USC Pacific Asia Museum

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Pasadena, California 91101
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USC Pacific Asia Museum

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Korean Costumes through the Ages

November 1, 2003 through February 1, 2004

Official?s wedding robe
Official’s wedding robe (gwanbok), Joseon (Choson) dynasty.
Courtesy of the National Folk Museum of Korea.

On loan from the National Folk Museum of Korea in Seoul, this breathtaking exhibition surveys the history of Korean costume, or hanbok, from the 5th century AD to the present day. The hanbok has not changed its basic form in 1500 years - men have traditionally worn a jacket (jeogori) and pants (baji), while women have worn a jacket and skirt (chima). However, the styles, materials and decoration of these articles of clothing have undergone considerable changes over time.

The National Folk Museum of Korea, under the direction of its costume curator, Dr. Young Jae Kim, has reproduced several exquisite costumes from the early periods of Korean history, using tomb paintings, clay figurines, and historical documents. “We asked the best textile artists in Korea to make these costumes for us,” said Dr. Kim. “We are very happy with what they have created, and we hope that many people here can see the beauty of traditional Korean costumes.”

Leslee See Leong, Priscilla Gibbs, Dave Felton, Neta Armagost, Maria
Members of the Pacific Asia Museum Board of Trustees
from left to right: Leslee See Leong, Priscilla Gibbs, Dave Felton,
Neta Armagost, Maria Low, and Bobbie Koh.

Examples of these reproductions include a costume with a long jacket and striped skirt worn by a noble woman from the Goguryeo kingdom (1st century BC-AD 668) that was copied from a painting on the wall of the Susan-ri tomb in modern-day North Korea. From the Unified Silla period (668-918AD) are the robes of a noble man and woman that show the influence of Tang (618-906) dynasty Chinese costume design, while robes and coats from the Goryeo period (960-1392) are two fine ramie coats worn by men and boys of the upper classes during the summer. From the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910) are a number of spectacular costumes, including the bridal gown of a princess, embellished with finely embroidered flowers and fruit and stamped golden birds, all auspicious symbols wishing happiness for the bride. Also included are original costumes from the Joseon dynasty, such as a groom’s wedding robe with its original rank badge (hyungbae), complete with boots and hat, as well as some examples of children’s clothing and equipment used to sew and embroider costumes and other household textiles.

As a special treat, visitors can try on costumes in a special section at the end of the exhibit - and become a Korean king or queen for the day!

For more information about this exhibition, call 626.449.2642, ext. 19.

More on Korean Costumes through the Ages

Related Events:

  • Friday, December 12, 7pm Authors on Asia
    Louise Coffey-Webb,
    Hanbok: A Survey of Korean Dress
    from the Joseon Dynasty to the Present

    An illustrated lecture on the unique elements of Korean costume style and how they have evolved throughout history. Ms. Coffey-Webb will bring in examples and demonstrate tying the traditional Korean bow.