Everyone in Daegu has heard about Seomun Market. It’s one of the oldest traditional markets in Korea. And for a good reason! If you can’t find what you are looking for, it probably doesn’t exist. If you’re looking for a custom-made hanbok at Seomun Market, you will find it – no matter the size. This market is the location where I was able to find both two second-hand hanbok and have one custom-made.
Second Hand Hanbok
I currently own two hanboks. That’s two more hanboks than my best friend, who is Korean. I bought both of them second-hand the last time I came to Korea. I’ve worn them many times over the years. But neither one cost more than 15,000 Won. They are well-made, but you can tell they aren’t expensive. The fabrics are thin – perfect for spring and summer.
Both Hanboks are pretty. One is navy and white, and the other is light purple and yellow- colors that look good on me. And the colors compliment each other, so I mix and match the four pieces. One of them came with a complete set of undergarments (slip, pants, and top), and the other one included a beautiful tie pin.
The biggest problem is the fit. While they both look nice on me, they weren’t as comfortable of a fit as I would like. I am not built like a Korean, long and slender from neck to navel. It’s why I later opted for a custom-made hanbok at Seomun Market.
Looking for a Second-hand Hanbok
Everybody wants a hanbok to wear on special occasions here in South Korea. You can have one made at Seomun Market or pick one up second-hand for a fraction of the price at Gwanmun Vintage Market. No matter what, there are a couple of things you should know.
- If you do buy it second-hand, try it on and check for stains. Feel free to bargain. You can easily get one for less than 20,000 won.
- Do not wash your hanbok in your washing machine. Many of the fabrics are dyed and will fade or bleed. Either spot clean or have it dry cleaned.
- Fabrics are cheap, do not try to iron them. It will burn, melt, or damage the fabric.
- Do watch my video on tying the bow at www.duffelbagspouse.com … it’s pretty easy and you’ll really be just like a local with this tiny bit of knowledge.
- Do jazz up your hanbok with a pair of glittery ballerina slippers, a beaded purse, or a pretty hair comb or clip.
- Step out of the box and go for a hanbok that’s uniquely you… It’s a special occasion outfit diva… go ahead and make it special.
- Wear leggings or a traditional slip underneath to make sure you are properly covered, many of the fabrics are not opaque.
- Bring the dress ties all the way around your chest, one under the armpit to ensure the back (and yours) is not open to the public.
- And finally, make sure you examine your dress in a full-length mirror before leaving home to make sure you covered #5 and #6 to your satisfaction.
Custom-made Hanbok at Seomun Market
I had a hanbok made when I first arrived in Korea. My friend insisted, going so far as to gift me the fabric and ask me to meet her at the seamstress. The materials, a deep pink and pale grey-blue were a nice mix of bold and muted. I obliged, of course. She is older, and that is a thing here in Korea.
We met a couple of times with the seamstress who did not speak English. My friend, let’s call her Angela, is Korean and thus fluent. Angela is not shy. She knew exactly what she wanted for my hanbok. And my feelings were secondary to her own.
Angela and I were supposed to meet with the seamstress. Unfortunately, she was involved in a car accident, so I was on my own. I knew I was going to have some difficulty communicating with the seamstress. And, it was more complicated than I imagined.
When I arrived, I was horrified. The tailor had sewn this gaudy gold braid on the top. It looked like a costume and not the modern hanbok I was going for. I couldn’t call Angela for help because she was recovering. I tried to tell the seamstress I was not too fond of the cheesy gold braiding without hurting her feelings. But she kept showing me alternatives, each worse than the last.
In addition, she had included a piece of purple fabric to the base of the top. It wouldn’t have been my first choice. But neither was anything else. The hanbok was neither sophisticated nor modern. It looked far more suitable for a young lady in her late teens or early 20s – more than half my age.
Angela bought the fabric, selected the style, and the shop. But I’d be the one who would have to pay 200,000 Won for this dress. And I didn’t want something I wouldn’t wear. But, it was a custom-made Hanbok made to my measurements. I felt like I had no choice but to buy it.
The End Product
Although I didn’t care for the colors or the style, the hanbok turned out ok. Even though it was wearable, it just wasn’t what I wanted. The issue was further compounded by the massive weight loss I experienced. So much so that it doesn’t even look like it was custom-made for me anymore.
Ultimately, that wasn’t the seamstress’s fault. It was my own. I should have been more confident and taken a more active interest in the fabric, style, and everything else too.
I thought about getting my custom hanbok altered to fit, but I changed my mind. I found a good home for it and recouped some of my money. In conclusion, it wasn’t the hanbok experience I imagined. But it was mostly my fault. I plan to have another hanbok made with these tips in mind:
- Duh, opt for an inexpensive, pre-owned hanbok until I reach a more stable weight.
- Select my own fabrics based on MY aesthetic.
- Meet with a few seamstresses before I decide on the one I will work with.
- I will do some research and present the seamstress with references.
- I will check in on her routinely to avoid misunderstandings.
- And finally, I will have more confidence. I shouldn’t feel afraid or intimidated to choose something I like. It’s my money, so I want a custom forever piece that I feel good wearing on special occasions.
If you would like to learn more about Hanbok, both modern and contemporary, Click Here!