Traditional Clothing – Korea

Traditional Korean Clothing



“??” (Hanbok) is a general term for the traditional clothing of Korea. In modern day, it has come to simply entail “dress for Korean women.” However, there exist such clothing as hanbok for men. All hanbok come in a variety of bright colors, and can be either plain or elaborately embroidered. They have soft geometric shapes, elegant folds, intense color, and various levels of embroidery. Most of the skin is hidden for women, except for some of the wrist and a bit of the neck area. Myung Soon, my mother, explained to me that her mother once told her that the amount of skin a woman showed was an indication of her marital status. If she showed a lot of her wrist and neck area, it was an indication of her being single and vice versa. My mother had to wear a hanbok at her wedding reception as well. Around our house, there were a couple pictures of my mother, her mother, and her four sisters all wearing this traditional Korean dress. Nowadays, no one in our family dresses up in this elegant gown because it is quite expensive to find. However, when my grandmother and mother were in Korea, everyone owned one.

The stereotype of the mysterious Asian beauty has been perpetuated for as long as my mother and I can remember. I believe it is largely due to this beautiful traditional dress, and the customs associated with wearing it. I remember being taught to walk gracefully and with my eyes looking downward, in order to portray a subservient image. In my family, the men did not wear traditional Korean clothing, but every New Year’s Day, adults would dress up the younger girls in hanboks. I recall feeling very uncomfortable in my hanbok when I was younger. My armpits felt constricted and my chest felt compressed. However, I loved wearing it because it made me feel as though I was learning more about my family’s culture.