The Parts of a Ladies' Hanbok
Complied by Ásfríðr Ulfvíðardóttir/ Rebecca Lucas.
The strict neo-Confucian Joseon dynasty appears in general to have had an equally strict dress code based on class. However, it is difficult to find information about when different sumptuary laws came into effect in English, and the dynasty lasted for over 500 years so it is foolish to generalise.
Images with green borders can be clicked for an enlargement. For other images, the photo is in the sources listed.
Headwear and Face
According to Choi (2006), the fashion for wearing wigs had its' roots in the 14th century, when court ladies wanted to emulate the long hair of Queen Myeongdeok. Her 'beautiful hair was so long it could encircle her head three times even after the four sides of her head had been fully covered' (Choi, 2006; 76-7). To emulate this look, fake braids were devised, over one metre long, and wrapped around the head in the keunmeori (큰머리, literally 'big hair') style.
One way of reconstructing this look, can be seen in this picture, and there is a video if you click the button underneath the photo. Your natural hair is put in a bun as an anchoring point for the braid. (Although they use twisted hair, instead of a braid.)
Sources: Cultural Heritage Association, Important Folklore Materials 4-6, Important Folklore Materials 22-10, (Choi, 2006), Culture Content.
The yakbang gisaeng by the from the time of Prince Gwanghae (r.1608-1623) were ordered to wear a stuff little veil, called the garima (가리마) that covered the forehead down to the shoulders (Wikipedia 2009; Culture Content: 가니마). This appealed because I have light brown hair, which looks very strange with a black hairpiece, and I could cover it up. The 17th century is regrettably the wrong century for this outfit, however two of the women in the 1585 court painting I've previously mentioned have what looks like little veils at the back of their head. It may be that this is a fore-runner of the stiff garima, before it became a required part of the gisaeng wardrobe.
We have some idea of the make-up that a 16th century entertaining woman was expected to wear, because of a story involving the infamous Hwang Jin-i where she appeared without any cosmetics.
Yi Teokhyeong (1556-1645), when writing A Record of Remarkable Things in Kaesong, mentions that Hwang attended a party held by Song Sun, where she arrived in a plain dress, without any make-up (O'Rourke, 2004; 98):
When Governor Song held a banquet in his mother's honor all the most accomplished kisaeng and singing girls in the capital were summoned and came. Officials in neighboring towns and the gentry all sat lined up one after another, and dazzling powdered faces filled the hall, with clusters of yellow silk skirts everywhere.
Chini had not applied powder or rouge, and came dressed in a pale robe. With her natural beauty, there was no one in the whole country more beautiful. She projected a dazzling aura that moved everyone around her ....
Source: McCarthy, 2005
It is probably safe to assume, that your average gisaeng wouldn't be famous or stunning enough to get away with not wearing her powder and rouge, and it is often repeated online that a white powdered face was only worn by court ladies, gisaeng and brides (eg. Kim, 2007). This seems to be confirmed when comparing the faces of the dancers in the 1585 painting, to the two, paler-dressed girls in the lower-left corner:
It also seems that rouge was worn, although how subtle its' application would be is unknown. My own experiments in front of the mirror lead me to believe that even a pale pink blush would be extremely noticeable when applied over a matte white face.
The 'classical ideal' of beauty also included small lips, and it is tempting to think of the painted face of Japanese maiko (apprentice geisha), which give the optical illusion of smaller lips. Certainly, the similar style of colouring in part of the bottom lip was fashionable with early 20th century gisaeng.
There is something to keep in mind when wearing such stark, white face powder; that it will make your teeth look yellow and by modern standards quite unattractive. Historically in Japan, a solution to this was tooth-blackening (ohaguro, お歯黒) which makes the teeth look 'invisible' from a distance as they blend in with the rest of your mouth. It is now only seen occasionally today on apprentice geisha (such as, for example, a maiko called Kotoha.) However, I know of no evidence that teeth-blackening was practiced in Korea at any time.
The under-jacket, similar to a European chemise, was the sokjeogori, made out of white ramie or silk. They were cut identically to the outer jeogori, only with slightly shorter sleeves and hem. Modern-day underjackets are fastened with a button instead of ties, as the bulky bow would ruin the look of the tight fitting jeogori on top.
Source: Cultural Heritage Association Important Folklore Materials 114-2.
According to Yang (1997; 57) only upper-class yangban women wore the Samhoejang Jeogori (삼회장 저고리), or jacket with contrasting collar (git, 깃), cuffs (kkeutdong 끝동), ties (goreum 고름) and underarm gores (mu, 무).
The overlapping panel (seop, 섭) could also be a different colour
However, there are numerous paintings from the 18th century showing gisaeng women wearing this style of jeogori too. But this is a problem with blanket statements about clothing in the Joseon dynasty without any other qualifiers. As it is only the noble graves that appear to have had their clothing preserved, it is difficult to say precisely what the other classes were wearing at the same time.
Although the white dongjeong collar remains on some of the extant jackets, it does not appear in artwork. Although the modern white collar is removable, and even disposable fabric-covered paper, I am unable to determine if the 16th century version was permanent, or made from fabric. It appears that the modern, long and decorated breast ties had not yet developed.
Source: Cultural Heritage Association Important Folklore Materials 109-1.
Source: Cultural Heritage Association Important Folklore Materials 114.
Source: Cultural Heritage Association Important Folklore Materials 217-4.
Source: Cultural Heritage Association Important Folklore Materials 217-5.
The final layer, for dancers, appears to have been the wonsam (원삼), a top-coat split from the waist to the floor-length hem along the sides, and the front opening.
Left: Close-up of painting from the court of King Seonjo, 1585. Right Painting illustrating the feast for Korean Emperor Gojong in Imin year, 1902.
Sources:Herstory: Women in Art, Wikipedia.
Left: Korean dance display with green wonsam.
Right Korean dance display with yellow wonsam.
Sources:m-louis on Flickr, Dolmang on Flickr..
Sokbaji (속바지) made of silk have been found in the 16-17th century Andong Kim Clan tomb. They were open in the back.
Source: Good People Co. Ltd. Chosun Underwear History
Dansokgot are similar to womens' bloomers, worn over the underpants, moreso than the 'petticoat' the word is usually glossed as.
Sources: Important Folklore Materials No.217-11, Good People Co. Ltd. Chosun Underwear History
Over the underwear, came the overskirt, or chima (치마). It was a long rectangle of fabric, pleated into a waistband. The waistband was extra-long, so it doubled as a sash that was used to tie the pleated skirt around the waist. The skirt was probably floor-length, or longer.
Source: Cultural Heritage Association Important Folklore Materials 109-1 and Cultural Heritage Association Important Folklore Materials 114-1.
Feet, Hands and Accessories
Socks, or beoseon (버선) are socks, that appear to be made of two halves, with seams along the top and sole of the foot. They are usually white, and can be quilted or padded for extra warmth.
It is tradition to remove your shoes when inside, and so wearing padded, warm socks in winter could double as wearing slippers.
The pair below date to before 1598, and are from the grave of General Gim Ham.
Source: Cultural Heritage Association Important Folklore Materials 109.
I admit, I have no idea at all what would be appropriate footwear. Yu Mongin, when telling the story of Hwang Jin-i travelling to the Diamond Mountain (Geumgangsan, 金剛山, in modern-day North Korea), says that she donned a nun's bonnet and wore straw sandals (O'Rourke, 1004; 97). This implies that she normally would have worn another type of footwear, but I don't know what.
Certainly, we have evidence from the (male) grave of Lee Eung-Tae (d. 1580s) of hemp sandals, called mituri (미투리). These are no ordinary sandals; it appears that Lee was ill, so his wife resorted to a folk-cure of weaving sandals, where the hemp cords were intertwined with her hair (Seo, 2009). These mituri look almost identical to modern jipsin sandals, although the materials used differ.
There are very detailed photographs of these sandals online, including a very large PDF file:
Seo Ji-eun. 2009. "A buried love resurfaces at last" Korea 9(5) pp.35-39 (Scroll down to the bottom for the two buttons to view online or download the magazine.)
A pair of wristlets, or tosi (토시) has been found in the tomb of Chae Muyeok and his wife, dating to the 16th century. These wrist-warmers had an outer layer of fine silk, an inner layer of coarser silk, and sandwiched between is a layer of cotton padding. This particular extant pair have a circumference of 52cm, and a length of 39cm.
Source: Cultural Heritage Association Important Folklore Materials 109.
Hansam (한삼) are the sleeve extensions you see in the photos of the wonsam-wearing women above. Sometime during the Joseon dynasty, it became a sign of courteousness towards ones' seniors to hide ones' hands. (Empas, 2009)
It may be that the white lines seen at the sleeve-edges of the jeogoris' of the dancing women in the 1585 portrait is an early form of this.
A scarf, or mokdori (목도리) was found with the body of a wife of Gim Dea-kyeong, from the Andong Kim Clan tomb. The wife is known as Ms. Won, of the Wonju Won clan. The scarf was made of white silk, and from the description by the CHA, is seems to be made from two pieces sewn together.
Source: Cultural Heritage Association Important Folklore Materials 217-12.
The decorative pendant called norigae (노리개) appears to have been worn at this time, although I have not been able to find any information about where it was suspended from. In modern hanbok, the pendant is worn on the breast-ties, or attached to the skirt band (Lee et al. 2005). There is a perfume case, covered in gilded thread from the 1550s, decorated with an indigo tassel and knotted, looped cord. It is 35.5cm long in total. In shape and design, it looks similar to this modern norigae. (Seok 1981; 64, 162)
Source: Seok 1981; 64, 162.
A silver knife, known as eunjangdo (은장도), has been found in the tomb of Chae Muyeok and his wife. It has been designated Important Folklore Materials 109-3. The knife is traditionally worn for defending ones' honour. Not to attack an assailant, but for suicide so that ones' chastity remains intact.
Source: Cultural Heritage Association Important Folklore Materials 109-3.
Nickel and copper fingerrings from the mid-16th century have also been found (Seok 1981; 95, 170).
- Arts and Crafts Korea, Norigae.
- Choi, Na-Young "Symbolism of Hairstyles in Korea and Japan" Asian Folklore Studies, Vol. 65, No. 1 (2006)
- Chosun Ilbo Five Centuries of Shrinking Korean Fashions April 19, 2009. Korean version.
- Cultural Heritage Association, South Korea. General Heritage Search
- Culture Content Historic Hairstyles Website.
- Empas 거들지.
- Kim, Hee-Sung "Heirs to centuries spent in front of a mirror, Koreans know good makeup" Korea Net News February 10, 2007.
- Lee Kyung Ja, Yi Kyong-Ja, Lee Jean Young Norigae: Splendor of the Korean Costume (Ewha Womans University Press, 2005) ISBN: 8973006185
- McCarthy, Linda Kisaeng and Poetry in the Koryo Period (Hyundae Bulkyo Media Center: 2005)
- O'Rourke, Kevin "Demythologizing Hwang Chini" in Young-Key Kim-Renaud [ed] Creative women of Korea: the fifteenth through the twentieth centuries (M.E. Sharpe, 2004) pp.96-121
- Seo Ji-eun. 2009. "A buried love resurfaces at last" Korea 9(5) pp.35-39
- Seok, Chu-seon Cheo Personal Ornaments in Yi Dynasty Folk Art Research Collection Series II (Seoul: Dankook University, 1981)
石宙善著 裝身具 民俗學資料; :第2輯. (서울特别市: 檀國大學校出版部, 1981)
- Wikipedia Uinyeo, dated 1st March, 2009.
- Yang, Sunny Hanbok: The Art of Korean Clothing (Elizabeth, New Jersey: Hollym International Corp. 1997)