed ties for fastening the skirt around the body.[29]

Sokchima was largely made in a similar way to the overskirts until the early 20th century when straps were added,[30] later developing into a sleeveless bodice or 'reformed' petticoat.[31] By the mid-20th century, some outer chima had also gained a sleeveless bodice, which was then covered by the jeogori.[32][33]


Baji refers to the bottom part of the men's hanbok. It is the formal term for 'trousers' in Korean. Compared to western style pants, it does not fit tightly. The roomy design is aimed at making the clothing ideal for sitting on the floor.[34] It functions as modern trousers do, but nowadays the term baji is commonly used in Korea for any kinds of pants. There is a band around the waistline of a baji for tying in order to fasten.

Baji can be unlined trousers, leather trousers, silk pants, or cotton pants, depending on style of dress, sewing method, embroidery and so on.


Po is a generic term referring to an outer robe or overcoat. There are two general types of po, the Korean type and the Chinese type.[35]

The Korean type is a common style from the Three Kingdoms of Korea period, and it is used in modern day.[20][35] A belt was used until it was replaced by a ribbon during late Joseon dynasty. Durumagi is a variety of po that was worn as protection against cold. It had been widely worn as an outer robe over jeogori and baji. It is also called jumagui, juchaui, or juui.[25][20][36]

The Chinese type is different styles of po from China. Starting from north–south states period, they were used through history until nation-wide adoption of the Korean type durumagi in 1895.[35]

Jokki and magoja[edit]

Jokki (Korean: 조끼) is a type of vest, while magoja is an outer jacket. Although jokki and magoja were created at the end of the Joseon dynasty (1392–1897), directly after which Western culture began to affect Korea, the garments are considered traditional clothing. Each is additionally worn over jeogori for warmth and style. Magoja clothing was originally styled after the clothing of Manchu people, and was introduced to Korea after Heungseon Daewongun, the father of King Gojong, returned from his political exile in Tianjin in 1887.[36][37] Magoja were derived from the magwae he wore in exile because of the cold climate there. Owing to its warmth and ease of wear, magoja became popular in Korea. It is also called "deot jeogori" (literally "an outer jeogori") or magwae.[36]

Magoja does not have git, the band of fabric trimming the collar,[19] nor goreum (tying strings), unlike jeogori and durumagi (an overcoat). Magoja was originally a male garment but later became unisex. The magoja for men has seop (Korean, overlapped column on the front) and is longer than women's magoja, so that both sides are open at the bottom. A magoja is made of silk and is adorned with one or two buttons which are usually made from amber. In men's magoja, buttons are attached to the right side, as opposed to the left as in women's magoja.[36]

Children's hanbok[edit]

Children's hanbok

Traditionally, Kkachi durumagi (literally "a magpie's overcoat") were worn as seolbim (Hangul: 설빔), new clothing and shoes worn on Korean New Year, while at present, it is worn as a ceremonial garment for dol, the celebration for a baby's first birthday.[38][39] It is a children's colorful overcoat.[40] It was worn mostly by young boys.[41] The clothes is also called obangjang durumagi which means "an overcoat of five directions".[38] It was worn over jeogori (a jacket) and jokki (a vest), while the wearer could put jeonbok (a long vest) over it. Kkachi durumagi was also worn along with headgear such as bokgeon (a peaked cloth hat),[42][43] hogeon (peaked cloth hat with a tiger pattern) for young boys or gulle (decorative headgear) for young girls.[20][need quotation to verify][44]


Hwarot, bride clothes

Hanbok is classified according to its purposes: everyday dress, ceremonial dress, and special dress. Ceremonial dresses are worn on formal occasions, including a child's first birthday, a wedding, or a funeral. Special dresses are made for shamans and officials.[34]

Hanbok was worn daily up until just 100 years ago, it was originally designed to facilitate ease of movement. But now, it is only worn on festive occasions or special anniversaries.[45] It is a formal dress and most Koreans keep a hanbok for special times in their life such as wedding, Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving), and Seollnal (Korean New Year's), Children wear hanbok to celebrate their first birthday (Hangul: 돌잔치) etc. While the traditional hanbok was beautiful in its own right, the design has changed slowly over the generations. The core of hanbok is its graceful shape and vibrant colors, it is hard to think of hanbok as everyday wear but it is slowly being revolutionized through the changing of fabrics, colors and features, reflecting the desire of people.

Women's Traditional Hanbok consist of jeogori, which is a shirt or a jacket, and chima dress, which is a wrap around skirt that is usually worn full. A man's hanbok consists of jeorgori (jacket) and baggy pants that are called baji. Also there are additional clothing Po which is the outer coat, or robe, jokki which is a type of vest and magoja which is an outer jacket worn over jeogori for warmth and style.[46]

The color of hanbok symbolized social position and marital status. Bright colors, for example, were generally worn by children and girls, and muted hues by middle aged men and women. Unmarried women often wore yellow jeogori and red chima while matrons wore green and red, and women with sons donned navy. The upper classes wore a variety of colors. Contrastingly, commoners were required to wear white, but dressed in shades of pale pink, light green, gray and charcoal on special occasions.

Also, the status and position can be identified by the material of the hanbok. The upper classes dressed in hanbok of closely woven ramie cloth or other high grade lightweight materials in warmer months and of plain and patterned silks throughout the remainder of the year. Commoners, in contrast, were restricted to cotton. Patterns were embroidered on hanbok to represent the wishes of the wearer. Peonies on a wedding dress, represented a wish for honor and wealth. Lotus flowers symbolized a hope for nobility, and bats and pomegranates showed the desire for children. Dragons, phoenixes, cranes and tigers were only for royalty and high-ranking officials.[47]


Three Kingdoms of Korea[edit]

The hanbok can be traced back to the Three Kingdoms of Korea period (57 BC to 668 AD).[48][49][50][51] The origin of ancient hanbok can be found in the ancient clothing of what is now today's Northern Korea and Manchuria.[52] The ancient hanbok shared similarities with the clothing of the nomadic culture, hobok, through the ancient Korean's cultural exchange with the northern nomads of Scythai.[53][54] The ancient hanbok had Northern Scythian character and its style was also similar to the nomadic tribes living in the neighbouring countries of Western China; wearing jackets and trousers.[3] It is presumed that the basic style of jeogori (which closed on the left side) and baji was influenced from the Scythian clothing dating from the Bronze Age.[55] Despite Scythai's influence, the ancient hanbok of ancient Korea which consists of today's Manchuria and Northern Korea was distinct from Scythai's clothing.[53] The Scythian culture which had spread out in Northern Eurasia was later subsumed into Chinese culture by the establishment of the Han dynasty in 108 BC.[54] It is also hypothesized that the hanbok of antiquity can trace its origin to nomadic clothing of the Eurasian Steppes, spanning across Siberia from western Asia to Northeast Asia, interconnected by the Steppe Route.[56][57][58] Reflecting its nomadic origins in western and northern Asia, ancient hanbok shared structural similarities with hobok type clothing of the nomadic cultures in East Asia, designed to facilitate horse-riding and ease of movement.[17][59][53]

Early forms of Hanbok can be seen in the art of Goguryeo tomb murals in the same period from the 6th century AD.[51][52][53][60] Short, tight trousers and tight, waist-length jackets, twii (a sash-like belt) were worn by both men and women. Women wore skirts interchangeably. These basic structural and design features of hanbok remain relatively unchanged to this day,[61] except for the length and the ways the jeogori opening was folded as over the years, there were changes.[50] Originally the jeogori opening was closed at the central front of the clothing, similar to a kaftan; the fold opening later changed to the left before eventually closing to the right side.[50] The closure of the jeogori on the right side is an imitation of the Chinese jackets.[15] Since the sixth century AD, the closing of the jeogori at the right became a standard practice.[50] The length of the female jeogori also varied throughout time.[50] For example, women's jeogori which are seen in Goguryeo paintings which date to the late fifth century AD are depicted shorter in length than the man's jeogori.[50]

In early Goguryeo, the jeogori jackets were hip-length Kaftan tunics belted at the waist, and the po overcoats were full body-length Kaftan robes also belted at the waist. The pants were roomy, bearing close similarities to the pants found at Xiongnu burial site of Noin Ula.[citation needed] Some Goguryeo aristocrats wore roomy pants with tighter bindings at the ankle than others, which may have been status symbols along with length, cloth material, and colour. Women sometimes wore pants or otherwise wore pleated skirts. They sometimes wore pants underneath their skirts.[62]

Two types of boots were used, one covering only the foot, and the other covering up to the lower knee.[citation needed]

During this period, conical hat and its similar variants, sometimes adorned with bird feathers[citation needed], were worn as headgear.[58] Bird feather ornaments, and bird and tree motifs of golden crowns, are thought to be symbolic connections to the sky.[citation needed]

The Goguryeo period royal attire was known as ochaebok.[50] The durumagi (a long, outjacket worn over the jeogori) was introduced in the Goguryeo period from a long coat worn by Northern Chinese.[50] Originally the durumagi was worn by the upper class of Goguryeo for various ceremonies and rituals; the form was later modified and it is its modified form which was later worn by the general population.[50]

North-South States period and Goryeo dynasty[edit]

United Silla[edit]

The Silla Kingdom unified the Three Kingdoms in 668 AD. The Unified Silla (668-935 AD) was the golden age of Korea. In Unified Silla, various silks, linens, and fashions were imported from Tang China and Persia. In the process, the latest fashions trend of Luoyang which included Chinese dress styles, the second capital of Tang, were also introduced to Korea, where the Korean silhouette became similar to the Western Empire silhouette. King Muyeol of Silla personally travelled to the Tang dynasty to voluntarily request for clothes and belts; it is however difficult to determine which specific form and type of clothing was bestowed although Silla requested the bokdu (幞頭; a form of hempen hood during this period), danryunpo (團領袍; round collar gown), banbi, baedang (䘯襠), and pyo (褾).[5] Based on archeological findings, it is assumed that the clothing which was brought back during Queen Jindeok rule are danryunpo and bokdu.[5] The bokdu also become part of the official dress code of royal aristocrats, court musicians, servants, and slaves during the reign of Queen Jindeok; it continued to be used throughout the Goryeo dynasty.[63] In 664 AD, Munmu of Silla decreed that the costume of the queen should resemble the costume of the Tang dynasty; and thus, women's costume also accepted the costume culture of the Tang dynasty.[5] Women also sought to imitate the clothing of the Tang dynasty through the adoption of shoulder straps attached to their skirts and wore the skirts over the jeogori.[5][64] The influence of the Tang dynasty during this time was significant and the Tang court dress regulations were adopted in the Silla court.[62][65]


Balhae (698–926 AD) imported many various kinds of silk and cotton cloth from the Tang and diverse items from Japan including silk products and ramie. In exchange, Balhae would export fur and leather. The clothing culture of Balhae was heterogeneous; it was not only influenced by the Tang dynasty but also had inherited Goguryeo and indigenous Mohe people elements.[66] Early Balhae officials wore clothing appeared to continue the Three Kingdoms period tradition.[66] However, after Mun of Balhae, Balhae started to incorporate elements from the Tang dynasty, which include the putou and round collared gown for its official attire.[66] Male everyday clothing was similar to Gogoryeo clothing in terms of its headgear; i.e. hemp or conical hats with bird feathers; they also wore leather shoes and belts.[66] Women clothing appears to have adopted clothing from Tang dynasty (i.e. upper garment with long sleeves which is partially covered by a long skirts and shoes with curled tips to facilitate walking) but also wore the ungyeon (Yunjuan; a silk shawl) which started to appear after the demise of the Tang dynasty. The Ungyeon use is unique to late Balhae period and is distinctive from the shawl which was worn by the women of the Tang dynasty.[66] People from Balhae also wore fish-skin skirts and sea leopard leather top to keep warm.[66]

In the North-South States Period (698–926 AD), Silla and Balhae adopted dallyeong, a circular-collar robe from the Tang dynasty of China.[67][68] In Silla, the dallyeong was introduced by Muyeol of Silla in the second year of queen Jindeok of Silla.[68][5] The dallyeong style from China was used as gwanbok, a formal attire for government officials, grooms, and dragon robe, a formal attire for royalty until the end of Joseon.[68]


The Chinese style imported in the Northern-South period, however, did not affect hanbok still used by the commoners, and due to its extravagance, King Heundeog enforced clothing prohibition during the year 834 AD.[5] In the following Goryeo period, use of the Chinese Tang dynasty style of wearing the skirt over the top started to fade, and the wearing of top over skirt was revived in the aristocrat class.[69][70] The way of wearing the top under the chima (Tang-style influenced fashion) did not disappear in Goryeo and continued to coexist with the indigenous style of wearing of the top over skirt throughout the entire Goryeo dynasty; this Tang-style influenced fashion continued to be worn until the early Joseon dynasty and only disappeared in the middle and late Joseon periods.[71]

In Goryeo Buddhist paintings, the clothing and headwear of royalty and nobles typically follows the clothing system of the Song dynasty.[72] The Goryeo painting "Water-Moon Avalokiteshvara", for example, is a buddhist painting which was derived from both Chinese and Central Asian pictorial references.[73] On the other hand, the Chinese clothing worn in Yuan dynasty rarely appeared in paintings of Goryeo.[72] The Song dynasty system was later exclusively used by Goryeo Kings and Goryeo government officials after the period when Goryeo was under Mongol rule (1270 –1356).[74]

Hanbok went through significant changes under Mongol rule. After the Goryeo dynasty signed a peace treaty with the Mongol Empire in the 13th century, Mongolian princesses who married into the Korean royal house brought with them Mongolian fashion which began to prevail in both formal and private life.[5][57][77][78] A total of seven women from the Yuan imperial family were married to the Kings of Goryeo.[12] The Yuan dynasty princess followed the Mongol lifestyle who was instructed to not abandon the Yuan traditions in regards to clothings and precedents.[5] As a consequence, the clothing of Yuan was worn in the Goryeo court and impacted the clothing worn by the upper-class families who visited the Goryeo court.[5] The Yuan clothing culture which influenced the upper classes and in some extent the general public is called Mongolpung.[12] King Chungryeol, who was political hostage to the Yuan dynasty and pro-Yuan, married the princess of Yuan announcing a royal edict to change into Mongol clothing.[5] After the fall of the Yuan dynasty, only Mongol clothing which were beneficial and suitable to Goryeo culture were maintained while the others disappeared.[5] As a result of the Mongol influence, the chima skirt was shortened, and jeogori was hiked up above the waist and tied at the chest with a long, wide ribbon, the goruem (an extending ribbon tied on the right side) instead of the twii (i.e. the early sash-like belt) and the sleeves were curved slightly.[citation needed]

The cultural exchange was also bilateral and Goryeo had cultural influence on the Mongols court of the Yuan dynasty (1279–1368); one example is the influence of Goryeo women's hanbok on the attire of aristocrats, queens, and concubines of the Mongol court which occurred in the capital city, Khanbaliq.[79][80][81] However, this influence on the Mongol court clothing mainly occurred in the last years of the Yuan dynasty.[82][12] Throughout the Yuan dynasty, many people from Goryeo were forced to move into the Yuan; most of them were kongnyo (literally translated as "tribute women"), eunuchs, and war prisoners.[12][83] About 2000 women from Goryeo were sent to Yuan as kongnyo against their will.[12] Although women from Goryeo were considered very beautiful and good servants, most of them lived in unfortunate situations, marked by hard labour and sexual abuse.[12] However, this fate was not reserved to all of them; and one Goryeo woman became the last Empress of the Yuan dynasty; this was Empress Gi who was elevated as empress in 1365.[12] Most of the cultural influence that Goryeo exerted on the upper class of the Yuan dynasty occurred when Empress Gi came into power as empress and started to recruit many Goryeo women as court maids.[12] The influence of Goryeo on the Mongol court's clothing during the Yuan dynasty was dubbed as Goryeoyang ("the Goryeo style") and was rhapsodized by the Late Yuan dynasty poet, Zhang Xu, in the form of a short banbi (半臂) with square collar (方領).[12][11] However, so far, the modern interpretation on the appearance of Mongol royal women's clothing influenced by Goryeo is based on authors' suggestions.[11] According to Hyunhee Park: "Like the Mongolian style, it is possible that this Koryŏ style [Koryŏ yang] continued to influence some Chinese in the Ming period after the Ming dynasty replaced the Yuan dynasty, a topic to investigate further."[84]

Joseon dynasty[edit]

Women's everyday wear[edit]

Early Joseon continued the women's fashion for baggy, loose clothing, such as those seen on the mural from the tomb of Bak Ik (1332–1398).[85] During the Joseon dynasty, the chima or skirt adopted fuller volume, while the jeogori or blouse took more tightened and shortened form, features quite distinct from the hanbok of previous centuries, when chima was rather slim and jeogori baggy and long, reaching well below waist level. After the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–98) or Imjin War, economic hardship on the peninsula may have influenced the closer-fitting styles that use less fabric.[86]

Neo-Confucianism as the ruling ideology in Joseon was established by the early Joseon dynasty kings; this led to the dictation of clothing style worn by all social classes in Joseon (including the dress of the royals, the court members, the aristocrats and commoners) in all types of occasions, which included wedding and funerals.[87] Social values such as the integrity in men and chastity in women were also reflected in how people would dress.[87] The women of the upper classes, the monarchy and the court wore hanbok which was inspired by the Ming dynasty clothing while simultaneously maintaining a distinctive Korean-style look; in turn, the women of the lower class generally imitated the upper-class women clothing.[88]

In the 15th century, neo-confucianism was very rooted in the social life in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries which lead to the strict regulation of clothing (including fabric use, colours of fabric, motifs, and ornaments) based on status.[89] Neo-confucianism also influence women's wearing of full-pleated chima, longer jeogori, and multiple layers clothing in order to never reveal skin.[90] In the 15th century, women started wearing of full-pleated chima which completely hide the body lines and longer-length jeogori.[91][90][92] The 15th century AD chima-jeogori style was undoubtedly a clothing style introduced from China.[90]

However, by the 16th century, the jeogori had shortened to the waist and appears to have become closer fitting, although not to the extremes of the bell-shaped silhouette of the 18th and 19th centuries.[93][94][86] In the 16th century, women's jeogori was long, wide, and covered the waist.[95] The length of women's jeogori gradually shortened: it was approximately 65 cm in the 16th century, 55 cm in the 17th century, 45 cm in the 18th century, and 28 cm in the 19th century, with some as short as 14.5 cm.[95] A heoritti (허리띠) or jorinmal (졸잇말) was worn to cover the breasts.[95] The trend of wearing a short jeogori with a heoritti was started by the gisaeng and soon spread to women of the upper class.[95] Among women of the common and lowborn classes, a practice emerged in which they revealed their breasts by removing a cloth to make breastfeeding more convenient.[96]

In the eighteenth century, the jeogori became very short to the point that the waistband of the chima was visible; this style was first seen on female entertainers at the Joseon court.[88] The jeogori continued to shorten until it reached the modern times jeogori-length; i.e. just covering the breasts.[90] During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the fullness of the skirt was concentrated around the hips, thus forming a silhouette similar to Western bustles. The fullness of the skirt reached its extreme around 1800. During the 19th century fullness of the skirt was achieved around the knees and ankles thus giving chima a triangular or an A-shaped silhouette, which is still the preferred style to this day. Many undergarments such as darisokgot, soksokgot, dansokgot, and gojengi were worn underneath to achieve desired forms.

A clothes reformation movement aimed at lengthening jeogori experienced wide success in the early 20th century and has continued to influence the shaping of modern hanbok. Modern jeogori are longer, although still halfway between the waistline and the breasts. Heoritti are sometimes exposed for aesthetic reasons. At the end of the 19th century, as mentioned above, Heungseon Daewongun introduced magoja, a Manchu-style jacket, which is often worn over jeogori to this day.

Men's everyday wear[edit]

Male aristocrat dress: a gat (a horsehair hat) on the head and yellow dopo (overcoat)

Men's hanbok saw little change compared to women's hanbok. The form and design of jeogori and baji hardly changed.

In contrast, men's lengthy outwear, the equivalent of the modern overcoat, underwent a dramatic change. Before the late 19th century, yangban men almost always wore jungchimak when traveling. Jungchimak had very lengthy sleeves, and its lower part had splits on both sides and occasionally on the back so as to create a fluttering effect in motion. To some this was fashionable, but to others, namely stoic scholars, it was nothing but pure vanity. Daewon-gun successfully banned jungchimak as a part of his clothes reformation program and jungchimak eventually disappeared.

Durumagi, which was previously worn underneath jungchimak and was basically a house dress, replaced jungchimak as the formal outwear for yangban men. Durumagi differs from its predecessor in that it has tighter sleeves and does not have splits on either sides or back. It is also slightly shorter in length. Men's hanbok has remained relatively the same since the adoption of durumagi. In 1884, the Gapsin Dress Reform took place.[97] Under the 1884's decree of King Gojong, only narrow-sleeves traditional overcoat were permitted; as such, all Koreans, regardless of their social class, their age and their gender started to wear the durumagi or chaksuui or ju-ui (周衣).[97]

Hats was an essential part formal dress and the development of official hats became even more pronounced during this era due to the emphasis of Confucian values.[98] The gat was considered an essential aspect in a man's life; however, to replace the gat in more informal setting, such as their residences, and to feel more comfortable, Joseon-era aristocrats also adopted a lot hats which were introduced from China, such as the banggwan, sabanggwan, dongpagwan, waryonggwan, jeongjagwan.[98] The popularity of those Chinese hats may have partially been due to the promulgation of Confucianism and because they were used by literary figures and scholars in China.[98] In 1895, King Gojong decreed adult Korean men to cut their hair short and western-style clothing were allowed and adopted.[97]

Material and color[edit]

Heuk dallyeongpo in the late 18th century

The upper classes wore hanbok of closely woven ramie cloth or other high-grade lightweight materials in warm weather and of plain and patterned silks the rest of the year. Commoners were restricted by law as well as resources to cotton at best.

The upper classes wore a variety of colors, though bright colors were generally worn by children and girls and subdued colors by middle-aged men and women. Commoners were restricted by law to everyday clothes of white, but for special occasions they wore dull shades of pale pink, light green, gray, and charcoal. The color of chima showed the wearer's social position and statement. For example, a navy color indicated that a woman had son(s). Only the royal family could wear clothing with geumbak-printed patterns (gold leaf) on the bottom of the chima.


A woman wearing a wig, or gache

Both male and female wore their hair in a long braid until they were married, at which time the hair was knotted; man's hair was knotted in a topknot called sangtu (상투) on the top of the head, and the woman's hair was rolled into a ball shaped form or komeori and was set just above the nape of the neck.

A long pin, or binyeo (비녀), was worn in women's knotted hair as both a fastener and a decoration. The material and length of the binyeo varied according to the wearer's class and status. And also wore a ribbon or daenggi (댕기) to tie and to decorate braided hair. Women wore a jokduri on their wedding day and wore an ayam for protection from the cold. Men wore a gat, which varied according to class and status.

Before the 19th century, women of high social backgrounds and gisaeng wore wigs (gache). Like their Western counterparts, Koreans considered bigger and heavier wigs to be more desirable and aesthetic. Such was the women's frenzy for the gache that in 1788 King Jeongjo banned by royal decree the use of gache, as they were deemed contrary to the Korean Confucian values of reserve and restraint.[99]

Owing to the influence of Neo-Confucianism, it was compulsory for women throughout the entire society to wear headdresses (nae-oe-seugae) to avoid exposing their faces when going outside; those headdresses may include suegaechima (a headdress which looked like a chima but was narrower and shorter in style worn by the upper-class women and later by all classes of people in late Joseon), the jang-ot, and the neoul (which was only permitted for court ladies and noblewomen).[100]

In the 19th century yangban women began to wear jokduri, a small hat that replaced gache. However gache enjoyed vast popularity in kisaeng circles well into the end of the century.

Later development[edit]

Today's hanbok is the direct descendant of hanbok patterned after those worn by the aristocratic women or by the people who were at least from the middle-class in the Joseon period,[65][101] specifically the late 19th century. Hanbok had gone through various changes and fashion fads during the five hundred years under the reigns of Joseon kings and eventually evolved to what we now mostly consider typical hanbok.

Beginning in the late 19th century, hanbok was largely replaced by new Western imports like the Western suit and dress. Today, formal and casual wear are usually based on Western styles. However, hanbok is still worn for traditional occasions, and is reserved for celebrations like weddings, the Lunar New Year, annual ancestral rites, or the birth of a child.

Social status[edit]

Especially from the Goryeo Dynasty, the hanbok started to determine differences in social status through the many types and components,[102] and their characteristics[103] - from people with the highest social status (kings), to those of the lowest social status (slaves).[102] Although the modern Hanbok does not express a person's status or social position, Hanbok was an important element of distinguishment especially in the Goryeo and Joseon Dynasties.[103]



Hwarot or Hwal-Ot (Hangul: 활옷) was the full dress for a princess and the daughter of a king by a concubine, formal dress for the upper class, and bridal wear for ordinary women during the Goryeo and Joseon dynasties.[104] Popular embroidered patterns on Hwal-Ot were lotuses, phoenixes, butterflies, and the ten traditional symbols of longevity: the sun; mountains; water; clouds; rocks/stone; pine trees; the mushroom of immortality; turtles; white cranes, and deer.[105] Each pattern represented a different role within society, for example: a dragon represented an emperor a phoenix represented a queen; floral patterns represented a princess and a king's daughter by a concubine, and clouds and cranes represented high ranking court officials.[104] All these patterns throughout Korean history had meanings of longevity, good luck, wealth and honor.[104] Hwal-Ot also had blue, red, and yellow colored stripes in each sleeve - a woman usually wore a scarlet-colored skirt and yellow or green-colored Jeogori, a traditional Korean jacket.[104] Hwal-Ot was worn over the Jeogori and skirt.[104] A woman also wore her hair in a bun, with an ornamental hairpin and a ceremonial coronet.[104] A long ribbon was attached to the ornamental hairpin, the hairpin is known as Yongjam (용잠).[104] In more recent times, people wear Hwal-Ot on their wedding day, and so the Korean tradition survives in the present day.[104]


Wonsam (Hangul: 원삼) was a ceremonial overcoat for a married woman in the Joseon dynasty.[106] The Wonsam was also adopted from China and is believed to have been one of the costumes from the Tang dynasty which was bestowed in the Unified Three Kingdoms period.[68] It was mostly worn by royalty, high-ranking court ladies, and noblewomen and the colors and patterns represented the various elements of the Korean class system.[106] The empress wore yellow; the queen wore red; the crown princess wore a purple-red color; meanwhile a princess, a king's daughter by a concubine, and a woman of a noble family or lower wore green.[106] All the upper social ranks usually had two colored stripes in each sleeve: yellow-colored Wonsam usually had red and blue colored stripes, red-colored Wonsam had blue and yellow stripes, and green-colored Wonsam had red and yellow stripes.[106] Lower-class women wore many accompanying colored stripes and ribbons, but all women usually completed their outfit with Onhye or Danghye, traditional Korean shoes.[106]


Dangui or Tangwi (Hangul: 당의) were minor ceremonial robes for the queen, a princess, or wife of a high ranking government official while it was worn during major ceremonies among the noble class in the Joseon dynasty.[105] The materials used to make "Dang-Ui" varied depending on the season, so upper-class women wore thick Dang-Ui in winter while they wore thinner layers in summer.[107] Dang-Ui came in many colors, but yellow and/or green were most common. However the emperor wore purple Dang-Ui, and the queen wore red.[107] In the Joseon dynasty, ordinary women wore Dang-Ui as part of their wedding dress.[107]

Myeonbok and Jeokui[edit]


Myeonbok (Hangul: 면복) were the king's religious and formal ceremonial robes while Jeokui were the queen's equivalent during the Goryeo and Joseon dynasties.[108] Myeonbok was composed of Myeonryu-Gwan (Hangul: 면류관) and Gujang-bok (Hangul: 구장복).[108] Myonryu-Gwan had beads, which hung loose; these would prevent the king from seeing wickedness.[108] There were also wads of cotton in the left and right sides of Myeonryu-Gwan, and these were supposed to make the king oblivious to the influence of corrupt officials. Gujang-bok was black, and it bore nine symbols, which all represented the king.[108]

Nine symbols[edit]
  1. Dragon:A dragon's appearance paralleled how the king governed and subsequently brought balance to the world.[108]
  2. Fire: The king was expected to be intelligent and wise to govern the people effectively, like a guiding light represented by the fire.[108]
  3. Pheasant: The image of a pheasant represented magnificence.[108]
  4. Mountain: As a mountain is high, the king was on a par in terms of status and was deserving of respect and worship.[108]
  5. Tiger: A tiger represented the king's courage.[108]
  6. Monkey: A monkey symbolized wisdom.[108]
  7. Rice: As the people needed rice to live, the king was compared to this foodstuff as he had the responsibility of protecting their welfare.[108]
  8. Axe: This indicated that the king had the ability to save and take lives.[108]
  9. Water plant: Another depiction of the king's magnificence.[108]

Jeokui or Tseogwi (Hangul: 적의) was arranged through the use of different colors as a status symbol within the royal family.[109] The empress wore purple-red colored Jeokui, the queen wore pink, and the crown princess wore deep blue.[109] "Jeok" means pheasant, and so Jeokui often had depictions of pheasants embroidered onto it.[109]


Cheolique (Alt. Cheolick or Cheollik) (Hangul: 철릭) was a Korean adaptation of the Mongol tunic, imported in the late 1200s during the Goryeo dynasty. Cheolique, unlike other forms of Korean clothing, is an amalgamation of a blouse with a kilt into a single item of clothing. The flexibility of the clothing allowed easy horsemanship and archery. During the Joseon dynasty, they continued to be worn by the king, and military officials for such activities.[110] It was usually worn as a military uniform, but by the end of the Joseon dynasty, it had begun to be worn in more casual situations.[110] A unique characteristic allowed the detachment of the Cheolique's sleeves which could be used as a bandage if the wearer was injured in combat.[110]


Ayngsam (Hangul: 앵삼;鶯衫) was the formal clothing for students during the national government exam and governmental ceremonies.[111] It was typically yellow, but for the student who scored the highest in the exam, they were rewarded with the ability to wear green Aengsam.[111] If the highest-scoring student was young, the king awarded him with red-colored Aengsam.[111] It was similar to the namsam (난삼/襴衫) but with a different colour.[112]



Binyeo or Pinyeo (Hangul: 비녀) was a traditional ornamental hairpin, and it had a different-shaped tip again depending on social status.[113] As a result, it was possible to determine the social status of the person by looking at the binyeo. Women in the royal family had dragon or phoenix-shaped Binyeo while ordinary women had trees or Japanese apricot flowers.[114] And Binyeo was a proof of marriage. Therefore, to a woman, Binyeo was an expression of chastity and decency.[115]


Daenggi is a traditional Korean ribbon made of cloth to tie and to decorate braided hair.


Norigae (Hangul: 노리개) was a typical traditional accessory for women; it was worn by all women regardless of social ranks.[116][117] However, the social rank of the wearer determined the different sizes and materials of the norigae.[117]


Danghye or Tanghye (Hangul: 당혜) were shoes for married women in the Joseon dynasty.[118] Danghye were decorated with trees bearing grapes, pomegranates, chrysanthemums, or peonies: these were symbols of longevity.[119]


Danghye for a woman in the royal family were known as Kunghye (Hangul: 궁혜), and they were usually patterned with flowers.[119]


Danghye for an ordinary woman were known as Onhye (Hangul: 온혜).[119]

Modern times[edit]

Although hanbok is a traditional costume, it has been re-popularized in modern fashion.[120] Contemporary brands, such as the Modern Hanbok of the "Korean in Me"[121] and Kim MeHee,[122] have incorporated traditional designs in their upscale modern clothes. Modern hanbok has been featured in international haute couture; on the catwalk, in 2015 when Karl Lagerfield dressed Korean models for Chanel, and during Paris Fashion Week in photography by Phil Oh.[123] It has also been worn by international celebrities, such as Britney Spears and Jessica Alba, and athletes, such as tennis player Venus Williams and football player Hines Ward.[124]

Hanbok is also popular among Asian-American celebrities, such as Lisa Ling and Miss Asia 2014, Eriko Lee Katayama.[122] It has also made appearances on the red carpet, and was worn by Sandra Oh at the SAG Awards, and by Sandra Oh's mother who made fashion history in 2018 for wearing a hanbok to the Emmy Awards.[125]

The South Korean government has supported the resurgence of interest in hanbok by sponsoring fashion designers.[126] Domestically, hanbok has become trendy in street fashion and music videos. It has been worn by the prominent K-pop artists like Blackpink and BTS, notably in their music videos for "How You Like That" and "Idol."[127][128] As the hanbok continues to modernize, opinions are divided on the redesigns.[129]

In Seoul, a tourist's wearing of hanbok makes their visit to the Five Grand Palaces (Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung, Deoksugung, Gyeongbokgung and Gyeonghuigung) free of charge.

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