Jun 11, 2011 - Jun 21, 2011

Baeja, the beauty of Korea

Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation

Explore baeja by master artisans and young designers working today 

Every year, Arumjigi presents a special exhibition on either traditional clothing, food, or housing to suggest ways to bring traditional Korean culture into modern living. Through these annual exhibitions, Arumjigi has provided a forum for impactful and lively exchange between master artisans and young artists in each area, shedding light on Korean beauty that transcends time and space. Arumjigi intends to again direct public attention to the beauty unique to Korea, which can easily be overlooked in the name of tradition, and by showcasing traditional Korean beauty, Arumjigi will embrace it as the beauty of Korea that engenders both tradition and modernity. Baeja, the Beauty of Korea is Arumjigi’s first overseas exhibition. Elegant and yet practical, baeja is a traditional Korean vest. It has evolved through countless unique styles for two thousand years, giving it a rich sense of beauty that can be applied to clothing in modern society today. Baeja, so loved in the past, can again be loved today to the point that it can be worn in contemporary settings for a number of reasons, including its beauty of simplicity and proportions, beauty of color arrangement with use of diverse color schemes, and beauty of harmony from the effective mixing and matching of very different materials and fabrics. In discovering the aesthetic sense of baeja as ‘truly beautiful and yet comfortable to wear,’ this exhibition shows diverse views on baeja by master artisans and young designers working today. We saw the potential of beauty in Korean clothing to be used in the world through the eyes of master artisans of hanbok, the eyes of those seeking balanced coexistence of traditional and modern senses of beauty, and the eyes of young designers who reinterpreted traditional baeja in ways that are appropriate for modernity. 
Baeja, the Beauty of Korea
The exhibition Baeja, the Beauty of Korea is presented in two sections. The first section shows diverse styles of baeja from the Three Kingdoms to Joseon periods. They are reproduced by skilled artisans who have long been engaged in making hanbok. The second section presents works by young designers who interpreted traditional baeja and re-created it as modern designs of fashion. The baeja had been worn by the Korean people throughout much of Korean history, from the Three Kingdoms to the Joseon period. For two thousand years, the baeja evolved through various styles that were both practical and beautiful, and it may very well have great potential to be applied to clothes of practical use in modern society. The term baeja generally refers to a sleeveless or very short-sleeved vest or a waistcoat with an open front to be worn over a jeogori or poui (a jacket). We usually associate hanbok with a woman’s outfit consisting of a chima skirt and jeogori top, and baji (baggy pants) and jeogori for a man’s outfit. However, various styles of baeja were worn over chima and jeogori, and baji and jeogori in the pastto express individual tastes. Made in a relatively simple style compared with other types of Korean costumes, many aspects of the baeja will come as a surprise to modern people, including a beauty of elegance arising from the pleasing and natural proportions, beauty of astonishing irregularity that comes from the simplicity of design, beauty of harmony from the effective mixing and matching of very different materials, such as fur and silk or silk and ramie, and a natural beauty invoked by adistinguished arrangement of natural colors on the cover and lining. It may be that the practical design of baeja was a product of the climate of the Korean peninsula, with its four distinct seasons, and the lifestyle that was greatly influenced by the natural environment. Also, the fact that baeja was mostly worn casually induced free creative designs that showed the aesthetic tastes of individuals without regard for social rules or formality. 
Traditional baeja by master artisans
KU Nam Ok/YU Seon Hee/LEE Hong Soon/JANG Jung Youn/JUNG Mal Sook

Woman’s Banbi

This is an example of a woman’s banbi worn during the Unified Silla period. Knot buttons are attached to adjust the cloth in the front, and the sleeves and armholes have creases for embellishment. The creases are made of the same fabric as the outer shell. Three contrasting colors are used together, imparting a very modern feeling. This piece is a smaller version of the banbi for a male court musician in the collection of Shousouin, the treasure house of Todaji Temple in Nara, Japan.

Woman’s Baeja

This is an alternation of a baeja worn as a military outfit during the latter half of the Joseon period in the collection of Korea University Museum. It is made of silk quilted with cotton inside.

Woman’s Baeja

This is a reproduction of the 18th century baeja in the collection of the National Folk Museum of Korea. This baeja has no collar and has a U-shaped neckline and short sleeves. Unlike others with round armholes, this piece has straightlined armholes. It is quilted without cotton inside, producing a cubic effect.

Man’s Bangryeong

This piece has a bangryeong collar, which created symmetry. Four pairs of knot buttons are attached to close the front. The front and back are of the same length and are quilted with cotton inside. This piece was designed based on the relics of the Goryeong Sin family clan dating from the early 1530s to 1580s.

Woman’s Baeja

The right and the left parts of the collar are squared-shaped. The sides are slit. Under the armholes are loops to fasten the front and the back. The fabric for outer shell is hard silk woven with a pattern, and the fabric for the lining is softer silk.

Multi-layered Baeja for Women

This is a reproduction of the shorter baeja worn by women in the late Joseon period. Thick crimson silk is used for the outer shell lined with lighter blue silk to make a strong contrast of colors. The edges of the collar, armholes, and hem are detailed with thin lines, making for a striking harmony with the background color. This is for embellishment rather
than insulation against the cold.

Embroidered Baeja for Women

This is a woman’s baeja of the enlightenment period that was altered to suit the tastes of modern women. A butterfly is embroidered to make the piece look colorful.

Fur Baeja for Women

This is a traditional woman’s baeja worn during the enlightenment period. Crimson silk is used for the outer shell lined with sheepskin. Detailed with stiff seal fur to produce a sleek look.

Woman’s Baeja

Based on the 16th century man’s baeja in the collection of Gyeonggi-do Provincial Museum, this piece was made smaller to fit a woman. The front is long, and the back is short and multi-layered. On the shoulder and under the armholes are knot buttons for fastening. It has a ramie cloth outer shell and silk lining.

Children’s Baeja

For outshell, indigo blue silk was embroidered with peony blossom and lining was sewn with scarlet silk inside.

Children’s Baeja

This piece made, referring to the relic excavated from the tomb of the Papyeong Yun family clan (1735-1754). Outshell was made of decolorized ramie fabric and lining was made of flower pattern silk, so that cherry pink color can ooze out softly through ramie fabric.

Children’s Baeja

A baeja excavated from the tomb of the Papyeong Yun family clan (1735-1754), Chungcheongnamdo Province was used as a prototype of this piece. Patterned silk was used for both the outer and lining shells but in different colors for this reversible baeja. The collar is detailed with jogakbo (traditional Korean patchwork), and knot buttons are made of the same fabrics used for the outer and lining shells. Straps 12cm wide and 7cm long are attached under the armpits to fix the open sides.

Woman’s Baeja

This piece was made, referring to the quilted Deungeri Baeja of Tamreunggun, Dankuk University. Outshell was made of ramie fabric and figured gauze was used for lining. At the back piece of Baeja, shoulders are connected and the strings hanging at the end of the back piece are crossed and hanged on the hooks of side lines, for wearing.

Man’s Baeja

This is styled after the typical baeja of the late Joseon period. Bluish-purple satin is used for the outer shell and jade-green ramie is used for the lining quilted with cotton inside to retain warmth."

Man’s Fur Baeja

A man’s baeja worn during the enlightenment period was altered into a longer baeja. Yellow silk is used for the outer shell and wildcat fur for the lining. The borders of the hem and armholes are detailed with stiff seal fur to produce a sleek look."

Patchwork Baeja for Children (left)

This is a reproduction of a children’s baeja from the late Joseon period in the collection of the Museum of Korean Embroidery. Patches of different colors and textures cut into squares are laid out uniformly, bringing out a sense of freedom within strict order.

Embroidered Baeja for Children (right)

The rainbow-striped collar of this cloth is very cute. On the body is a hand-embroidered design that symbolizes luck to wish for good health and long life.

Modern baeja by Jin Tae Ok
A collection of baeja by Ms. Jin Tae Ok is shown in the  exhibition Baeja, the Beauty of Korea. She reinterpreted tradition in a way appropriate for modernity to produce diverse designs for baeja for this exhibition. Ms. Jin presents six different designs for baeja: baeja inspired by hwarot (royal women’s wedding robe), magpie baeja in black and white, baeja detailed with beads, baeja with catch stitching, baeja printed with the image of a woman painted by Sin Yun-bok, a famous painter of Joseon, and layered silk baeja that expresses the spiritualism of Korea. Through this baeja collection, viewers can glimpse into the design world of Ms. Jin as she shows a range of design techniques including reconstruction after disassembly, mix and match of diverse materials, reverse of meanings through materials, and contrast of feminine materials and masculine technique.

Hwarot Baeja

Hwarot is a wedding robe worn by princesses during the Joseon period. The traditional ceremonial robe was disassembled to be recreated as baeja that can be worn comfortably in modern times. Through mix and match of traditional material (silk) and technique (embroidery) with denim, the most contemporary and folksy material, Ms. Jin shows the beauty of contrast, the essence of her design.

Catch Stitch Baeja

Catch stitching is a sewing technique which was mostly used to make a pattern on a man’s jacket during the Joseon period. This technique was used on material for women to maximize femininity, thereby reversing meaning.
This piece is characterized by contrast and harmony created by mixing of different materials.

Woman’s Baeja

The painting of Shin, Yoon Bok was laid out through decalcomania. It shows the harmony among organza, tulle and leather, and red collar and ties add overall style.

Woman’s Baeja

The painting of Shin, Yoon Bok was laid out through decalcomania. It shows the harmony among organza, tulle and leather, and red collar and ties add overall style.

Magpie Baeja

There is an old saying in Korea, “If a magpie cries in the morning, a welcome visitor is coming.” In Korea, a magpie is an auspicious messenger of good news, and this magpie series was inspired by such good meaning. It is made of silk from Korea quilted with cotton by traditional sewing technique.

Woman’s Baeja

This piece is inspired by a life vest, which imparts a masculine feeling. By using velvet imparting a feminine feeling decorated with beads, this piece intends to express contrast of meanings.

Woman’s Baeja

This piece is inspired by a life vest, which imparts a masculine feeling. By using velvet imparting a feminine feeling decorated with beads, this piece intends to express contrast of meanings.

Modern baeja by young designers
Kate Yunju Ko / Park Hwan Sung / Kim Jae hwan / Lee Chung Chung / Sean Lee / Choi Ji hyung / Choi Jin Woo / Heo Hwan / Suh Kyung Hee, Yie Kwang Sub

Kate Yunju Ko

I was inspired by ‘Portrait of Yi Chae’ for the design of baeja for this show. Yi Chae was a Confucian scholar in the late Joseon period. In this portrait, he is depicted as a 58-year old literati-scholar wearing a black hat and white robe. Seated in a neat and dignified posture with a noble countenance, the portrait projects the integrity of an upright scholar. I tried to deliver the message of a ‘benevolent gentleman with knowledge’ like a literati-scholar in the portrait of Yi Chae through my design, which projects the personality of the wearer.

Cotton is used to express the Korean beauty of simplicity. Off-white, black, and dark grey \are used to reflect the frugal and clean life of a literati-scholar of Joseon Korea. Draping and binding tapes are properly fixed so that elegant modern feeling can be revealed from voluminous style. Simple lines and planes are re-interpreted to suit modernity, while seeking understated beauty by removing ornamentation.

Park Hwan Sung

When we talk about the functionality of things of contemporary times, from a cutting-edge instrument to a piece of clothing, we could come up with the term ‘multi’. This refers to multi-functional aspects (of a thing) capable of serving a number of different functions rather than one function inherent to the thing. I thought hard about the design of the work to be presented in this exhibition, and I came up with a concept of multi-functionality, by which a thing could be transformed for different purposes at any time. I received inspiration from the movie ‘Transformers’ for my design, the basic concept of which is traditional baeja. I imagined that traditional baeja could be transformed from a clutch bag to a vest. This witty idea was materialized in my works.

Using simple straight lines and geometrical figures such as a square, I expressed the overall simple form and silhouette, and at the same time, matched eye catching pop-up colors such as fluorescent yellow and vivid red as point colors. I used fabrics for sportswear such as polyester and nylon, breaking away from the rather static nature of traditional clothing, to express dynamic and futurist design. By using rather bold colors and materials, I intended to emphasize the functionality and individuality of modern clothing while maintaining the sense of proportions and form of traditional baeja.

Kim Jae Hwan

My great grandmother, who lived long and enjoyed life by comfortably adapting herself to nature, is the motif of my works for this show. I feel warmth in baeja like the touch of my great grandmother, who cared for us with generosity and simple virtue. As the old saying goes, ‘I’ve got nothing to envy in this world as I have enough food and a warm place to lie down,’ there is warmth in baeja, which I think is the warmth of my great grandmother who comforted us with her hands rubbing our bellies after a big dinner. It is the image of our grandmother, who handed chestnuts and sweet potatoes baked in a brazier to her great grandchildren as we were sitting around the brazier on a late autumn day.
Like the warm, coarse hands of our grandmother, the material used for my work is cotton cloth.
If asked what color it is, I would say it is the color of cotton rather than ivory. The color is too refined to be simply called ivory. This is not pure white, which feels somewhat burdensome because of perfect innocence. The color is based on cotton cloth imbued with understated feeling as if being quiet. To produce contrasting effect using different materials, satin is used as binding to add a modern feeling. In addition to cloth in cotton color, I also show other designs in this exhibition that used bold colors such as emerald green, blue, and red.

Lee Chung Chung

My first impression when I saw the form of traditional Korean baeja was about warmth and emotional stability that come from embrace. When I wear baeja, I feel as if someone is hugging me from behind, and this kind of feeling brings back communion between people, which is easily lost in modern society. I also think that the sense of warmth is related to the primary function of baeja as a thermal vest. I, therefore, interpreted the meaning of traditional form in designing my work. I applied a concept of feeling warmth that comes from communion between people to the ‘Hug Series’.
The concept is not limited to the simple gesture of hugging, but premised on generosity that understands and embraces the minds and thoughts of others. To express such communion, I mixed Korean motifs and Western clothing and designed a vest with two layers, and expressed the feeling of being practical and wearable. Cotton, wool, and knit fabric are used together. I intend to evoke nature-friendly feeling by using understated colors such as white, ivory, and brown.

Sean Lee

I designed the baeja with a silhouette of a line falling from head to shoulders inspired by sseugae skirt, the headdress worn by women during the Joseon period. Sseugae is one type of traditional clothing covering the head and shoulders when women went out. It was ornamental and also kept women warm. I thought it was similar to the hood of a modern jacket, so I applied the silhouette of sseugae skirt to the hood part of baeja in designing my works for this exhibition. I attached a reversible zipper to the hood, which is zippered to the body shell so that it can be easily put on and taken off. Lined with faux fur to emphasize warmth, this piece is reversible, one of the basic features of baeja, and it shows various combinations of different materials. I used the elastic thread quilting method to produce a naturally flowing image of cracked land from the hood down. I used black as the main color to evoke a modern feeling. Through quilting, I intended to express the delicate feeling of texture imparted from black fabric.
The second zip-up baeja for a man was inspired by traditional baeja. I tried to match an abundant sense of volume and beauty of curves seen in hanbok with the beauty of straight lines of modern design. I also express the understated decorative beauty of Korea by using typical details of traditional baeja such as slits, asymmetry, and irregular creases. I used neutral and black colors. This piece is made of waterproof polyester to be worn on rainy days.

Choi Ji Hyung

This project presented baeja to me. I found it quite interesting that the style and function of baeja are similar to those of a modern vest. Noting that, I tried to design baeja that would be suitable for the everyday life of modern people by adding modern elements in materials and design without losing the formative beauty of traditional baeja. The first thing that came to mind was to modernize material.
I used shrunken leather of cowhide for the outer shell and a pure silk brocade for the lining shell to create striking beauty that comes from contrast of different materials. The combination of the coarse shrunken leather outer shell and the elegantly shining blue silk lining shows contrasting harmony between traditional and modern fabrics. The contrast of black and white of the basic body imparts quite a modern sense. I also used denim, a material popular among modern people everywhere, young and old, to show an updated baeja that has a youthful sense. This piece also used a pure silk brocade in bright yellow and azalea pink for lining to show the harmony revealed by two different fabrics. Buttons made of the same yellow fabric used for the lining and seam lines are a witty touch. This piece and the rider style baeja can be worn everyday as both should match other clothes well

Choi Jin Woo

I applied the short front and long back seen in baeja and po (overcoat in hanbok) from the Joseon period. While traditional baeja does not show contrast of colors of the outer and lining shells when worn, these pieces were given linings that are longer than the outer shells to show off the contrast of colors in front. The curve along the side of baeja comes from the characteristics of Joseon baeja - short front and long back - showing the beautiful curve seen in hanbok. Also, fabrics used for outer and lining shells and underarm cuts for outer and lining shells are made different to express diverse combinations seen in traditional baeja. By using wool for the outer shell and silk for the lining shell, neck band, and vest ties, I accentuated the elegance that comes from material.

Heo Hwan

I learned a great deal about traditional baeja during this project. I feel that the well organized and proportioned design of baeja is closely associated with the concept of traditional space that has prevailed throughout Korea’s long history. I intended to express the structural beauty of space inherent to hanok and organic harmony found in traditional Korean clothing, hanbok, with a contemporary concept. I intended to apply the aesthetics of space found in hanok, a traditional Korean house, to clothing. In hanok, there is no distinction between the inside and outside. If you open the door on a warm sunny day, the scene of the courtyard comes inside, and the subdued natural light fills the interior. Inspired by the open structure of hanok, I printed a pattern design that removed images seen outside though a window of hanok on silk for design of my works for this show. I designed a silhouette as a long Western waistcoat and printed a pattern design on the body to show off painterly formative beauty. I also designed the body itself to be functional as a pocket, an idea which I borrowed from hanbok.

SUH Kyung Hee, YIE Kwang Sub

Impressed by the traditional beauty of Korea and warm, clean atmosphere, I produced shoes filled with Korean beauty. I was inspired by my shoes from Danghye, traditional Korean shoes for women, and the beautiful curved lines of the toes of beoseon, traditional Korean padded socks.
I used strong red, which symbolizes warmth and endurance for a long time. I produced winter flats made of beige leather and grey wool finished with red stitches and straps imparting a quiet yet clean atmosphere, and red leather flats with red straps suited for spring and summer. I also made flats for spring and autumn with beige leather with beautiful curved lines highlighted with black leather. Flats made half of leather and half of wool remind us of black rubber shoes unique to Korea.

Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation
Credits: Story

Exhibition Planning Committee_
Yun Gyun S. Hong, CHO Hyo Sook
Advisers JIN Tae Ok, SUE Young Hee
Exhibition coordinated by BAE Ji Woon, KO Jeong Ah

KU Nam Ok/YU Seon Hee/LEE Hong Soon/JANG Jung Youn/JUNG Mal Sook / Jin Tae Ok/ Kate Yunju Ko / Park Hwan Sung / Kim Jae hwan / Lee Chung Chung / Sean Lee / Choi Ji hyung / Choi Jin Woo / Heo Hwan / Suh Kyung Hee, Yie Kwang Sub

Video Details_

Special Thanks to_
LOCK Museum
KIM Seung Min
KIM Hae Ja
KIM Byong Ho

Text CHO Hyo Sook
Translation MOON Soo Yul
English Proofreading Oliver Williamson Jr.
Photographs LEE Jong Keun
Design Hongdan
BAN Yun Jung, PARK So Hee, MIN Seol Hye, LEE Ji Youn, KIM Jong Min
Design Supervision PARK Kyung Mee
Coordination KWAK Eun Jung
Print GraphicKorea

Hosted by Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation
Supported by Kumho Asiana, Korean Cultural Centre UK,
Korea Craft & Design Foundation, Arts Council Korea

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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