Nehal Tambe, Mumbai, Maharashtra
In today’s world, where South Korea stands as a leader in pop culture & entertainment and has a secondary influence on fashion, known on one side for clothing with simplicity and class; and on the other side with quirky, vibrant popular culture inspired fashion trends. If we take a closer look, we might be able to trace the fading threads weaved to the journey and transition of the clothing styles of ancient Korea to the fashion trends of modern Korea.
In ancient times, clothing was more of a just a utility rather than fashion. Clothes were created to serve their purpose only. Similarly, Korean peninsula which was rich with two plants, Ramie and Hemp was used to make clothes. Both fabrics have their own characteristic uniqueness where they compliment each other. Ramie, a fabric that looks lustrous when washed and light enough for air to circulate and Hemp that is durable and thick. South Korea, which has both heavy summers and harsh winters, these fabrics were perfect to serve their basic purpose of protection and cover. Koreans used to stuff layers of fabrics with cotton and stitch them to create a padding like effect for the winters. The clothing was seen more for it’s use rather than fashion.
However, as times progressed with the emergence of monarchy and kingdom rule, clothes started also symbolizing the hierarchy of the status stratification created. The upper class would be seen wearing clothes that not only brings utility but can be seen as a visual representation of their position in society. Better quality, lustrous, embroidered clothes with hints of vibrant colours were worn by them while the lower placed people on this stratification seemed to be wearing less attractive, earthy coloured clothing. Clothing during these ancient times started playing a role in defining the characteristics of history of each country we see today during these times.
Koreans are known to be peace loving people even today just as they did back in times of their rough patch of history with foreign colonisation and invasion and the division of the Korean peninsula. Their love for simple peaceful lifestyle represented in their clothing with white being a predominant colour. Hence, ‘white’ was used to define them by their neighbouring countries who witnessed the peaceful attitude Koreans always have been believing in throughout their history by the simplicity in their lifestyles and politeness and were called as the ‘the white clad people’, also in the deeper context meaning “peace loving people.” Korean clothing, which even at the highest position holds simplicity in the attire, with the traditional attire ‘Hanbok’ consisting of nothing fancy but 2-3 garments. As we say that ‘clothing speaks a lot about a person’, here we can see how the morals of the Korean people were reflected through their clothing who believe in peace and unity.
After the rough patch of history and influence from the West started spreading on the fashion of Korea, it has continued to influence the fashion sense and style of people today. Traditional clothing started getting replaced by western outfits and today Korea, itself has become a dominant fashion hub. However, you can still see the age old morals, Koreans held in the modern fashion too. With simple and delicate patterns and soft color schemes in the modern everyday fashion , Koreans still look the ‘white clad people’. With Korean popular culture gaining a worldwide attention, people are interested not only in modern Korean fashion but also the origins of traditional Korean attires.
Every Hallyu fan at least once in the lifetime wants to try wearing a Hanbok and the fact that even Koreans of the 21st century haven’t let go their traditions in fashion is worth appreciating. You can still see Korean people adorning their traditional attires of special occasions and events. Modernisation of the Hanbok has also become a new fashion trend that the world in embracing. Korean clothing has threaded a beautiful history indeed.
Tell us in the comments, whats your favourite Korean fashion trend or attire?