You may have heard reference to the hanbok in some of our posts. We apologize for not explaining sooner, as it is a very important part of the wedding custom and Korean culture and history in general.
On our wedding day, the bride and groom and our immediate families will be decked out in colourful, silk, traditional robes called ‘hanbok’. Hanbok are Korea’s version of the Japanese kimono but with a very unique style. They tend to be simpler, more straight cut, with solid, vibrant colours and less patterned than Kimonos. According to Wikipedia, the term literally means “Korean clothing”, though hanbok today often refers specifically to hanbok of the Joseon Dynasty and is worn as semi-formal or formal wear during traditional festivals and celebrations.
Historically, the style, colour and fabric of hanbok helped to distinguish between the social classes. Because Korea is considered a country consisting of one ethnicity (Korean’s consider their entire ethnic population as ‘one blood’) the hanbok represents a very important cultural symbol and its transformation over the centuries parallel’s the transformation of the country itself.
Rory, her mom and I have already picked out our hanbok and my family will be fitted for theirs when they arrive in Seoul. On the wedding day, in addition to our hanbok, Rory and I will be wearing the traditional robes of the royal court. That is, the official colours and robes worn by the emporer. Weddings, traditionally, were the only time that common classes could wear these clothes and the royal colours, as they were normally expected to wear cotton, plain or white coloured hanbok. My brother will have a different outfit as he will have a more active role in the wedding, about which I’ll explain more in a later post.
The hanbok has begun making its way into Western culture thanks to actors like Nicolas Cage marrying Koreans but also because of the slow emigration of Koreans and the young generations who are making a mark on the world. The hanbok has even made it into the World of Warcraft.
There are many designers in Korea and around the world who are modernizing the hanbok into fashionable and sometimes sexy pieces. Acclaimed hanbok designer Lee Young-hee, considered the “Korean Vera Wang,” combines tradition and modernity by using unique color for her high-end wedding line. Her work is featured as part of the new permanent collection, The Korea Gallery at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History . Other hanbok designers include Kim Hee-soo and Lie Sang Bong who add unique flair to the hanbok design while staying true to the historical form.
Let us know if you have any questions about the hanbok.