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Archive for October, 2018

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).

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Custom made hanbok at Korean Costume, Gwangjang Market.

The day after Donald Trump was elected in 2016, I pulled a hanbok out of my closet. I felt compelled to wear this traditional Korean garment, with its stiff collar, short top, and floor-length, empire-waist skirt, as my small statement of resistance. To some, such a gesture might read conservative, feminine, or modest but to me it was defiantly different. After all, with every sexist or xenophobic barb Trump lobbed, I became more determined to flaunt my womanhood and Korean identity. 

Crystal Hana Kim – Korean-American author.

I am currently in Seoul, South Korean on a textiles tour. Last week we went to  Gwangjang Market, which is a large building of vendors many of whom sell fine quality fabric and construct hanbok.

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Ramie fabric.

We were lucky enough to meet with one of the hanbok vendors, Jung Jae Won from Korean Costume, who kindly spoke to us about the process of having a hanbok made.

Hanbok was worn daily in Korea up until around 1900. Today it is worn usually for weddings, holidays, and other special formal occasions, although, some Korean designers are updating the silhouette to better suit the taste of modern fashionistas.

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Traditional hanbok for women includes a distinctive full skirt called chima, short jacket called jeogori and layers of undergarments. The fabric used is silk or ramie, a stiff fiber known to hold its shape and resist wrinkling. Petticoats are worn for fullness.

IMG_20181010_190715209There are many selections to make from the color of the fabric, to any applied decoration to hair accessories. Color is used to communicate social and economic status. For example bright colors are for unmarried woman and blue trim on the cuffs of a woman’s jacket indicates she has a son. (No special color for a daughter.) A widow might have an extra decoration on her jacket, like embroidered flowers.

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Renting hanbok for a day and roaming around the city is a current trend among the young set. There are rental stores at the various palaces and other tourist areas. These hanbok are more ostentatious with embellishments such as stamped gold edges or embroidery. Instead of the traditional petticoat a hoop skirt is worn for a more exaggerated fullness.

Stay tuned for more Korean fashion stores.

 

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IMG_20180903_175500There are many, many regulations in North Korea on how a woman should look. You’re not meant to put your hair down, skinny pants are frowned upon, jeans aren’t allowed, and there are definitely no short pants. If you’re ever caught breaking these rules you’re forced to write a self-criticism report; or if you have long hair, risk having it cut short. Nevertheless, some girls turn a blind eye to these penalties, all in the name of beauty. 

This quote is by a North Korean defector and contributor to the book Ask a North Korean: Defectors Talk About Their Lives Inside the World’s Most Secretive Nation (Tuttle Publishing).

Why would I be reading this book? Well, I saw it in on the shelf at my local library and I took an interest because as you read this I’m in Seoul, South Korea on a ten day textiles tour.

I’ve been reading about both North and South Korea. I had no idea that Seoul has the fastest Internet in the world. Or that North Korea had a famine in the 1990s that pretty much stopped all governmental aid to the people. Seoul is a serious fashion city, with world renowned designers creating avant-garde looks. I was first introduced to fashion in South Korea last year at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum’s Couture Korea exhibit. At the time I was also taking a textiles class at SFCC.  Both opened up new worlds to me and when this opportunity to travel to South Korea fell in my lap, I decided to take it.

This is my first trip to Asia. What an adventure it will be and you bet I’ll be writing about it. Stayed tuned.

 

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Pandora’s Box, 1951. By Rene Magritte.

The presence of the rose next to the stroller signifies that wherever man’s destiny leads him, he is always protected by an element of beauty. 

Rene Magritte (1898-1967), Belgium artist.

I’m drawn to this painting for so many reasons: the hat, the cobblestone road, the hazy feel to the environment, the European scene. But most of all the rose as companion and I like Magritte’s thought that beauty is omnipresent. Something to remember in our current mixed-up, dark world.

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