The hanbok (in South Korea) or Chosŏn-ot (in North Korea) is the traditional Korean clothes. The term "hanbok" literally means "Korean clothing".

The hanbok can be traced back to the Three Kingdoms of Korea period (1st century BC–7th century AD), with roots in the peoples of what is now northern Korea and Manchuria. Early forms of hanbok can be seen in the art of Goguryeo tomb murals in the same period, with the earliest mural paintings dating to the 5th century. From this time, the basic structure of the hanbok consisted of the jeogori jacket, baji pants, chima skirt, and the po coat. The basic structure of hanbok was designed to facilitate ease of movement and integrated many motifs of shamanistic nature. These basic structural features of the hanbok remains relatively unchanged to this day.

Hanbok is classified according to its purposes: everyday dress, ceremonial dress, and special dress. Ceremonial dresses are worn on formal occasions, including a child's first birthday, a wedding, or a funeral. Special dresses are made for shamans and officials.

It is a formal dress and most Koreans keep a hanbok for special times in their life such as wedding, Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving), and Seollnal (Korean New Year's), Children wear hanbok to celebrate their first birthday (Hangul: 돌잔치) etc. While the traditional hanbok was beautiful in its own right, the design has changed slowly over the generations.

The color of hanbok symbolized social position and marital status. Bright colors, for example, were generally worn by children and girls, and muted hues by middle aged men and women. Unmarried women often wore yellow jeogori and red chima while matrons wore green and red, and women with sons donned navy. The upper classes wore a variety of colors. Contrastingly, commoners were required to wear white, but dressed in shades of pale pink, light green, gray and charcoal on special occasions.

Also, the status and position can be identified by the material of the hanbok. The upper classes dressed in hanbok of closely woven ramie cloth or other high grade lightweight materials in warmer months and of plain and patterned silks throughout the remainder of the year. Commoners, in contrast, were restricted to cotton. Patterns were embroidered on hanbok to represent the wishes of the wearer. Peonies on a wedding dress, represented a wish for honor and wealth. Lotus flowers symbolized a hope for nobility, and bats and pomegranates showed the desire for children. Dragons, phoenixes, cranes and tigers were only for royalty and high-ranking officials

Construction and Design

Traditionally, women's hanbok consist of the jeogori (a blouse shirt or a jacket) and the chima (a full, wrap-around skirt). The ensemble is often known as 'chima jeogori'. Men's hanbok consist of jeogori and loose fitting baji (trousers).

  • Jeogori

The jeogori is the basic upper garment of the hanbok, worn by both men and women. It covers the arms and upper part of the wearer's body. The basic form of a jeogori consists of gilgitdongjeonggoreum and sleeves. Gil (Hangul: 길) is the large section of the garment on both front and back sides, and git (Hangul: 깃) is a band of fabric that trims the collar. Dongjeong (Hangul: 동정) is a removable white collar placed over the end of the git and is generally squared off. The goreum (Hangul: 고름) are coat-strings that tie the jeogori. Women's jeogori may have kkeutdong (Hangul: 끝동), a different colored cuff placed at the end of the sleeves.

  • Chima

Chima refers to "skirt," which is also called sang (裳) or gun (裙) in hanja. The underskirt, or petticoat layer, is called sokchima. According to ancient murals of Goguryeo and an earthen toy excavated from the neighborhood of Hwangnam-dong, Gyeongju, Goguryeo women wore a chima with jeogori over it, covering the belt.

Although striped, patchwork, and gored skirts are known from the Goguryeo and Joseon periods, chima were typically made from rectangular cloth that was pleated or gathered into a skirt band. This waistband extended past the skirt fabric itself and formed ties for fastening the skirt around the body.

  • Baji

Baji refers to the bottom part of the men's hanbok. It is the formal term for 'trousers' in Korean. Compared to western style pants, it does not fit tightly. The roomy design is aimed at making the clothing ideal for sitting on the floor. It functions as modern trousers do, but nowadays the term baji is commonly used in Korea for any kinds of pants. There is a band around the waistline of a baji for tying in order to fasten.

Baji can be unlined trousers, leather trousers, silk pants, or cotton pants, depending on style of dress, sewing method, embroidery and so on.

  • Po

Po is a generic term referring to an outer robe or overcoat. There are two general types of po, the Korean type and the Chinese type.

The Korean type is a common style from the Three Kingdoms of Korea period, and it is used in modern day. A belt was used until it was replaced by a ribbon during late Joseon dynasty. Durumagi is a variety of po that was worn as protection against cold. It had been widely worn as an outer robe over jeogori and baji. It is also called jumaguijuchaui, or juui.

  • Jokki and Magoja

Jokki (Korean: 조끼) is a type of vest, while magoja is an outer jacket. Although jokki and magoja were created at the end of the Joseon dynasty (1392–1897), directly after which Western culture began to affect Korea, the garments are considered traditional clothing. Each is additionally worn over jeogori for warmth and style. Magoja clothing was originally styled after the clothing of Manchu people, and was introduced to Korea after Heungseon Daewongun, the father of King Gojong, returned from his political exile in Tianjin in 1887. Magoja were derived from the magwae he wore in exile because of the cold climate there. Owing to its warmth and ease of wear, magoja became popular in Korea. It is also called "deot jeogori" (literally "an outer jeogori") or magwae.

Magoja does not have git, the band of fabric trimming the collar, nor goreum (tying strings), unlike jeogori and durumagi (an overcoat). Magoja was originally a male garment but later became unisex. The magoja for men has seop (Korean: 섶, overlapped column on the front) and is longer than women's magoja, so that both sides are open at the bottom. A magoja is made of silk and is adorned with one or two buttons which are usually made from amber. In men's magoja, buttons are attached to the right side, as opposed to the left as in women's magoja.

Children's Hanbok

Traditionally, Kkachi durumagi (literally "a magpie's overcoat") were worn as seolbim (Hangul: 설빔), new clothing and shoes worn on Korean New Year, while at present, it is worn as a ceremonial garment for dol, the celebration for a baby's first birthday. It is a children's colorful overcoat. It was worn mostly by young boys. The clothes is also called obangjang durumagi which means "an overcoat of five directions". It was worn over jeogori (a jacket) and jokki (a vest), while the wearer could put jeonbok (a long vest) over it. Kkachi durumagi was also worn along with headgear such as bokgeon (a peaked cloth hat), hogeon (peaked cloth hat with a tiger pattern) for young boys or gulle (decorative headgear) for young girls.