The Rise of Modern Hanbok

The K-Pop industry is not only solidifying South Korea as South Asia’s fashion capital through its streetwear fashion. Recently, modern hanboks, or hanboks that have been designed for casual daily wear, has become a fresh trend not only in Korea but has also grabbed an international audience. 

The Cultural Icon of Hanbok and Modern Hanbok

The hanbok is a cultural icon of South Korea traced back in historical records during the Goguryeo Dynasty. Although almost two thousand years had passed, the form and design of the traditional hanbok had been generally preserved. That is the basic aesthetic framework of softness and elegance is still intact. 

For one, unique lines of hanbok which are a mixture of straight lines, sharp angles, and curved lines of its billowy structure create an image of naturally flowing and undulating silhouette, a characteristic that identified hanbok back then and is present until now. This overall structure has also made the hanbok a versatile piece that can be worn by anybody’s shape without looking unflattering.  

Second, the vivid colors and patterns that make a statement for the hanbok with its symbolisms are still very much respected in the wider collection of hanboks that are now being rented to foreigners as they tour around South Korea.

The only difference now is that there are more designs to choose from and everyone can have access to these lovely dresses. In fact, the Korea Board of Tourism is actively promoting this and Koreans have also shared their pride when they see foreigners donning their traditional dress as part of the experience in appreciating their culture. Hanboks are even gifts to foreigners. 

The Growth of Modern Hanbok 

In a study by Yoo Jin Kwon and Yhe-Young Lee titled Traditional Aesthetic Characteristics Traced in South Korean Contemporary Fashion Practice, they noted the changes happening on the front of hanbok. They said that there is a “spontaneous but slow changes affected by limited external forces” until the nineteenth century although there were minor alterations in length, width, and decoration. The basic structure of jeogori (short jacket), chima (skirt), and baji (pants) remained the same. 

Though now, we’re seeing a bolder take on the modern hanbok recently exhibited by Blackpink in their How You Like That music video which was released last June. In their music video, they donned the modern hanbok by DANHA which were customized into shorter outfits. After the release, hanbok quickly trended and became a hot topic all over social media. 

Blackpink x DANHA collaboration: The Bolder Take on the Hanbok