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Archive for the ‘Fashion’ Category

 

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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.”

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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.

 

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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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One summer day several years ago I spotted on the Mills College campus (where I worked at the time) a Muslim woman dressed in a long narrow skirt and tunic top both in a lightweight fabric and in a lovely shade of mauve. Her hijab was pale purple, which blended so nicely with the mauve. She was wearing a pair of high heel sandals in tan and carried a tan satchel handbag. She looked chic and I wanted to talk to her and take her photo for the blog but she was a visiting professor and I didn’t want to intrude.

That woman is still vivid in my mind because it was then that I realized that 1. I hadn’t given Muslim dress much thought and 2. Muslim dress can be chic.

Of course it can!

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Design by Nzinga Knight, the first contestant on Project Runway to wear a hijab.

I have been thinking about this form of dress ever since and so I was excited to attend the press preview for Contemporary Muslim Fashions, the current fashion exhibit on now at the de Young Museum in San Francisco.

“… modest fashion, or clothes that allow the wearer to remain relatively concealed but also appear stylish, has become one of the most pervasive international fashion stories in the past five years,” say exhibit curators, Jill D’Alessandro and Laura Camerlengo. When young Muslim women took to the Internet and blogging after not seeing themselves reflected in mass media, mass media took notice. As modest dress designers began to reach for a broader global appeal, the fashion industry took notice.

Reina Lewis, Professor of Cultural Studies at London College of Fashion and consultant to this exhibit says that the Muslim market for modest fashions is estimated at 44 billion US dollars this year and is expected to grow. “The style parade of cool Muslim women, often recognizable by their wearing a head-cover of some sort, is becoming a significant style story,” she explains. “If you are a trend forecaster, it is not hard to spot this vibrant cohort.”

They’re on it – H&M, Uniqlo, and Nike among others have recently produced items for modest dress.

 

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Designs by  Itang Yunasz using Indonesian ikat fabric. These remind me very much of Yves Saint Laurent.

 

With 80 ensembles representing 53 designers from the Middle East, Indonesia, Malaysia, Europe, Canada, and the United States, Contemporary Muslim Fashions is the first extensive museum exploration of Muslim modest dress and the influence it’s having on fashion around the world. Featured are day wear, sportswear, formal, and Haute Couture. Additionally there are photographs and videos to help contextualize the fashions on display.

Several of the included designers traveled to San Francisco to join the opening celebrations. I spoke with Indonesian designer Itang Yunasz, who was pleased to be part of this notable exhibit. Yunasz began his fashion career 37 years ago designing exclusive luxury clothing for women.  In 2000 he chose to include modest dress in his collections to offer luxury and style for Muslim women who wish to dress modestly. He soon became known as the “Modest Wear Trendsetter.” Yunasz’s signature look is combining luxury with references to his native country.  “I’m always designing with a touch of Indonesia,” he explained. Included in the exhibit are pieces made of handwoven ikat fabric, an Indonesian technique in which the fabric pattern is formed by weaving individual dyed yarns. For drape and flow in his silhouettes he also used silk, printed or digitized from ikat fabric. (Pictured above.)

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Another designer from Indonesia, Khanaan Luqman Shamlan uses batik fabric, which is a wax-resist dye technique.  Shamlan’s family owned a batik fabric factory and with that background she is determined to “see batik go global.”

Each region represented has varying styles and bring their own cultural differences to their designs. The Middle East might be more austere, Malaysia more colorful. There are examples of simple and ornate pieces, even tailored and whimsical. Not all ensembles include a headscarf as not all Muslim women wear one. Something I learned is that couture houses have for many years custom altered their designs for Muslim clients. On display are several couture gowns altered to fit the needs of Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser Al Missned, of Qatar.

 

Looking at the array of designs, it occurred to me that without the hijab some of these ensembles don’t read specifically Muslim and might appeal to any fashionable woman. For example Khanaan Luqman Shamlan’s designs pictured above are just beautiful gowns. Indeed, Professor Lewis commented that many of the designers included in this exhibit reported to her that 40 to 50 percent of their customers are not Muslims, but women of other faiths or women of no particular faith.

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Another example of a design that fits modest needs but is also avant garde and might appeal to a variety of  women. By Mashael Al Rajhi from Saudi Arabia. Merino wool, velvet.

There is much to learn from Contemporary Muslim Fashions about different cultures, different women, and how we can all meet at the intersection of fashion and style.

Contemporary Muslim Fashions is on now through January 6th, 2019. Click here for more information. 

 

 

 

 

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