Modernizing the hanbok
I don’t really care about fashion much, and I don’t blog about it, but I saw various mentions on the interwebs of Canadian actress Sandra Oh‘s above tribute to the hanbok, or traditional Korean dress, which she wore to the SAG awards earlier this week. The look was deemed worthy fodder for fugging on Go Fug Yourself (here it is again on Chosun daily).
The Fug Girls did backpedal from their scorn when they realized her dress was a take on a national costume; they were probably afraid of seeming culturally insensitive or ignorant or whatever. I don’t think the dress is ugly, but it’s not really all that interesting either — neither as a gown in and of itself, nor as an innovative new take on the hanbok. It’s just so LITERAL. There are ways to modernize the hanbok more cleverly. Making the bow really really big isn’t the only way to make something seem fashion-forward. And there are Korean designers doing it better. See what I mean after the jump.
SONG OF THE DAY
Sorea – “사랑바라기” (wishing for love), from the soundtrack for drama series Goong S.
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So there are lots of variations on the hanbok, and I apologize in advance for my limited knowledge. (Here, you can Wikipedia it for more info.) My experience with them is limited to childhoods wriggling in discomfort on New Years Day, bowing before elders, and outgrowing them so fast that there was no point in investing in another hanbok until, for example, my wedding, or never. Whichever comes first. Of course, as with children’s clothing in general, outgrowing them quickly usually meant buying cheap versions, the kind with the scratchy material that left me looking wistfully at all the pretty adult hanboks made from soft, cool silks, in prettier patterns than the regulation pink-and-green ones that little girls wear with the rainbow stripes on the sleeves. To the Korean girls out there, you know what I mean, right?
Below left is Gu Hye Sun wearing the most basic design; below right is her in the queen’s regalia, I believe from her recent role in the drama King and I:
There’s a variety of different headwear that can accompany a hanbok, and the design of the dress itself can be embellished with embroidered panels, or given a variation on the front panel for a more formal look like the one Seo Ji Hye wears, below left. Below right is Kim Hee Sun in formal bridal dress.
Now, as for modernizing the hanbok, take a look at the following, designed by “hanbok artist” Kim Hee Soo. How’s this for a slim, modern silhouette? The models’ old-fashioned braids provide a traditional accent to contrast with the contemporary sleekness. The flower detail on the right is gorgeous:
Darker, with fuller skirts, and handpainted designs inspired by ancient motifs:
These remind me of the full white slipdress customarily worn under the colorful outer of layer the hanbok, which add volume to the skirt.
And this is a pretty style that takes elements from the dress of the gisaeng, or courtesan. Love the veil draped on the hat, and the simple, clean bodice.