Traditional designs in a Hanbok fashion
Korean name
Hangul 한복 or 조선옷
Hanja 韓服 or 朝鮮옷
Revised Romanization Hanbok or Joseon-ot
McCune–Reischauer Hanbok or Chosŏn-ot
Hanbok accessories

Hanbok (South Korea) or Joseon-ot (North Korea) is the representative example of traditional Korean dress. It is characterized by vibrant colors and simple lines without pockets. Although the term literally means "Korean clothing", hanbok usually refers specifically to clothing of the Joseon period and is worn as semi-formal or formal wear during traditional festivals and celebrations. Korea had a dual clothing tradition in which rulers and aristocrats adopted different kinds of mixed foreign-influenced indigenous styles while commoners perserved a distinct style of indigenous clothing, today known as Hanbok.[1][2]

In 1996, the South Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism established "Hanbok Day" to encourage South Korean citizens to wear hanbok.[3]

Composition and design

Traditional women's hanbok consists of jeogori, a blouse shirt or a jacket, and chima, a wrap-around skirt, which is usually worn full. The ensemble is often called chima jeogori. Men's hanbok consists of jeogori and loose-fitting baji," ("pants"),[4]


Jeogori and chima

Jeogori is the basic upper garment of the hanbok, worn by both man and women. It covers the arms and upper part of the wearer's body.[5][6] The basic form of a jeogori consists of gil, git, dongjeong, goreum and sleeves. Gil (길) is the large section of the garment on both front and back sides, and git (깃) is a band of fabric that trims the collar. Dongjeong (동정) is a removable white collar placed over the end of the git and is generally squared off. The goreum (고름) are coat-strings that tie the jeogori.[4] Women's jeogori may have kkeutdong (끝동), a different colored cuff placed at the end of the sleeves. Two jeogori may be the earliest surviving archaeological finds of their kind. One from a Yangcheon Heo Clan tomb is dated 1400-1450,[7] while the other was discovered inside a statue of the Buddha at Sangwonsa Temple (presumably left as an offering) that has been dated to the 1460s.[8]

The form of Jeogori has changed over time.[9] While men's jeogori remained relatively unchanged, women's jeogori dramatically shortened during the Joseon dynasty, reaching its shortest length at the late 19th century. However, due to reformation efforts and practical reasons, modern jeogori for women is longer than its earlier counterpart. Nonetheless the length is still above the waist line. Traditionally, goreum were short and narrow, however modern goreum are rather long and wide. There are several types of jeogori varying in fabric, sewing technique, and shape.[9][7]


Chima refers to "skirt," which is also called sang () or gun () in hanja.[10][5][9] The underskirt, or petticoat layer, is called sokchima. According to ancient murals of Goguryeo and an earthen toy excavated from the neighborhood of Hwangnam-dong, Gyeongju, Goguryeo women wore a chima with jeogori over it, covering the belt.[11][12]

Although striped, patchwork, and gored skirts are known from the Goguryeo[5] and Joseon periods, chima were typically made from rectangular cloth that was pleated or gathered into a skirt band.[13] This waistband extended past the skirt fabric itself and formed ties for fastening the skirt around the body.[14]

Sokchima was largely made in a similar way to the overskirts until the early 20th century when straps were added,[15] later developing into a sleeveless bodice or 'reformed' petticoat.[16] By the mid-20th century, some outer chima had also gained a sleeveless bodice, which was then covered by the jeogori.[17][18]


Baji refers to the bottom part of the men's hanbok. It is the formal term for 'pants' in Korean. Compared to western style pants, it does not fit tightly. The roomy design is aimed at making the clothing ideal for sitting on the floor.[19] It functions as modern trousers do, but nowadays the term baji is commonly used in Korea for any kinds of pants. There is a band around the waistline of a baji for tying in order to fasten.

Baji can be unlined trousers, leather trousers, silk pants, or cotton pants, depending on style of dress, sewing method, embroidery and so on.


Po is a generic term referring to an outer robe or overcoat, which was a common style from the Three Kingdoms of Korea period until the late Joseon period.[5][20] A belt was used until it was replaced by a ribbon during late Joseon dynasty. Durumagi is a variety of po that was worn as protection against cold. It had been widely worn as an outer robe over jeogori and baji. It is also called jumagui, juchaui, or juui.[10][5][9]

A different overcoat derived from Tang dynasty styles was adopted among the elites of Unified Silla and eventually evolved into Gwanbok.[20]

Jokki and magoja

Jokki (조끼) is a type of vest, while magoja is an outer jacket. Although jokki and magoja were created at the end of the Joseon dynasty in which Western culture began to affect Korea, the garments have been considered traditional clothing. Each is additionally worn over jeogori for warmth and style. Magoja clothing was originally styled after that of Manchu people, but was introduced to Korea after Heungseon Daewongun, father of King Gojong, returned from his political exile in Tianjin in 1887.[9][21] Magoja derived from the magwae he wore in exile because of the cold climate there. It was good for warmth and easy to wear, so magoja became popular in Korea. It is also called "deot jeogori" (literally "an outer jeogori") or magwae.[9]

Magoja does not have git, the band of fabric that trims the collar,[4] or goreum (tying strings) unlike jeogori and durumagi (overcoat). Magoja was originally a male garment but later became unisex. The magoja for men has seop (Hangul: , overlapped column on the front) and is longer than women's magoja, so that both sides are open at the bottom. A magoja is made of a silk and is adorned with one or two buttons which are usually made from amber. In a men's magoja, buttons are attached to the right side, contrary to women's magoja.[9]

At first, women wore the magoja for style rather than as a daily outfit, and especially Kaesong wore it often. It is made of silk, and the color for women tends to be a neutral color to harmonize with other garments such as jeogori and chima, which are worn together. In spring and autumn, pastels tones used in women's magoja are matched with jeogori for color. Men's magoja during spring and summer were jade, green, gray, dark grey.[9]

Children's hanbok

Children's hanbok

Traditionally, Kkachi durumagi (literally "a magpie's overcoat") were worn as seolbim (설빔), new clothing and shoes worn on Korean New Year, while at present, it is worn as a ceremonial garment for dol,the celebration for a baby's first birthday.[22][23] It is a children's colorful overcoat.[24] It was worn mostly by young boys.[25] The clothes is also called obangjang durumagi which means "an overcoat of five directions".[22] It was worn over jeogori (a jacket) and jokki (a vest), while the wearer could put jeonbok (a long vest) over it. Kkachi durumagi was also worn along with headgear such as bokgeon (a peaked cloth hat),[26][27] hogeon (peaked cloth hat with a tiger pattern) for young boys or gulle (decorative headgear) for young girls.[5], [28]


Hwarot, bride clothes.

Hanbok is classified according to its purposes: everyday dress, ceremonial dress, and special dress. Ceremonial dresses are worn on formal occasions, including a child's first birthday, a wedding, or a funeral. Special dresses are made for shamans and officials.[19]



The hanbok can trace its origin to nomadic clothing in the Scytho-Siberian cultural sphere of northern Asia, widespread in ancient times.[29][30] The earliest evidence of this common style of northern Asia can be found in the Xiongnu burial site of Noin Ula in northern Mongolia,[31] and earliest evidence of hanbok's basic design features is seen in ancient wall murals of Goguryeo before the 3rd century BCE.[32][33]

Reflecting its nomadic origins in northern Asia, hanbok was designed to facilitate ease of movement and also incorporated many shamanistic motifs. From this time, the basic structure of hanbok, namely the jeogori jacket, baji pants, and the chima skirt, were established. Short, tight trousers and tight, waist-length jackets were worn by both men and women during the early years of the Three Kingdoms of Korea period. The basic structure and these basic design features of hanbok remain relatively unchanged to this day.[34]

Toward the end of the Three Kingdoms period, noblewomen began to wear full-length skirts and hip-length jackets belted at the waist, and noblemen began to wear roomy trousers bound in at the ankles and a narrow, tunic-style jacket cuffed at the wrists and belted at the waist.

Although most foreign influence on Hanbok didn't last or was superficial, Mongolian clothing is an exception as the only foreign influence that made significant visible changes to Hanbok. After the Goryeo Dynasty (9181392) signed a peace treaty with the Mongol Empire in the 13th century, Mongolian princesses who married into the Korean royal house brought with them Mongolian fashion which began to prevail in both formal and private life.[30][35][36] As a result of this influence, the chima skirt was shortened, and jeogori was hiked up above the waist and tied at the chest with a long, wide ribbon, the goruem (instead of being belted) and the sleeves were curved slightly. Cultural exchange was not one way however. Goryeo had significant cultural influence on the Mongols court of the Yuan dynasty, the most visible of which was adoption of women's hanbok by the aristocrats, queens, and concubines of the Mongol court.[37][38][39]

Joseon dynasty

Early Joseon continued the women's fashion for baggy, loose clothing, such as those seen on the mural from the tomb of Bak Ik (1332–1398).[40] However, by the 16th century, the jeogori had shortened to the waist and appears to have become closer fitting, although not to the extremes of the bell-shaped silhouette of the 18th and 19th centuries.[41][42][43]

Today's hanbok is the direct descendant of hanbok worn in the Joseon period, specifically the late 19th century. Hanbok had gone through various changes and fashion fads during the five hundred years under the reigns of Joseon kings and eventually evolved to what we now mostly consider typical hanbok.

Everyday wear

During the Joseon dynasty, the chima or skirt adopted fuller volume, while the jeogori or blouse took more tightened and shortened form, features quite distinct from the hanbok of previous centuries, when chima was rather slim and jeogori baggy and long, reaching well below waist level. After the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–98) or Imjin War, economic hardship on the peninsula may have influenced the closer-fitting styles that use less fabric.[43] However, this explanation doesn't take into account the ever expanding, voluminous size of the dress which must have increased the use of fabric despite the disastrous effects of the war.

In the 18th century, the shortness of jeogori reached an extremity and scarcely cover the breasts. Therefore, women of respectable social backgrounds began to wear a piece of long cloth called heoritti around the breast. Heoritti was originally an undergarment beneath the jeogori but then became outwear. The common and lowborn classes often eschewed the heoritti altogether as a way of indicating that they had given birth to a son.[44] This also may have assisted in breastfeeding.

During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the fullness of the skirt was concentrated around the hips, thus forming a silhouette similar to Western bustles. The fullness of the skirt reached its extreme around 1800. During the 19th century fullness of the skirt was achieved around the knees and ankles thus giving chima a triangular or an A-shaped silhouette, which is still the preferred style to this day. Many undergarments such as darisokgot, soksokgot, dansokgot, and gojengi were worn underneath to achieve desired forms.

A clothes reformation movement aimed at lengthening jeogori experienced wide success in the early 20th century and has continued to influence the shaping of modern hanbok. Modern jeogori are longer, although still halfway between the waistline and the breasts. Heoritti are sometimes exposed for aesthetic reasons. At the end of 19th century, as mentioned above, Heungseon Daewongun introduced magoja, a Manchu-style jacket, which is often worn over jeogori to this day.

Male aristocrat dress; a gat (a horsehair hat) on the head and yellow dopo (an overcoat).

Men's hanbok saw little change compared to women's hanbok. The form and design of jeogori and baji hardly changed.

In contrast, men's lengthy outwear, the equivalent of the modern overcoat, underwent a dramatic change. Before the late 19th century, yangban men almost always wore jungchimak when traveling. Jungchimak had very lengthy sleeves, and its lower part had splits on both sides and occasionally on the back so as to create a fluttering effect in motion. To some this was fashionable, but to others, namely stoic scholars, it was nothing but pure vanity. Daewon-gun successfully banned jungchimak as a part of his clothes reformation program and jungchimak eventually disappeared.

Durumagi, which was previously worn underneath jungchimak and was basically a house dress, replaced jungchimak as the formal outwear for yangban men. Durumagi differs from its predecessor in that it has tighter sleeves and does not have splits on either sides or back. It is also slightly shorter in length. Men's hanbok has remained relatively the same since the adoption of durumagi.

Hanbok for formal occasions

Heuk dallyeongpo in the late 18th century

Gwanbok is a Korean term which refers to all types of formal attire for government officials. It was worn from the Silla period until Joseon. During the Silla period, the official robe system of Central Asia was imported and put into practice.[11] There were several types of gwanbok that differed in color and design according to the wearer's status, rank, and occasion, for example, jobok, jebok, sangbok, gongbok, yungbok, and gunbok.

Jobok was the gwanbok worn for special occasions like national festivals or the announcement of royal decrees. Jebok was the gwanbok worn for a ritual for veneration of the dead called jesa. Sangbok was worn as daily official clothing, while gongbok was worn when officers had an audience with the king at the palace. Yungbok was associated with military affairs.

In narrow application to the gongbok and sangbok, however, the term means dallyeong, a robe with a round collar.[45][46]

Material and Color

The upper classes wore hanbok of closely woven ramie cloth or other high-grade lightweight materials in warm weather and of plain and patterned silks the rest of the year. Commoners were restricted by law as well as resources to cotton at best.

The upper classes wore a variety of colors, though bright colors were generally worn by children and girls and subdued colors by middle-aged men and women. Commoners were restricted by law to everyday clothes of white, but for special occasions they wore dull shades of pale pink, light green, gray, and charcoal. The color of chima showed the wearer's social position and statement. For example, a navy color indicated that a woman had son(s). Only the royal family could wear clothing with geumbak-printed patterns (gold leaf) on the bottom of chima.

Head dresses

A woman wearing a wig, or gache.

Both male and female wore their hair in a long braid until they were married, at which time the hair was knotted; man's hair was knotted in a topknot called sangtu (상투) on the top of the head, and the woman’s hair was rolled into a ball shaped form and was set just above the nape of the neck.

A long pin, or binyeo (비녀), was worn in women's knotted hair as both a fastener and a decoration. The material and length of the binyeo varied according to the wearer’s class and status. Women wore a jokduri on their wedding day and wore an ayam for protection from the cold. Men wore a gat, which varied according to class and status.

Before 19th century women of high social backgrounds and gisaeng wore wigs (gache). Like their Western counterparts, Koreans considered bigger and heavier wigs to be more desirable and aesthetic. Such was the women's frenzy for the gache that in 1788 King Jeongjo banned by royal decree the use of gache, as they were deemed contrary to the Korean Confucian values of reserve and restraint[47]

In the 19th century yangban women began to wear jokduri, a small hat that replaced gache. However gache enjoyed vast popularity in kisaeng circles well into the end of the century.

Foreign influence

With increasing cultural ties between Korea and China after the latter half of the Three Kingdoms period, the aristocratic class incorporated some minor foreign influence.[2] Other foreign-styled clothing was adopted by the upper class, but its use was always separate from the tradition of hanbok and never replaced it.

As Silla unified the Three Kingdoms, various silks, linens, and fashions were imported from Tang China. In the process, the latest fashions trend of Luoyang, the capital of Tang, were also introduced to Korea, where it became a uniquely Korean silhouette similar to the Western Empire silhouette. After the Korean unification by the Silla, Korean women started wearing the new style, popular not only in China but in all countries influenced by the Silk Road. The style, however, faded during the Goryeo, the next ruling state of Korea.[11][12] Dallyeong, mentioned above, the nomadic style of Western Asian cultures, was introduced via the Silk Road and adopted as the official robe system, Gwanbok, from the 4th century until the 17th century.[48]

Beginning in the late 19th century, hanbok was largely replaced by new Western imports like the Western suit and dress. Today, formal and casual wear are usually based on Western styles. However, hanbok is still worn for traditional occasions and reserved for celebrations like weddings, the Lunar New Year, annual ancestral rites, the birth of a child, etc.

See also


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