Disclaimer: The information in this post is based on information I found online when reading about a few aspects of Korean culture and history after my first exposure to it in a Korean animated series. It’s possible I’ve included misinformation that I found online. I’ve linked to my sources at the end of this article, but not all of those pages are online anymore. After reading this article, please check the comments as well, as there is more interesting information there. (Disclaimer added 2012-01-13.)
Watching Janggeum’s Dream leaves me wanting to know more about traditional Korean culture. In Janggeum’s Dream, the two things which stand out right away are 1) the outfits worn and 2) the hairstyles.
The Hanbok Outfit
A traditional style of clothing for Koreans is the 한복, or “hanbok”. While hanbok refers simple to clothing worn by Koreans, it appears to be used commonly to refer to the semi-formal and formal outfits worn during the Joseon Dynasty (1392–1910, within which is the time Janggeum’s Dream is set). This style of hanbok is still worn today during special events, such as traditional festivals in Korea.
The first thing I noticed about the hanbok is its unique bow. Rather than two loops, there’s only one. Right from the first episode of Janggeum’s Dream, I had to know more about their outfits.
The Main Outfit
There are two main parts to the hanbok: the top piece and the bottom piece. The long-sleeved, blouse-like top piece is the 저고리, or “jeogori”, held closed by a ribbon tied in a 옷고름, or “otgoreum”, style bow. During the Joseon Dynasty, the female jeogori became shorter over time while the male jeogori remained longer. Beneath the female jeogori, Janggeum appears to wear a smaller piece of clothing. This is to compensate for the shortening of the jeogori on women. I do not know if this is a part of the belt, or separate.
The bottom piece differs based on the sex of the wearer. For men, it’s baggy pants called 바지, or “paji”, bound at the ankles. Women wear the 치마, or “chima”, a long skirt. Worn under the chima is a pair of long bloomers, as seen in the first episode of Janggeum’s Dream, when Janggeum catches the food Dongi drops when he trips over his dog, Mongmong.
The shoes worn are fitting around ones feet, and are wide around the ankle, with almost an upside-down bell shape to them. Additionally, a white belt, the 허리띠, or “heoritti”, is worn at the waist.
Due to the hanbok having no pockets, men and women both carried a type of small purse called a 주머니, or “jumeoni”.
Class Differences in the Hanbok
Traditionally, men wore darker colors whereas women wore a brighter, or multi-colored hanbok. Aristocratic classes such as the yangban, their class based on their education and position, not on wealth, wore brightly colored hanbok. These outfits consisted of a plain or patterned silk during colder seasons, and materials such as closely-woven ramie clothing for light-weight cloth during warmer seasons.
Law and finance both limited commoners to wearing hanbok made of cotton and bleached hemp, and they were only able to wear white. Exceptions to this were some pale colors, such as pink or light green, as well as gray.
The outfits worn in the first episode of Janggeum’s Dream put Janggeum in a light brown outfit, and her adoptive brother, Dongi, in a brown hanbok with a darker blue bow, and white sleeves. Some nearby children wear browns and grayish light greens. Dongi’s dog, Mongmong, wears a rainbow-colored outfit, so his family cannot be doing too badly. Dongi’s father wears pale blue and white. Dongi’s mother may work as a cook, and she’s seen wearing a green jeogori shirt with a reddish-brown chima skirt. Others seen preparing food around her wear blues, pinks, or greens. For the most part, the townspeople do wear pale colors. The court ladies, on the other hand, wear bright blues (such as turquoise), purples, and darker greens.
Commoners wore skirts wrapped on the right, and yangban women wore wider skirts wrapped on the left side.
Other Differences in Hanbok Worn
A yellow jeogori shirt and red chima skirt are worn by young women before they reach marriage (and a green jeogori with a red chima after the wedding, probably similar in color to what Dongi’s mother wears in Janggeum’s Dream.)
Also seen in Janggeum’s Dream, the characters sleep in a white hanbok. I don’t know if this was the common “pajamas” of the Joseon Dynasty.
Males and females wore their hair long, in a braided ponytail. This lasted until marriage. After marriage, a man’s hair would be worn in a topknot 상투, or “sangtu” at the top of their head (seen below). Women would wear their hair in a ball just above the nape of their neck. In Janggeum’s Dream, there are two styles of hair worn up, one with the hair braided and worn in a circle around the top and back of ones head. I do not know what the difference between the two is.
Both styles are seen in the screenshot just above, and those hair styles as well as the unmarried style are seen in other screenshots on this page, especially the one with the crowd of commoners. It makes it easy to recognize who’s married and who isn’t, doesn’t it?
Men having passed the gwageo wore a black “gat” (a type of hat). Made from horsehair, this type of hat is black, and is half-transparent. The gat was worn by married and middle-aged men, and protected their topknot, as well as showing their social status.