What is Hanbok?

Hanbok is a Korean word that refers to traditional Korean clothing. Hanbok is one of the most beautiful fashion styles in the world and has been beloved for over 2,000 years. You may have seen the hanbok in your favorite Korean drama, or your favorite K-Pop star wearing hanbok and wondered: what are they wearing? What kind of fashion style is hanbok? Where can I buy a hanbok

Hanbok is commonly worn by Koreans during major holidays, birthday celebrations (like dol), and weddings, but not many Korean people actually know about the deep history and significance behind traditional hanbok. Let's explore what is hanbok in this ultimate guide to Korean fashion. 


Where does hanbok come from?

The hanbok is thought to have been designed during the Goguryeo Kingdom (37 BCE-668 CE) and was worn in different ways and materials by all. It was originally made so that its wearers can have freedom in their movements.

Although there have been changes throughout its history, the hanbok is still worn today in Korea for celebrations, weddings, birthdays, and milestones, and represents the aesthetic of the Korean people. People all over the world have fallen in love with hanbok, and have incorporated it into their fashion to make the hanbok haute couture

What does hanbok look like?

The embroidered patterns and the colors used on hanbok represented the ceremonial nature of the hanbok and social status. (The Korean royalty wore different hanbok than the commoners did.) Peonies, for example, are often found on wedding dresses to represent honor and wealth, while dragons and phoenixes were Korean hanbok patterns reserved for royal clothing.


What makes hanbok unique?

1. The hanbok is structurally beautiful.

The women's hanbok has a short jacket called ‘jeogori’ paired with a full skirt that is called ‘chima’. The men’s hanbok has a short jacket, pants called 'baji’, and usually a short coat called 'baeja'. It is the same structure for children's hanbok, with the girls' hanbok being the same as the women's and the boys' hanbok with the men's styles. 

(To learn more about the varieties in style, read this guide: The Different Types of Hanbok.) 

The balance of the structured top with the full bottom gives the hanbok a simple structural beauty and rhythmic flow that complement the movement of the wearer’s body.

Korean women's hanbok fashion style floral spring top

2. The hanbok is not restrictive, and allows for graceful movement.

Hanbok expresses natural physical beauty in its attractive silhouette and lines, which allow for free, graceful movement of the body while wearing.

3. The hanbok is a wearable piece of art.

Western clothing is characterized by its straight-lined fabric and stitching techniques, but hanbok is completely different in its composition and design. Hanbok is made with flat fabric in a linear shape that only achieves dimensionality when someone wears it. In union with its wearer, the hanbok comes to life to be natural, elegant and flowing. It is a piece of art that you can wear and the hanbok becomes completed with your bright smile.

Korean women's hanbok fashion floral dress

4. The hanbok carries a deep heritage and culture behind its design.

The hanbok features straight and curved lines, which are representative of a uniquely Korean aesthetic and design. The graceful, harmonious movement that the hanbok allows, its deep hues and patterns, and its resemblance to nature come from over 2,000 years of the hanbok being worn by the Korean people.

5. The hanbok is meaningful in every stitch, design, and color.

The colors used in hanbok come from the Korean "five colors theory" ("obangsaek" in Korean), which are based off the harmony between yin and yang and the five elements. The hanbok is traditionally dyed with naturally-occurring colors, not synthetic. 

6. The hanbok shows the beauty of nature.

The curved lines of the hanbok, its full and loose silhouette when worn is designed to create a free-flowing effect. This is especially true for the hanbok dress or skirt. Hanbok's design also highlights the textures of the natural, hand-woven fabric and the decorations that mimic flowers, butterflies, and other elements of nature.

There is a hanbok for every person and occasion. Come fall in love with the hanbok together with us. Take a look at our collections to learn more.
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