Traditional Korean Women's Costume

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

By Sookmyung Women’s University Museum

The Special Exhibition 'Women, Lives and Thoughts' (2013-12-11/2016-03-17) by Sookmyung Women's University MuseumSookmyung Women’s University Museum

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.

Chilbo Hairpin with Flower and Butterfly, Bee, and Bird Designs (Korea, 19th century) by UnknownSookmyung Women’s University Museum

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.

Portrait of Beauty (Korea, 19th century) by Jang Won-sangSookmyung Women’s University Museum

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. 

Woman's Court Robe (Korea, 19th century) by UnknownSookmyung Women’s University Museum

Since the mid-Joseon Dynasty this robe was a everyday clothing 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.

Women's Ceremonial Robe (Replica) by ReplicaSookmyung Women’s University Museum

This ceremonial robe called Jeokui. This robe was exclusively for the royal family including queens, consort of princes, queen mothers, or great queen mothers. It was worn for the important occasions like weddings or official feasts.

Woman's Ceremonial Long Jacket (Korea, 19th century) by UnknownSookmyung Women’s University Museum

This is the formal dress which women of the Joseon Dynasty wore. This long jacket was worn over the casual wear, and in the court women wore this as everyday casual clothes.

Woman's Ceremonial Long Jacket for Summer (Korea, 19th century) by UnknownSookmyung Women’s University Museum

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』

Child‘s Colorful Ceremonial Jacket (Korea, 19th century) by UnknownSookmyung Women’s University Museum

This jacket is for little girls, decorated with chrysanthemums and bamboo designs. Gold tints are put with the letter of phoenix.

Woman's Wedding Robe (Hwarot) (Korea, 19th century) by UnknownSookmyung Women’s University Museum

Hwarot is a bridal robe that was frequently worn for wedding ceremonies during the mid- to late Joseon Dynasty. Princesses wore hwarot for major ceremonies, while commoners were allowed to wear them only on their wedding day.

Ceremonial Hair Ribbon for Brides (Korea, early 20th century) by UnknownSookmyung Women’s University Museum

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.

Women's Silk and Leather Shoes (Korea, 19th century) by UnknownSookmyung Women’s University Museum

Women of Joseon Dynasty wore beautiful silk shoes with toes and heels decorated.

The Special Exhibition 'The Feast of Life' (2016-08-16/2017-07-31) by Sookmyung Women's University MuseumSookmyung Women’s University Museum

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.

Large Pendant with Triple Ornaments (Korea, 19th century) by UnknownSookmyung Women’s University Museum

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 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.

Pendants with Perfume Cases (Korea, 19th century) by UnknownSookmyung Women’s University Museum

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

Pendant with Fivefold Ornaments (Korea, 19th century) by UnknownSookmyung Women’s University Museum

The Pendant with Fivefold Ornaments(Ojak Norigae) is a symbol of good fortune. This norigae has five different ornaments: a set of axes, two sets of small panels with Chinese characters that represent good fortune, an encased ornamental knife, and an ear-pick in a shaped of a Bang-a-dari.

Pendant with Perfume Beads (Korea, 19th century) by UnknownSookmyung Women’s University Museum

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

Pendant with Tiger Tooth Ornament (Korea, 19th century) by UnknownSookmyung Women’s University Museum

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.

Pendant with Tiger Talon Design (Korea, 19th century) by UnknownSookmyung Women’s University Museum

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

Large Pendant with Triple Ornaments (Korea, 19th century) by UnknownSookmyung Women’s University Museum

This consists of silver sword, tuho and tiger claws made of cow horn, the pendant was either engraved or designed in superb way.

Rings (Korea, 19th century) by UnknownSookmyung Women’s University Museum

Also called, jihwan the rings symbolize the unity of a man and a woman, or husband and wife. If a woman is widowed, she would put one ring onto the body of her husband, and the other on her jacket tie. These silver rings are decorated with the seven trasures(gold, silber, lapis, crystal, coral, agate, and pearl) and have bat and flower designs that symbolize prosperity and fortune.

Ear Loops with Pendants (Korea, 19th century) by UnknownSookmyung Women’s University Museum

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.

Ear Loops with Pendants (Korea, 19th century) by UnknownSookmyung Women’s University Museum

The Special Exhibition 'The Feast of Life' (2016-08-16/2017-07-31) by Sookmyung Women's University MuseumSookmyung Women’s University Museum

Hair Ornaments

Hairpins were accessories used by women to hold a bun or a hat or wig in place.
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.

Ornamental Hairpin_detail (Korea, 19th century) by UnknownSookmyung Women’s University Museum

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

Ornamental Hairpin Decorated with Dragon (Korea, 19th century) by UnknownSookmyung Women’s University Museum

Dragon 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.

Ornamental Hairpin Decorated with Dragon_detail (Korea, 19th century) by UnknownSookmyung Women’s University Museum

Fluttering Hairpin (Korea, 19th century) by UnknownSookmyung Women’s University Museum

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.

Ornamental Hairpin with Plum Flower and Bamboo designs (Korea, 19th century) by UnknownSookmyung Women’s University Museum

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

Ornamental Hairpin of Jade (Korea, 19th century) by UnknownSookmyung Women’s University Museum

It was believed that jade exorcised evil spirits. Jade was a basic material for ornaments. This jade openwork hairpin was normally worn in the summber by the royal family or upper class women.

Ornamental Hairpin with Bamboo_detail (Korea, 19th century) by UnknownSookmyung Women’s University Museum

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

Ornamental Hairpin with Rhinoceros Horn (Korea, 19th century) by UnknownSookmyung Women’s University Museum

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.

Chilbo Hairpin with Flower and Butterfly, Bee, and Bird Designs (Korea, 19th century) by UnknownSookmyung Women’s University Museum

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

Cheopji Hair Style (Replica) by ReplicaSookmyung Women’s University Museum

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.

Hair with a Wig (Replica) by ReplicaSookmyung Women’s University Museum

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

Traditional Korean Women's Costume by Sookmyung Women's University MuseumSookmyung Women’s University Museum

Credits: Story

Planned by Sookmyung Women's University Museum
Photographyed by Han Jungyoup(Han Studio), Seo Heonkang
Visual Edited by Kim Nahyun

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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