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#overdressed4life

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Traditional hanbok was worn for both everyday and special occasions by men and women from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) through the 1950s when western clothing took hold. The basic silhouette for women was a full skirt, often made of silk or ramie, and a short jacket in solid colors. Any embellishment was applied, embroidery for example, along the edge of the skirt or the shoulder of the jacket.

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Traditional hanbok.

 

While in Seoul, South Korea I had many encounters with traditional hanbok on the streets, in museums, and the fabric market but I was interested in seeing modern interpretations by local designers. I had first learned of this trend last year at the Asian Art Museum’s exhibit, Couture Korea.

I heard about a shop that offers modern hanbok, so one day I set out walking through our neighborhood of Insadong and into Bukchon in search of Tchai Kim.

One hour and four tourist guides later (they had trouble too!), I found the elusive shop tucked inside one of the many little alleyways that are so much a part of Seoul. I was greeted by a friendly and helpful staff member, Kim Ujin.

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Kim Ujin standing with my favorite reinterpretation of traditional hanbok.  It’s the unexpected plaid that does it for me.

Ujin explained that the shop is owned by designer Kim Young-jin, who had learned how to make traditional hanbok from a Korean Master. For several years Young-jin custom-made traditional hanbok mostly for weddings but she began to realize that the label “traditional” was variable – hanbok in the 18th century was different from hanbok in the 19th cemetery and so on. Traditional Korean dress was ever-changing until it more or less disappeared. Young-jin felt it was time to bring hanbok back with a modern update and in 2010 she launched her ready-to-wear brand, Tchai Kim (tchai means different).

I was given a tour of various silhouettes all inspired by traditional hanbok of past centuries.

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Deoksugung Palace Guards, or actors who play guards. There is no monarchy in South Korea but there are five palaces in Seoul that, since 1996, hold reenactments of the changing of the guards.

 

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Here’s the cheollik dress with over-skirt.

One such silhouette particular to Tchai Kim is a dress based on the traditional cheollik, a one-piece tunic worn by men over loose fitting pants that were tied at the ankles. You can still see that outfit today on the palace guards. Designed originally for ease of movement, the reinterpreted cheollik for women offers the same ease for a busy modern lifestyle. The dress can be worn alone or with a pair of wide-legged pants or with an over-skirt as we see in the photo to the left.

Part of the traditional hanbok ensemble is the short wrap jacket, called jeogori. in solid colors. Young-jin has taken that idea and updated it with a v-neckline in cotton fabric and patterns such as plaids and polka-dots, shifting the look from youthful to sophisticated.

 

 

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There are many redesigns of the jacket. I tried on one that if worn in the U.S. would be considered very fashion forward but the inspiration behind Young-jin’s design makes the piece even more special. The pop of red embroidery (another Korean tradition) spelling out the name of the shop punches up the avant-garde factor. If I were to wear this jacket I’d mix it with vintage – 40s slacks and my signature suede shoes (look at my logo) and a grey or black beret with a red floral brooch attached.

The blending of traditional with modern is a marvelous way to move forward while honoring heritage and keeping it present.

Gamsahapnida (thank you) to Kim Ugin for taking time with me on that wonderful October afternoon! It was among the highlights of my visit to Seoul.

 

 

 

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In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
        In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
        In Flanders fields.
John McCrae (1872-1918), Canadian medical doctor and poet.
Dr. McCrae served as a surgeon for the Canadian military during WWI. He wrote In Flanders Field in 1915 after the death of a good friend.
Armistice Day is November 11th. This year marked the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. Since 1921, on Armistice Day it is customary, mostly in the UK, to sport a paper poppy on a jacket lapel on honor of those who who died in the “war to end all wars.”

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Voting looks good on you. 

Elle magazine, October 2018

Election Day is tomorrow, Tuesday November 6, 2018.

 

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A recent interest in Korean fashion led me to sign up for the Korea Textile Tour, a ten day exploration of traditional Korean culture and textile art. It was my first trip to Asia and needless to say, I was most excited!

Limited to ten women, our group included mostly quilters and a couple of us interested primarily in fashion. We were based in Seoul, South Korea with three leaders:

  • Youngmin Lee, a Korean transplant to the Bay Area and Korean textiles artist.
  • Mirka Knaster makes her home in Northern California and is a writer and an artist working in fiber arts.
  • Lissa Miner is a quilter who hails from Berkeley, CA but currently lives outside of Seoul, South Korea.

 

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Studio of Kyung Yeal Kim, master craftsman. This is where we took the safflower dye workshop.

The days were packed full but we kept to a reasonable pace. Each day we walked an average of five miles, so no need to worry about getting enough exercise. We took docent led museum tours, strolled neighborhoods, met master artists who led us in workshops, including indigo dye and safflower dye. We stayed in Insadong, which is an older part of Seoul known originally as the neighborhood of calligraphy and paper artists. It was a great place to be, located near two subway stations and within walking distance of many galleries and shops. Speaking of subways – I was very impressed with the efficiency (never waited more than 5 minutes for a train), and how clean the stations and trains are kept. Sure it gets crowded and the older folk will push you out of the way but overall the system was a pleasure to ride.

Our hotel was the recently renovated Sunbee. I’m told that it was bought by a retired pharmacist who handed the business over to her son to run. Each of us had her own room, which are remarkably spacious as are the bathrooms. At the end of a busy day, it felt good to come back to a comfortable space. There’s a cafe off the lobby where we met each morning for the included breakfast. Plus free laundry facilities and Wi-Fi.

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Public Library.

As for language, it helps to know a little Korean, at least hello and thank you. In general, many young people speak English and most older people do not. Traditional Korean restaurants don’t have menus in English but some do have pictures to point to. I was lucky to have Youngmin’s help  – often she checked ahead with restaurants to see what accommodations could be made for my egg allergy.  (Several meals are included in the tour.) Modern neighborhoods have English speaking staff  in shops and restaurants. I found that communication is possible and actually fun with a few words in common and a willingness to try.

Tourism in South Korea is on the rise, so people are used to non-Korean speakers. But Korea is not yet on the American radar and I spotted very few of my follow citizens.

What is on the radar of young Koreans is western food. Especially coffee, bread, and pastries. We saw many a French bakery and cafe. Also health food, such as organic salad, is very popular in the modern neighborhoods.

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Handbag Museum.

Among some of my favorite activities on the tour was the trip to Gwangjang Market. The first permanent market in Korea and the main market for fabric, this place is mecca for high quality rare fabrics such as ramie and silk. It was a treat to see. There’s also a food market on the first floor, offering just about any kind of Korean street food you’d like to eat.

I really enjoyed visiting Ewha Women’s University Museum where we had a docent led tour of the special exhibit – Undergarments from the Joseon Dynasty, 1392-1897 (undergarments worn with Hanbok).

On one of our free days four of us visited the Simone Handbag Museum. A few years ago I had read about this museum, which opened in 2012 and displays antique to modern, handmade to designer handbags. The building itself is in the shape of a handbag.

While exploring on my own one day,  I unexpectedly stumbled upon the public library in Bukchon. Another charming historic neighborhood, Bukchon is located near two palaces and is known as a center for traditional arts and artists’ studios.

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Really, I enjoyed everything because it was all new to me. Much of the tour is focused on Korean history and culture, which as Mirka pointed out, gives a context to the traditional art we looked at and talked about. I have come home with a desire to learn more about all things Korean.

This was the second year for the Korea Textile Tour and plans are already in the works for 2019. A list of interested travelers is growing. Click here for more information.

There are lots of photos of my trip on Instagram. Follow OverDressedforLife:

#overdressed4life

Check back for more fashionable adventures in Seoul, South Korea.

 

 

 

 

 

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It’s been quite awhile since we visited Mom’s Closet. Let’s step inside for a little Halloween story. Click on the Mom’s Closet tab above and scroll down for “Spooky Halloween Wishes from Mom’s Closet.”

img_20181025_152347762.jpgShe wore the same clothes every summer for four years. But the next summer, she took them out to discover that they were threadbare and unwearable. The sleeves were frayed. She took them to a seamstress and asked her to make her a new set in the exact same style from the exact same fabric. The tailor examined the frayed clothes and said she could make the same style but the fabric was no longer available. So my sister left. I told her the tailor could make her something better, but she said there was no point if it wasn’t the same fabric … That’s what she was like. 

Miru, fictional character in the novel I’ll be Right There by Kyung-Shook Shin. Translated from Korean by Sora Kim-Russell (Other Press, New York)

I’ll be Right There takes place in Seoul, South Korea in an unidentified era but the author says she was thinking 1980s, a time when university students were protesting in the streets for democracy.  She chose not to be specific so young readers could place themselves in the narrative.

The story centers on four students, who are friends and are lost in their youth, affected by the tumultuous times. A bit opaque and most certainly depressed, the characters are nevertheless compelling. They remind me of (British author) Anita Brookner characters, people who slowly plod through life and seem content to go nowhere.  Much of the action in the story comes as the characters walk the city, which gives the reader a nice feel for Seoul.

Kyung-Shook Shin is an award winning author in South Korea, having published seven  novels and eight short story collections. She is among the few Korean writers translated  and published outside South Korea as well as the first woman and first Korean to be awarded the Man Asian Literary Prize for best Asian novel either written in English or translated.

 

IMG_20180829_152527This was the midsixties, no T-shirts for these middle-class moms, no sweatpants, canvas shorts, or jeans. To school, their daughters wore dresses, or skirts and blouses (always tucked in, thank you very much), skipping in white socks and two-tones shoes or penny loafers or Keds. So their mothers were not sloppy in their gardens, even as they planted. 

Marcia Gay Harden – American actress. This quote is from Ms. Harden’s memoir, The Seasons of my Mother: A Memoir of Love, Family, and Flowers (Atria Books).