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People Dressed According To Their Wealth And Social Status

2028 words - 8 pages

McCallion (2010) states that sumptuary laws present during the Chonson dynasty were reflected in the colors, fibers, and ornamentation of the hanbok. These elements were chosen to reflect the cultural beliefs of Koreans and their position in society. (McCallion, 2008, p.223) The most exquisite examples of traditional Korean costume are royal costumes of the Choson dynasty. The queen and the noblemen had the privilege of wearing luxurious fabrics like silk, cotton, hemp, or ramie, all of which were available in abundance from royal gifts, imports, or domestic production. Noblemen wore the Samjoejang chogori, which were worn by the upper-class women during special occasions. (McCallion, 2010, p. 225). The queens of the Choson periods layered several embellished garments, including an outer ceremonial jacket, hwangwonsam. The chogori was not the outer layer, as it would have been for women of lower status (McCallion, 2008, p.225). According to McCallion (2010), “although the elite classes and royalty were not restricted in fabric choices, the lower or laborer classes were limited to hemp, and to some degree ramie. However, later, ramie increased in quality and only the upper classes could attain it (p. 410).” The general population during the Choson period used cotton, which was heavily cultivated after its introduction in 1367. “Garments of choice for everyday use continued to be predominantly the natural cellulose white; however, with natural dyes, there were a number of colors that were used to ornament costume and demonstrate social classes (McCallion, 2008, 225).” In Lee Kyung Ja’s research (2010) on Korea’s traditional dress (Overview of Korea, para. 17), the empress, known as the “mother of the empire,” served as a model for all women according to Confucian teachings. Kyung (2010) found that “the attempts to follow this model undermined royal prerogative and the exclusive status afforded certain garments and fabrics, hence the repeated and largely unsuccessful efforts to prohibit the wearing of elements of restricted dress” (para. 17). Wonsam and hwal-ot, the typical ceremonial robes worn by the highest-ranking women at court, were used for wedding ceremonies. During the eighteenth century, gache, elaborate wigs, symbolized wealth and power. Because the supply of human hair was limited, the demand increased rapidly and the price of wigs rose (Kyung, 2010, para. 17).

Political Conviction

The nineteenth century was a period of significant political and cultural change in Korea. According to Condra (2008), it revealed that “In Korea, political events at the turn of the century shifted women’s dress away from the tradition hanbok and into accordance with Western styles, though many still clung to the indigenous style. Men were compelled, all at once, by an 1899 government decree, to adopt Western dress. A more measured and organic pace applied to changes in women’s clothing, more along the model of Western fashion...

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