Korean fashion has been sweeping the globe recently, with Seoul becoming one of the fashion capitals of the world. Many of the latest fashion trends are coming out of Korea’s capital and spreading around the world.
Korean fashion is known for being simple yet elegant. While it usually doesn’t go over the top, it’s a type of fashion that looks clean and stylish. This is especially true for one of Korea’s most unique fashion trends – the modern hanbok.
Hanbok is a traditional Korean outfit that has existed for hundreds of years. However, traditional hanbok isn’t something that can be worn easily or in day-to-day life. The process of putting on hanbok is complicated and the clothes are not only very large, but they are also very warm. Therefore they don’t make sense in modern day-to-day life.
However, as a way to bring back hanbok into current day fashion, some designers have created modern hanbok. This form of hanbok has many of the traits and design aspects of traditional hanbok but it’s also smaller, cheaper, and much easier to wear in day-to-day life.
In this post, I want to look at these contemporary (modern) hanboks. Firstly, we’ll take a quick look at traditional hanbok as that’s important for creating a background for modern hanbok. After that, I want to look at some different types of modern hanbok and also discuss where you can purchase a modern hanbok outfit for yourself!
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What Is Modern Hanbok?
Modern Hanbok is a type of Korean clothing that has recently had a resurgence in popularity in South Korea. It is based on a type of Korean clothing (hanbok) that became common in Korea during the Joseon Dynasty.
Hanbok is a type of clothing that is both very beautiful and unique to Korea. The clothing uses a variety of eye-catching colours and intricate designs that make it very unique. The clothing itself is a work of art.
However, traditional hanbok is very difficult to wear in the modern day, especially in day to day life. It’s very large, takes a while to put on, very hard to keep clean (since the skirt is so long) and expensive. Due to this, modern hanbok has begun to become popular.
Modern hanbok retains many elements of the traditional hanbok but makes the clothing much easier to wear in our modern lives. It’s just as elegant and looks just as beautiful (albeit not as bright) but is much smaller, more affordable and doesn’t drag on the ground.
Modern Hanbok – Short History
Traditional hanbok in Gyeongbokgung Palace.
The term hanbok (한복) actually translates directly to ‘Korean clothing’. While this is the literal translation, the term hanbok generally refers to a form of traditional Korean clothing that became common during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897).
Hanbok was usually worn by the more wealthy members of Joseon society such as aristocrats. However, it was generally not worn by officials as they typically wore a different type of clothing called gwanbok.
Originally, different types of hanbok were worn by different members of society. Different colours, designs, and decorations indicated what class a person was from and where they stood in Joseon society. This trait has not carried over to the modern hanbok, and modern hanbok doesn’t distinguish between colours or designs.
After the Joseon Dynasty hanbok became less common but it has recently made a resurgence as the government has made efforts to rejuvenate interest in the traditional clothing (with events such as Hanbok Day). Tourists visiting Seoul can even get free entry to the five palaces in the city if they wear hanbok.
Interestingly, some contemporary designers have also begun to look towards hanbok as an inspiration for modern fashion. From this, modern hanbok was created. Nowadays modern hanbok is one of the most interesting Korean fashion trends and it’s also beautiful.
Traditional Hanbok in the Modern Day
Hanbok rental in Seoul is very popular among tourists!
Although most hanboks worn in daily life in Korea are now modern hanbok, there are some situations and places in which traditional hanbok are still common. Often they are worn by locals for events, and they are also often worn by tourists.
For tourists, hanbok rental is a big attraction when visiting South Korea. The clothing can be hired from hundreds, if not thousands, of stores across the city. There is an incredible range of hanbok that can be hired, and visitors even have the choice to do their hair in traditional styles.
Wearing this hanbok will give you free entrance to the palaces in Seoul. While the entry fee for the palaces is only a few dollars anyway, it’s a nice incentive to don a traditional hanbok and take some truly unique photos.
For Koreans, traditional hanbok still has a place in modern society especially for important events. Traditional hanbok can be see at some events such as weddings, funerals, and other formal festivals. Recently, a Korean American congresswoman even wore hanbok at her swearing-in ceremony!
Modern Hanbok vs Traditional Hanbok
Traditional hanbok on left, Modern Hanbok on right.
As I touched on already, there are both similarities and differences between modern hanboks and their traditional counterparts. In modern hanbok you can definitely see that they are based upon the traditional outfit. However, there are also certain design elements that are very different.
Firstly, you will see that the general design of modern and traditional hanbok are the same. They both involve two main pieces – the jeogeori and chima (jeogeori and baji for men’s hanbok). The jeogeori is the upper part of the hanbok that acts like a shirt. Below this sits the chima which is the skirt part of the outfit.
In both forms of hanbok one half of the jeogeori sits on top of the other half and is tied down. However, in traditional hanbok the jeogeori goes on top of the chima, whereas in modern hanbok it is the opposite (the chima covers the jeogeori).
The biggest difference between modern hanbok and traditional hanbok sits in the length and size of the chima (skirt). On traditional hanbok, chima often sits very close to the ground with only a few centimetres of gap. The chima is also very wide and can often be a metre or more in diameter!
Of course, an outfit like this isn’t exactly easy to wear in contemporary Korea. Wearing it to work on the subway would be incredibly difficult! That is where modern hanbok comes in.
While retaining the basic design language and aspects of traditional hanbok, modern hanboks biggest difference is that it is much smaller. The chima has been shortened and now sits around the knees (although this depends on the design in question). The chima is also compact and is more like a modern skirt in diameter.
Another interesting element of modern hanbok that makes it unique is that now you can sometimes find women’s hanbok using baji (pants). With traditional hanbok, these were only worn by the men while chima were worn by women. Now it’s possible to find combinations of the two.
Where to Purchase Modern Hanbok Online
If you are looking to purchase a Modern Hanbok for yourself then I have made a list of the best websites to browse. All of these websites offer International shipping and they all have English variants or are entirely English.
Joteta is a website that is dedicated to Korean goods. Not only do they offer hanbok (modern hanbok and hanbok for children) but they also offer a range of traditional Korean gifts.
The modern hanbok offered by Joteta comes in a wide variety of styles, prices, and forms. Not only do they sell hanbok in the traditional format (with a shirt and skirt), but they also sell hanbok-styled dresses.
They also offer a range of different colours. Whether you are looking for a darker-coloured modern hanbok or a more bright and colourful style they have you covered.
Currently, Joteta does not have the largest variety of modern hanbok designs. However, they only recently introduced hanbok to their store and I am sure that over the next few months their catalogue will increase.
Kooding has a large variety of modern hanboks as well as accessories based on hanbok. Unlike many other websites, Kooding allows you to purchase a specific part of a hanbok rather than purchasing both the top and bottom together.
Kooding also has a range of modern hanbok inspired clothing that can be paired with other clothing. For example, they also sell hanbok-inspired skirts, pants, and more.
Kooding is a Korean online shopping mall, meaning that they offer a wide range of products from other brands. This means that you can a wide range of prices and qualities here. They also offer products from famous contemporary hanbok brands such as LEESLE.
Etsy is a website that sells… Well, nearly everything. By this point, I’m sure you’ve already heard of it! What you might not know, though, is that Etsy also sells lots of different hanbok.
Etsy is an online mall and features products from thousands of different people and stores. For this reason, it is also very varied in price and quality of items. With that being said, while I am not familiar with the sellers myself I have heard good things about some of them.
The biggest modern hanbok stores on Etsy are Bellahanbok, Designbyminju and TETEROTSALON. You will find that these three stores have hundreds of different hanbok items on sale and you can easily spend hours checking out all of their Etsy stores.
A big benefit of shopping on Etsy is that many of the products offer free shipping. It seems that about half of the products offer free shipping and it’s definitely possible to shop for only items that offer this benefit.
Out of all of the websites on this list Etsy has by far the biggest selection of modern hanbok outfits. If you are looking to buy or just browsing for a design that you like I recommend checking out Etsy.
The Korean In Me
The Korean In Me is one of the most famous hanbok brands internationally. Not only do they have a very large variety of modern hanbok, but they also offer a large range of traditional hanbok, men’s hanbok, children’s hanbok and more.
The Korean In Me offers a similar range of modern hanbok to Jote Ta. In fact, there is some crossover in the products that both websites offer. However, both websites also feature some unique items and it’s worth checking out both stores.
One of my favourite designs that the site offers is the dress design that also features a skirt on top. This gives the look of a double-layered skirt and adds a touch of complexity that the traditional modern hanbok look lacks.
I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention Amazon on this list. While it might not be the first place that you would think to look for authentic Korean modern hanbok, it actually has quite a good selection! Many of the sellers here are the same sellers you can find on platforms such as Etsy.
As a storefront for many brands, you will find a large variety of modern hanbok on Amazon and the price and quality reflects this. I have no experience with most of the brands on Amazon myself, but there are some popular brands such as TETEROT on the platform.
Purchasing modern hanbok on Amazon also comes with the benefits that Amazon brings. That means great shipping times for many people, a return policy and more. Since many of the hanbok brands in this list are based in Korea, Amazon may be the most comfortable option for many customers – especially if you live in the U.S..
Where to Purchase Traditional Hanbok Online
If you are instead looking for a traditional hanbok then make sure to check out these websites. Both of these websites focus on hanbok for events (such as weddings). As such, they offer totally custom Hanboks that are made specifically for each customer. If you don’t want to pay this premium, you can also purchase ready-made traditional hanbok.
Hanboksarang is one of the most famous names when it comes to traditional hanbok, and for good reason. Although there is much more premium pricing on Hanboksarang, you can rest assured that the quality is some of the best out there.
Hanboks from Hanboksarang are custom-made based on the measurements that you provide the company. The website also advertises that its hanbok are all handmade in South Korea. As such, the quality of the clothing is very high.
These hanbok are generally intended for special events and this is shown with the couples hanboks. These hanboks come in matching sets with one men’s hanbok and one women’s hanbok – ideal for a wedding!
The Korean In Me
The Korean In Me has a similar process to Hanboksarang in regards to creating hanbok based fully upon the customer’s provided dimensions. This means that the hanbok is custom made and should fit every customer perfectly.
There is a range of traditional hanbok and many variations of both light and dark colour schemes can be found. The website is mainly focused at wedding and special event hanbok and as such, these hanbok are designed to be beautiful!
If you would like a traditional hanbok but don’t want to pay the extra price for a custom-made outfit, they also offer ready made hanboks. These are generally half the price or less and there are a few choices. However, the choices are definitely less than the custom made options.
Modern Hanbok FAQ
What Is the Best Website to Buy Modern Hanbok On?
There are so many different websites on which you can purchase Modern Hanbok. However, for decent prices and a good selection, I recommend Joteta.
What Is the Best Website to Buy Traditional Hanbok On?
If you are looking to purchase traditional hanbok check out the websites The Korean In Me and Hanboksarang.
What Is Modern Hanbok?
Modern hanbok is a contemporary twist on the traditional Korean clothing. It’s been slightly simplified and made into a form of clothing that is comfortable to wear in modern life.
What Is the Difference Between Traditional and Modern Hanbok?
Traditional Hanbok tends to be much larger, more intricately designed, and is worn mostly on special occasions. Modern hanbok, on the other hand, has a similar design but is smaller and easier to wear in day to day life.
Where Can I Buy Cheap Modern Hanbok?
If you are looking to purchase cheaper modern Hanboks I recommend looking at the variety offered by Amazon.
Where Can I Buy Hanbok for Special Occasions?
Looking for the most beautiful Hanbok for a special occasion? Check out The Korean In Me and Hanboksarang.