A traditional Korean garment first worn over 2000 years ago, now sported by K Pop sensations on the global stage. Since BTS and Blackpink featured hanbok in their music videos, everyone from locals to foreign travellers have wanted to wear them. In this article, I will introduce you to the Korean Hanbok, its history and where you can get your own modern hanbok.
Origin of the Hanbok
Although the design of the Hanbok may look fancy, their original function was as comfortable wear for the nomadic people of the Goguryo era (~ 3 B.C.E) What’s more, if you wear a hanbok today, you’ll notice the wide bottomed skirt or trousers, and loose fitting top. The main elements of the hanbok include the ‘jeogori’ (top), ‘chima’ (skirt) for women and ‘baji’ (trousers) for men.
Since its creation, the hanbok has changed and evolved significantly. Furthermore, the traditional hanboks worn today — by Korean families at special occasions or travellers visiting the palaces — are most reminiscent of the 19th century hanbok style.
By the end of the Joseon era (~1897), the hanbok was no longer common wear, but a dress for special occasions such as weddings, Seolnal (Lunar New Year) and Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving.)
You simply cannot visit Korea without renting a hanbok. It is one of the most fun activities for domestic and foreign travellers alike, and is available at many popular areas throughout the country. But did you know it comes with additional benefits?
Visit the Palaces for free!
The easiest place to find hanbok rental shops in Korea are nearby the palaces. Depending on the day and general popularity of the palace, you can find dozens of different shops open, so have a browse and compare cost and quality. Additionally, in Seoul, entry to the palaces are completely free when you’re wearing a hanbok. Amazing right? So head on over to Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung or Deoksugung — to name a few — and feel like ancient royalty as you stroll the palace gardens in your hanbok.
Take part in a Traditional Tea Ceremony
Also found at the palaces, as well as folk and Hanok villages, is the chance to enjoy a traditional Korean tea ceremony. These ceremonies alone are a fantastic way to learn and experience Korean culture. Moreover, if you’re wearing a hanbok, you’ll really feel like you’ve travelled through time. What’s more, you’ll be enjoying some healing, refreshing tea and the accompanying treats!
Take the Perfect Instagrammable Photo
I suppose this one goes without saying but, take as many photos as you want! It’s not often you get the chance to dress like a princess.
The Modern Hanbok
As I mentioned previously, the Korean hanbok has changed dramatically over the past centuries.
Today, traditional-style hanboks are typically only worn at special occasions, though adaptations of the style has transpired within everyday fashion. Driven by the younger generations and innovative stylists and designers, the hanbok is quickly becoming an international fashion trend.
Perhaps you’re wondering where you can get a modern hanbok for your wardrobe?
Modern Hanbok Brands
One of the leading brands of modern hanboks is the Korean brand Leesle. Founded by head designer Hwang Lee Seul in 2014, Leesle aims to utilise the comfort of the hanbok, fusing its traditional features with modern style. Leesle is now a global brand and was even featured in Vogue magazine. As for domestic popularity, Leesle clothing has been sported by popular figures such as BTS’ Jimin, SHINee’s Taemin and Wanna One’s Lai Kuan Lin.
LEESLE features seasonal collections for both men and women. There is a plethora of stylish clothing items, up to date with trending styles, whilst still resembling the traditional hanbok and its comfort. Their pieces start at approx. 50 USD.
LEESLE’s main store is based in Jeonju but there is a branch in Hongdae. However, if neither of those are local to you, they ship all over Korea and the world!
Website: shop3.leesle1.cafe24.com Main Store Address: 687 Dongbudae-ro, Deokjin-gu, Jeonju, North Jeolla Operating Hours: 10:00am-12:30pm, 1:30pm-7:00pm Mon-Sat, Closed Sundays Hongdae Branch Address: 136-11 Eoulmadang-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul Operating Hours: 11:30am-8:30pm everyday
SOFT SEOUL x Joan Kim $$$
Stylish street fashion brand SOFT SEOUL released a line of hanbok inspired clothing in collaboration with popular Youtuber, Joan Kim. The collection features loungewear, pyjamas and even scrunchies and other accessories.
You’ll notice the traditional hanbok style with ribbons and bows, combined with chic modern designs. Additionally, what might not be visible to the eye is the comfortable hanbok materials used.
SOFT SEOUL is an online brand, although they occasionally host offline displays and pop-up stores. Pieces start around 200 USD.
Website: softseoul.com Most Recent Offline Presentation (as of 28/07/2021) Address: Boot Cafe Seoul 48 Jahamun-ro, Jongro-gu, Seoul Operating Hours: 11am-6pm Wed-Sun; Closed Mon, Tues
For more affordable modern hanboks, check out SPAO, a popular and easily found brand in Korea. They feature a casual hanbok collection, complete with robes, loungewear and accessories.
Testimony to the aspirations of modern brands to make hanboks accessible for all, this is a collaborative project between SPAO and LEESLE. Furthermore, the collection includes elegant patterns inspired by plum blossom and bamboo, found in Korea. The project itself raised 800 million won in funding through its popularity and buzz.
Despite the modern association between hanboks and royalty, these hanbok designs are a steal ranging from approx. 40-70 USD.
Website: spao.com Locations: Multiple SPAO Flagship Store Address: 15 Myeong-dong 8na-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul Operating Hours: 12:00pm-8:00pm weekdays; 12:00-9:00pm weekends
DANHA was founded only in 2018 but is one of the trendiest brand on the modern hanbok scene. Their designs were worn by the iconic K pop group, BLACKPINK in their ‘How You Like That’ music video. What’s more, they’re available in DANHA’s Spring/Summer 2020 collection.
What makes DANHA different is their ethos of sustainability and eco-friendly fashion. The brand uses only organic or recycled fabric, as well manually drawing designs. Here, you’ll find stylish tops, dresses, skirts in the hanbok design, combined with modern trends like pastel colours and floral-fruit. Pieces start at approx. 115 USD.
Website: danhaseoul.com Showroom Address: Seoul Upcycling Plaza #313, 49 Jadongchasijang-gil, Seongdong-gu, Seoul Operating Hours: 10:30am-6:00pm weekdays, closed weekends