Traditional Korean Women's Costume

Sookmyung Women’s University Museum

Women's Clothes and Ornaments of the Joseon dynasty, 1392-1910

Korean Women's Costume
The most essential elements of human life could be food, clothing and shelter. Besides the function of protecting humans against the cold and hot weather, clothes play the roles of distinguishing the social status, expressing the individual taste and showing the etiquette in society. The completion of the costume is to wear ornaments. Women's hair ornaments varied according to the social rank of the wearer, and hair styles constantly changed with fashion. Decorations for clothing also diversified as the clothing customs changed. Looking over these artifacts, one may sense the aspects of women's costume and their beautiful.  
Women's Clothes
Korean women dressed up in tune with four seasons. Not only the colors of clothes, but also textiles and accessories like hairpins, pendants and rings, were in harmony with distinctive features of seasons. 

Since the mid-Joseon Dynasty this robe was a formal dress of the court. In the beginning it was a mourning robe for a queen. Since then it became a formal dress for a queen, a full dress for the woman of nobility, and a wedding dress for the common folk. It has an insignia embroidered with a phoenix design attached to it.

This ceremonial robe called Jeokui. Worn by the wife of the Korean king and crown prince, this robe was the most formal of Korean women's court attire. The royal women wore a jeokui during ceremonial events. Jeokui were dressed in different colors according to the status of royal women.

It was a ceremonial jacket made of gold silk, representing social ranks. At the end of the period, however, the gold silk was replaced by gilded patterns. Court ladies or common women wore dark green jackets without any decorations.

This is a ceremonial long jacket for summer. On the Dano Eve, queens put on the unlined ceremonial long jackets, taking off the lined ones. The following day all the people did the same.

On the lunar 15th day of March, women wore green silk jackets (亢羅唐衣); on Dano Day, which falls on lunar 5th day of May, they wore green fine silk (光紗) jackets; on the 10th day of May, they wore white fine silk jackets (白光紗唐衣).
Sunwhagung Records on Royal Women's Costumes』

This jacket is for little girls, decorated with chrysanthemums and bamboo designs. This is for summer wear, whose sleeves are colored red, yellow and blue. Sleeve-ends are decorated with white collars. Gold tints are put with the letter of phoenix.

It was the ceremonial robe for a princess or the king's daughter by a concubine. It was allowed to be worn by common folks only on their weddings. Outside was red, while inside was blue. Embroidery of floral patterns and letters meaning longevity and happiness decorated the whole robe

This is the hair ribbon worn by brides over their wedding costumes when they wear crowns. The ribbons are decorated with floral designs and auspicious letters representing longevity, fortune and nobleness, along with gold tints.

Since the ancient times women wore silk shoes with toes and heels decorated.

Women's Ornaments
Women 's ornaments have hair ornaments that decorate women's heads and body ornaments that decorate women's clothes. The existing ornaments of the Joseon dynasty were mostly used by the royal family or the nobility.

Body Ornaments

The wearing of pendant ornaments was limited to the royal family and noblewomen. But in later times, commoners also used them during celebratory also used them during celebratory events, and the daily use of simple ornaments also became common. In noble families, precious norigae were handed from generation to generation to express familial love and transmit family tradition. Norigae were made in various styles, and from various materials.

The Ojak Norigae(five-part norigae) is a symbol of good fortune. This norigae has five different ornaments: a set of axes, two sets of small panels, an encased ornamental knife, and ear-pick formed Bang-a-dari.

The pendants encase blocks of perfume. The case were wrought with gold and silver threads.

This pendant with a perfume beads is decorated with kingfisher feathers. Embroidery of Chinese characters meaning happiness and longevity enriches its beauty along with tiny tassels.

Meant of dispell evil, tigers are often used in pictures and handcrafts of the Joseon Dynasty. Talons and teeth of tigers are seen on these pendants.

The pendant with tiger talon design was made of cow horns with a tiger face wrought in silver.

This consists of silver sword, tiger and tiger claws made of cow horn, the pendant was either engraved or designed in superb way, decorated with corals and green jade.

Also called, jihwan the rings symbolize the unity of man and woman, as well as husband and wife. When a woman was widowed, she put one onto the body of her husband, and the other on her jacket tie.

Ear loops were hung around the ears, not through holes in the ears. These are unique to the Joseon Dynasty, reflecting the Confucian that bodies, including hair and skin, were given by parents, and therefore were not to be modified by any means.

Hair Ornaments

Only the upper classes could use hairpins made of gold and silver, or decorated with jewels. Commoners made their hairpins of copper, nickel, wood, or animal bones. Longer and bigger ones were used for ceremonies; shorter and smaller ones for daily use. Royal courtiers wore hairpins that differed according to the season.

The most splendid among hairpins, this one was worn for ceremonies by women of the royal or noble families.

Yongjam hairpins were worn by queens, representing the dignity and authority of the royal family. However, common women were allowed to wear the pins on their wedding days.

Women of royal or noble families wore this type of pin for special occasions in the middle of their hairdos, or on the left and right sides.

This hair pin with plum flowers and bamboo designs symbolized women's chastity.

It was believed that jade exorcised evil spirits. Jade was a basic material for ornaments.

Common folks wore nickel hairpins in the shapes of a frog and a cicada sitting face-to-face on a bamboo tree.

Black hairpins made of rhinoceros' horns were used for funerals of kings and queens, parents and husbands. Long ones were worn on the occasion of ritual service; short ones, during the mourning period. Large pins decorated with plum flowers and bamboo trees were used by the women of royal and upper class families.

Hairpins in the shape of butterflies alightiny on chrysanthemums or plum flowers are typical of those during the Joseon Dynasty.

This hair is decorated with 'Cheopji', which marks ranks according to their shapes and materials. The decoration also played the role of fixing the crown. Queen wore the dragon-shaped piece, while the other noble ladies wore frog-shaped ones.

Wig is put on the top of the head. It was in vogue for old-aged women of the noble class.

Sookmyung Women's University Museum
Credits: Story

Management│Rhie, Jin-Min
Chief Editor│Hong, Kyoung-A, Jung, Hyeran
Assistant│Park, Hyekyung, Kim, Nahyun, Kim, Songrim, Lee, Hyewon
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Photography│Han, Jungyoup(Han Studio), Seo, Heonkang

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