Our Interpreting & Translation department found a new home for a unique piece of clothing. The traditional Korean garment, called hanbok, was initially donated to IIB this past April.
One of our Korean interpreters, Christopher Kim, knew someone who had sought a piece just like it for decades. The woman to whom it was donated, wishes to remain anonymous. She was born in Korea and wanted the clothing because it reminded her of her childhood.
According to Mr. Kim, this specific piece of clothing was made to be easier to wear, juxtaposed to other cumbersome, layered pieces that take more time to put on. The word hanbok represents unity. The white internal material is connective tissue between all hanbok pieces, representing harmony and equality.
Kim points out that traditional hanbok is white due to the coloring/dyeing process having initially been so expensive. Traditional cotton spun white was the norm, albeit the inside does still remain white in modern pieces, with an internal layer that poofs up, and the outside is always colored.
The pink and blue color and material scheme represent spring and fall. Colors are also relevant for special occasions such as weddings, the bride’s side typically adorns pink while the groom’s side wears light blue.
The flower and butterflies toward the top and bottom of this piece were embroidered over hours, as someone took meticulous care crafting them individually.
The hanbok medallions are also individualized. For example, crane medallions symbolize the delivery of a blessing, while a bald eagle represented unity before Korea split into two countries.
History of Hanbok
Hanbok is traditional Korean clothing with a rich history. It was worn daily until the late 19th century when Western suits and dresses increased in popularity in South Korea. However, it remains a celebrated part of Korean culture, and folks continue to adorn the elegant garments on special occasions, including weddings, dol (a child’s first birthday), and the Lunar New Year.
The clothing was initially inspired by the clothing of nomads in present-day North Korea, northeast China, and Mongolia. Inspired by the angles of traditional Korean houses, the hanbok structure includes jeogori (jacket), baji (trousers), chima (skirt), baerae (bottom line of the jacket sleeves), and precise angles of the dongjeong (creased white lining of the jack collar). It is made with silk, satin, cotton, and/or hemp.
Established during the Three Kingdoms of Korea (57 BCE to 668 CE), hanbok was designed to facilitate ease of movement, flow lines, and angles. Known for bright colors, hanbok also includes embroidered patterns to represent the wearer’s desires, such as nobility, children, and honor.
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