Hanbok. You may ask: “What is that?” Hanbok is a traditional dress of South Korea. Hanboks vary in color and styles but they are all beautiful in their own right. Both men and women wear hanbok. For a female, hanbok consists of three parts. The first piece that I was given to put on was the sokchima, which is a skirt equivalent to a petticoat slip in the olden days. It was a white stiff garment and appears to give body to the remaining two pieces of the hanbok. The sokchima is buttoned in the front. The second piece I was given to put on was the chima, which was a piece that covered the sokchima. If you think of a strapped evening gown, you will understand the concept. However, there are straps that tie in the back and it tends to be a two-toned piece. The third piece I was given to put on was the jeogari. This is the outer jacket. It snaps and then has a tie (goreum) in the front. This piece is the piece with the intricate embroidery that most people recognize or is better known as the outer coat.
In the past, hanbok was worn as a regular staple of clothing. The difference between the hanbok that one may think of today and the “everyday” hanbok is the intricacy and the cost of the fabric. Today, most people wear hanbok only on their wedding day or for special occasions. Therefore, such hanboks are usually made of silk or some other fancy material.
Right now, you may be saying, “this is deep.” Indeed it is, as hanbok does not only appear to be a beautiful piece of clothing but it also tells a story of a nation. As Korea has modernized, so has its clothing. Where hanbok was seen as an everyday affair a long, long time ago, it is now used on honored days and for “special” occasions.
Initially, I had planned to try on a hanbok in Korea, but due to an emergency, I had to return to the United States. To my surprise, there were no hanbok stores in Korea Town in New York City. So, I ventured to a store closer to my town called Hanbok Story. And I was not disappointed.
This is what I found. As I walked inside there were hanboks of varying colors and styles and sizes ranging from an outfit for a toddler to outfits for adults. They even had larger sizes. I was able to try on a traditional hanbok.
Here are the results.
What do you think? Am I fabulous in hanbok? The piece that I am wearing represents a traditional piece and it was specifically crafted for a princess or a queen. Hanbok Story also has modern pieces for parties and more common pieces that represent hanbok for everyday wear.
Btw, if you would like to rent a hanbok or buy one, the price range varies. For the hanbok that you see me pictured in, the cost for rental is $180 and the price to buy it is $900. It may sound a bit expensive but the truth is that these handcrafted pieces are extraordinary.
It was an amazing experience to meet with the owner Youjung Jung and the honor was all mine (See http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2015/02/19/387567486/korean-tailors-try-to-keep-the-lunar-new-year-hanbok-ritual-alive). I intend to return soon! And who knows? I may actually buy myself a hanbok.
Don’t be shy! For a slice of Korean heaven, visit Hanbok Story at 194-17 Northern Boulevard, Flushing, NY. You may reach them at (917) 482-4463 to make an appointment. And tell them that Janelle sent you! Oh, and if you are curious about this amazing store via cyberworld, check out their website at http://hanboknyc.com/V2/.
Writer: Janelle C. Simmons
Editor: Denise M. Rhone
Photographer: Soyeon of Hanbok Story