‘Hanbok’ rediscovered on screen
April 7, 2006
"The Palace", a TV drama about an imaginary Korean royal family that ended recently, reigistered much higher than expected viewing figures. This adaptation of a comic book drew attention with its young, albeit inexperienced, actors locked in a love triangle, but the real buzz of the drama was the elaborate setting and outfits.
Yun Eun-hye in full-scale traditional Korean costume in "The Palace."
The leading actress Shin Chae-gyeong (played by singer-turned-actress Yun Eun-hye) was the most eye-catching as she dazzled viewers with an endless parade of clothes: from a school uniform with a skirt that was a little too short, and charming, romantic dresses to full-scale traditional costume for the royal wedding.
The most fascinating was a mix and match of contemporary clothing with modified versions of "hanbok," or traditional Korean costume. A full skirt was shortened and worn over a petticoat, and matched with a spaghetti strap top and a petite jeweled bag, becoming a perfect outfit for a young lady.
A conventionally short jacket, usually the length of a bolero, was lengthened, and the sleeves were cut closer to the arms, like a western three-quarter jacket. Fastened with a sash and worn with an A-line skirt in matching color (with the sash), it looked trendy while suggesting hint of "hanbok." The current box-office hit movie "Forbidden Quest" set in the Joseon Dynasty features equally attractive wardrobe. Contrary to the common belief that our Korean ancestors dressed mostly in toned-down, monochromatic garments, men in the movie sport sophisticated yet bold colors such as teal and purple.
The highlight, of course, falls on the royal concubine Jeong (played by Kim Min-jeong). She is garbed in a palette of colors from off-white and peach to scarlet and dark violet.
If you would like to take another close look at these rediscovered traditional clothes, pay a visit to "Korean Wave: Wearing Hanbok," an exhibition on the traditional costumes that appeared on screen.
The first hall welcomes visitors with a special zone dedicated to actress Lee Young-ae who earned international fame with her royal chef/doctor role in TV drama "Daejanggeum," or "The Jewel in the Palace." Lee was also much photographed wearing a demure hanbok, designed by established designer Lee Young-hee, when she walked the red carpet as one of the jury members of this year’s Berlin Film Festival.
The box-office hit movie "Forbidden Quest" features attractive traditional wardrobe.
Past the small Daejanggeum set are the photographs of Lee and other models posing in hanbok at various locations including Mt. Geumgang and Haheo Village, taken by celebrity fashion photographer Cho Se-hyun. A few steps away are the sets of the movie "King and the Clown," where mannequins in regal attire (of the king and his concubine) and humble outfits (of the clowns) strike a contrast. Next are costumes dedicated to "The Palace," beautifully blending tradition and trend, with such creations as a red strapless cocktail number with calligraphy print.
From "Forbidden Quest," costume designer Jeong Kyeong-heui borrowed a method from installation art, putting a small LCD screen on the mannequins wearing the costumes from the movie, a la Karl Lagerfeld or the Teletubbies.
Opposite second hall showcases the works of hanbok designer Kim Young-seok and needlework master Koo Hye-ja. Kim veered into the career only seven years ago, but has made names with his designs that are dyed naturally in modern colors, while staying true to the tradition. Over 30 creations of his are on display including sheer, unlined ramie jackets in delicious colors such as lemon, pistachio and peach, and a dark wine velvet jacquard coat with fur trimming. His collection of pillows with incredibly colorful embroideries is stacked on one side, making it an ideal spot from where to have your picture taken.
Koo is an intangible cultural property holder and designed the costumes for the movie "Scandal," featuring Bae Yong-joon. She put on over 20 traditional costumes, those worn by noblemen in Joseon Dynasty, demonstrating again that delightful colors – from teal, jade and moss green to powder pink and peach- were appreciated then.
The exhibition runs through April 25 at the Kyeongheui Palace branch of the Seoul Museum of Art. Admission fees are 8,000 won for adults and 6,000 won for children.
By Hwang You-mee