The resurgent popularity of hanbok or traditional Korean dress is going from strength to strength.
A cursory search throws up some 70,000 pictures of people in hanbok on Instagram, not just in historic or trendy locations in Korea but overseas. Hanbok is quickly blending into the trendy urban landscape.
The most popular type for women is a relatively modern version from the 1930s featuring shorter, calf-length hem lines and floral-pattern jackets that fall just below the chest.
Other popular versions feature slimmer fits and are made from cotton rather than silk, and they can be worn together with pants or instead of cardigans.
The number of online shops selling these modern versions of hanbok has surged in recent years, and off-line stores have popped up in popular shopping areas like Myeong-dong and Sinchon.
There have been revivals before. The 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul saw a flowering of patriotic feelings and a movement among university students to wear the traditional attire. It was during that time that modified hanbok tailored to modern tastes first hit stores nationwide. But these versions focused more on functionality than style and their popularity soon waned.
There was another revival in the early 2000s, when health-conscious Koreans took to natural fabrics to make the traditional outfits. But this trend was also short-lived.
The latest trend is unique since it is being led by trendy young people who wear the outfits with pride as they travel around and slots perfectly into the selfie craze.
“I always knew hanbok was beautiful, but I was shy to wear it because I was afraid of attracting too much attention,.” Bae So-yoon (26) says. “But not any more, since you get free admission to historic palaces if you wear hanbok nowadays and it’s so popular on social media.”
Kwon Mi-ru, who travels around the world wearing hanbok, said, “Once you feel comfortable wearing modern hanbok, go all the way and try classic one. Wearing hanbok on formal occasions and parties can turn you into the center of attention,” she added.
But make sure to try it on first. Different hanbok brands have different fits, fabrics vary, and colors may look different in photos. Also, silk hanbok does not always match western attire, and an important question is whether it is washable.