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Posts Tagged ‘Seoul fashion’

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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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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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