So, I finally did the Korean hanbok experience! I put it on my Korean list to-do when I arrived. When I first came to Korea it wasn’t really a major attraction nor were there many places advertising his opportunity, but over the last 3 years it has become a popular activity with tourists. I personally though it was a great idea and opportunity to experience a new fun side of Korean tradition. So one Summer afternoon in June, I headed out to Jongno to rent a hanbok.
What is a Korean Hanbok?
The Hanbok’s design is influenced by many other earlier designs of the nomadic tribes of Northern Asia. The first common style to the Hanbok can be traced back to Mongolia and the designs can be seen on ancient Mural Walls of the Gogoryeo Dynasty era (what Korea was first called). The intricate design and patterns are influenced by trade by way of Mongolia from Persia and the middle-east.
The hanbok literally mean Korean Clothes, but over the years like most attire it changes and comes to represent class and status within society. The basic design of the hanbok has seen many foreign influence on its design. The main contribution to it was during the Mongolian treaty between Korea and Mongolia in the 13th century. During this time many Mongolian princesses were married in royal Korean houses and their changes to the hanbok has had an everlasting effect on the attire since.
In return Gogoreyo (Korea) has influenced Mongoli’as traditional dress in making the royals and wealthy ladies of the court wear hanboks too.
What Makes up a Ladies Hanbok?
Jeogori-this is the outer top that is worn by both men and women. It is usually worn with a colourful ribbon along the collar and chest.
Chima– means skirt and is the most decorative part of the dress.
Baji– for men this is the baggy pants.
Renting a Hanbok
There are several hanbok rental shops along Insadong and in Jongno nearby Gyeongbokgung Palace. Insadong is a popular tourist area so prices will be higher, and so are the rental shops that are easily visible by the Palace. Usually, you will get 2 options for type of hanbok to rent. The basic and plain coloured fabric hanboks are about KRW 15 000 to KRW 20 000 for 2 hours, thereafter you pay extra. For the “character” fabric designed hanboks, or ones with intricate patterns and embroidery on you will pay between KRW 30-50 000 for 2 hours. You will pay about KRW 5, 000 extra for hair accessories.
Luckily for me, I had found a street n Samcheondong far to the back when I was exploring the area last summer on Gwangbeokjeol day. Besides little cafes and boutiques, there were also smaller hanbok rental shops. There weren’t many but they were much cheaper.
I found an accessory store and hanbok rental shop called ANGEL 524 ! They had a small, yet really beautiful collection of hanboks for only KRW 10 000 for 2 hours, and it didn’t matter what design or style you took! Plus, the accessories came at no extra charge.
Choosing a Hanbok
I’ve had this on my to-do list since returning to Korea. I had blue on my mind for some reason, so along with my friend Steph, we picked out a deep blue chima with gold embroidery, while I opted for a white jeogori.
The shop assistant helped me in the changing room and I put my belongings in the locket. As the accessories were for free, I decided to go bold and choose the big fancy red hat. Why not?
So fully adorned along with my sneakers, we made our way down to Gyeongbokgung Palace for a fun photo session.
Having lived in Seoul for a few years, I have already been twice to the palace. Therefore, I already knew where I wanted to take photos and get some cool shots of the architecture as a backdrop to compliment the hanbok.
It was a Saturday so I expected the Palace to be full, but I decided to go really early at around 11 am and it pleasantly quiet. We took some photos of other hanbok wearing tourists too for fun.
Tips for Great Hanbok Pictures at Gyeongbokgung
Assuming you will be renting one in Seoul and getting your experience here, I put together some tips for getting the best pics at the site.
- On a previous occasion I had seen a girl in a hanbok walking down one of the corridors long the entrance. I knew it would make an amazing photo and ran to catch the opportunity. Since seeing it planned to take my own hanbok pictures in the same corridor. The corridors are a rich beautiful red, contrasted with green in perfect alliance. They can be found all along the main entrance.
- Go early! I cannot express how important this is. Any time before lunch will be key to getting crowd free photos, and even just looking for a hanbok. Seoul is a late night city. Shops and places usually open around 10-11 am, so be the early bird.
- Get some outdoor pictures along the lake during the Spring, Autumn and Summer seasons. As you can see I did my hanbok season in June during summer. It’s not Korea’s hottest period, but the outdoors gardens are in full bloom which creates beautiful scenery.
- Take photos in unconventional areas is you can, you never know when you can capture something special.
- From my experience, get a bit of blue sky in. it creates a great contrast with the deep red of the architecture.
- Have fun! Be silly and capture the candid moments in your pretty hanbok. Sometimes these shots add more personality to the photos.
- The Korean Folk museum has some great outdoor facilities showing the progression of Korea’s development from its historical period to modernisation over the years. They have an original tram, traditional Korean cottage and some other cool structures displayed outside the premises.
What a day
We finished everything in just 1 hour. I think it’s because it was neither me nor my friend’s first time at the palace and we knew the place well. We literally just went for the photos.
After the hanbok fun, we had some refreshing lunch at Again Fresh in Samcheongdong 5-ga gil. It was just across the road from Angel 524 Hanbok Rental.
The hanbok experience was super fun. The dress itself is rather light and not uncomfortable, although I wish I had worn cuter shoes. I’m glad I got to do it seeing as I did the kimono experience in Tokyo, Japan, I felt I had to do this in Korea. I would definitely recommend this for anyone stopping over in Seoul or expats living in Korea.