Every culture has its own traditional clothing, and this is no different for Koreans. Korean traditional clothing is known as “hanbok”, and it has existed for hundreds of years and changed styles throughout the different eras. Even today, K-pop groups such as BLACKPINK, BTS, and KARD are continuing to incorporate modern incarnations of the hanbok into their performance outfits!
The word hanbok means "Korean clothing" and consists of two main pieces. On the upper body, both men and women wear an upper garment called "jeogori." Men will also wear "durumangi", a traditional overcoat for special occasions. Women's jeogori is fastened by a string called "goreum." For the bottom, women wear a long skirt called "chima" and men wear baggy pants called "baji." The outfit is complemented by silk shoes called "kkotsin."
The roots of the Korean hanbok can be traced back to the era of the Three Kingdoms, which spanned approximately 57 B.C. to 668 A.D. Each kingdom had slight variations of the hanbok - the people of Baekje wore wider pants, and the jeogori was longer and wider. In Goguryeo, there was no distinct difference between men and women's hanbok; with men and women both wearing white-sleeved jeogori that were long enough to cover their hips over their trousers or skirt. Interestingly, the Silla hanbok was influenced by Chinese fashion, with the people wearing long jackets fastened at the waist, over long skirts.
A few hundred years later, during the Goryeo Dynasty (918 – 1392), the look of the hanbok began to be influenced by the Mongol Empire. The chima was shortened and the jeogori was shorter at the waist and tied with a long ribbon. The sleeves were curved slightly.
The Joseon period (1392 – 1897) served as a significant turning point in the hanbok’s transformation. The jeogori for women was created in a shorter, more fitted style than in earlier iterations. People also began to wear jeogori on the upper part of the abdomen. This jeogori was worn close to the chest, often accompanied by a white band that lined the chest. This is the hanbok style many of us have come to know and appreciate today!
Although the hanbok is now worn mostly for special events instead of everyday, Koreans are still finding new ways to wear the clothing. Though the look of hanbok has changed over time, the fact that people are still creating new, modern versions of it shows how much of an enduring part of Korean culture it is!