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What is hanbok?

Hanbok (Korean traditional clothing) is a graceful and fine Korean traditional attire created with lovely colors and a beautiful combination of straight lines and curves. Many foreigners don’t know what Hanbok means, and even some people think that this ceremonial garment is Japanese, because it looks a bit like kimono, or Chinese. While the Hanbok is Korean and created from the country’s beautiful fabric.  

Fans of Korean culture will see that many actors wear it in Korean historical dramas. It is one of the “must-do” items for tourists to South Korea to try on and take pictures of themselves. Koreans wear them on formal ceremonial occasions and for important events. For example, the South Korean President sometimes wears Hanbok during diplomatic visits to other countries. Koreans wear Hanbok for Seollal ( Lunar New Year ), wedding ceremonies and funerals.

As a tourist, it is best to try on traditional clothes for a full Korean cultural experience . Or maybe you want to try it out and be Jang Geum (from  Jewel in the Palace ) for a day. Some Korean language institutes, where students study the regular Korean curriculum, wear Hanbok during the graduation ceremony .

Origin of Hanbok

Hanbok has a history of over 1600 years and can be considered a symbol of Korean culture. This traditional Hanbok costume is  inspired by creations from the Joseon Dynasty period  (1392-1910). Its origin dates back to the time of the three kingdoms (Koguryo, Baekje and Silla). A Hanbok is a traditional South Korean dress  , used for traditional events such as festivals and ceremonies. A fun fact is that “”Hanbok”” literally means Korean clothes, but it usually refers to clothes from the Joseon area . Since 1996, there is even a “ Hanbok Day ”“” official to encourage people to wear traditional Korean clothing. The bride and groom wear the hanbok to celebrate their union.

 What is Hanbok made of?

For men, the basic Hanbok attire consists of a short top jacket ( jeogori ) with long, wide sleeves worn with baggy pants ( baji ). Regarding women, Hanbok consists of an enveloping floor-length skirt ( chima ) with a wide belttied above the chest. It is said that the high placement of the waistband can give the skirt a wavy look and allow more freedom of movement. Traditionally, women need to wear 5 or 7 layers of underwear (pants and underskirts) to make the skirt bulkier to provide an elegant look, but nowadays only wear 1 layer of underwear (usually pants). The upper jacket ribbons are tied in the form of a Korean-style ribbon bow in front of the chest and are sometimes embroidered. Sometimes outer garments like a vest, jacket, or coat can also be worn.  

For men, accessories are mainly hats and caps while for women, accessories include caps, hairpins , crowns , ribbon hair bands and pendants .

Silk is the main fabric used for Hanbok and makes this good quality traditional garment very expensive. For example, each of the Hanboks worn by President Park Geun-hye during her trip to the United States in May 2013 costs around 1.3 million won and is already considered “not too expensive”. There may be decorations like gilding , embroidery , and patterns like flowers and butterflies on Hanbok. Hanbok is colored using natural dyes like red dye obtained from the petals of red flowers .

Today, Korean people consider Hanbok as an old-fashioned form of traditional clothing and only wear it for certain important events and not in daily life. Modern Korean fashion designers are trying to combine traditional Hanbok design with Western fashion style to create Hanbok fusion . Fusion Hanbok has a modern look and is more convenient and comfortable to wear in daily life.

If you like Korean dramas and Hanbok , you can watch a Korean drama called “장옥정, 사랑에 살다 1” (Jang Ok-jung, Live in Love) which is a story of Jang Ok-jung as a fashion designer of the Joseon dynasty . Jang Ok-jung later became Queen Jang Hui-bin. You can see a lot of beautiful Hanbok in the historical drama .  

Hanbok rental in South Korea!

In Seoul, the Seoul Global Culture Experience Center in Myeongdong , a Tourist Information Center located at the Seoul Office of the Korea Tourism Organization and the Insadong Tourist Information Center , offers Korean cultural experiential activities such as trial on Hanbok . If you want to take quality Hanbok photos, you can visit Photo Studios in Insadong (인사동) which provide both hanbok rental and photo shooting services. If you want to buy Hanbok, you can visit Hanbok stores in Dongdaemun Shopping Complex ,Gwangjang Market and Insadong where you can buy ready-made and tailor-made Hanbok .

Depending on where you rent your traditional Korean dress , prices may vary a bit. If you choose a rental shop on a main street, full of tourists, it will be a bit more expensive. If you choose a store in a less touristy area, it will be cheaper.

The rental price is around 17,000 won (about 14 euros) for 3 or 4 hours. The price may also vary depending on the type of dress you choose. If you want the simple design, it will be a little cheaper.

If you want a lace pattern, prices can vary from 17,000 won for half a day to 25,000 won (about 21 euros) for a day. Rental prices include the complete set ( Joegori – Chima – Tote bag – Hair accessories ).

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