When in Korea, donning a glittery royal or pastel colored Hanbok is the real immersion experience.
Hanbok is the traditional Korean clothing. This would mean an era existed when Koreans would wear their hanboks like we do jeans and shirts today. They would cook their soup while on hanbok, sleep on tatami mats while on hanbok and rush to the royal courts while on hanbok. Nowadays, the hanbok is reserved for special occasions like weddings, birthdays and funerals.
The costumes would vary from vibrant to subtle colors, depending on marital status, prominence, profession, gender and age. The usual hanbok for women is composed of a jeogori or the short jacket and a chima or the skirt. Goreum is the long ribbon tied in the front of the jeogori. Daenggi, on the other hand, is the large ribbon attached to the tip of braided hair in women.
WHO TO SPEND THE HANBOK EXPERIENCE WITH
Make sure to create this memory with friends or family. If the friend happens to be the love of your life, you may want to ride the ‘couple fad’ and dress like a king and queen consort and play chivalry in photo ops. If the friend is a long-time acquaintance, simply dress up and play around the urban landscape of Seoul. Anything goes in the name of fun. This is when your five-year relationship with korean dramas comes handy.
Cool tip #1: Admission is FREE when wearing hanbok to these historical palaces in Seoul:
- Gyeongbokgung Palace
- Changdeokgung Palace
- Changgyeonggung Palace
- Deoksugung Palace
CHOOSING ONEDAY HANBOK
My own hanbok experience was made possible by Oneday Hanbok rental shop. I came across the rental shop in the internet while preparing for my travel itinerary to South Korea. Visiting their official website (www.onedayhanbok.com/) and reading the blogs of real travelers are the biggest help. But I did not take online reservations nor online payments, because I was skeptic and would like my schedule to be as flexible as possible. I just printed out the address of the establishment, used googlemaps and the korean subway system to navigate. In fact, this was how my actual travel notes looked like:
That easy. Wherever direction you’ll come from, finding the nearest subway station around is almost always the best option and just work your way out from there. If there’s one super reliable resource for foreigners in South Korea, its got to be the subway system.
ON OUR WAY TO THE RENTAL SHOP
Here is how we found Oneday Hanbok.
My friend and I took the first option, through the Chungmuro Station Exit No. 8.
That is what we see in photos. But what really goes on inside? Here’s the real deal.
THE FIERCE COMPETITION FOR THE PRETTIEST HANBOK
There’s a wardrobe neatly lined with jeogori and chima of the prettiest colors imaginable. The rainbow colored stripped jeogori are eye-catching, while the paler hues are humble. The floral prints and embroideries are nice details to the traditional ensemble. It was like Asia’s Top Model. Every lady was snatching and rejecting hanboks at the same time. Battling what would look better. Which color would suit better.
Cool tip # 2: Word of CAUTION for fellow travelers who love to document themselves: you may want to exercise privacy and modesty during this stage. Aside from nobody else was taking photos at that time, just assume cultural diversity amongst guests to avoid nasty situations.
FITS ME OR FITS ME NOT
There would be assistants who you could ask to show you the proper way to put on the costume. You must initiate to ask than wait for them to come to your aid.
For the information of the curious misadventurers, there is a simple white clothing cut similar to the jeogori that must be worn under the hanbok. This is the traditional version for undergarment. There’s no need to be alarmed since all garments inner or outer seemed to be properly washed and pressed. From my experience, I did not remember developing any skin irritations for that matter. For emphasis, the undergarment is only an upper undergarment.
For the extra sensitive, you may want to prepare a thin white sando or tanktop just for this activity. It can be worn underneath the white traditioanl undergarment. It must be white and low necked to avoid the risk of ruining your photos once the complete costume is on. You wouldn’t want extra fabric sticking out of the hanbok neckline or the color of the fabric underneath overpowering the beauty of your chosen hanbok.
The fitting room is the curtain type and not as tightly secure on the sides, too. I just wished the others outside would sense that I’m inside. Otherwise, my adventure could have started before it was supposed to.
But before going in, bring the white undergarment and your chima of choice. Remember, the skirt will dominate the overall look, taking up at most 80% of your body figure. The color of your chima will practically serve as backdrop of every photo you wish to take.
Cool tip #3: It would be wise to come EARLY to make all hanbok options available for you. The opening hours of OneDay Hanbok has changed to 9am to 7pm. Keep yourself updated using their official website to be as accurate during the time of your visit to South Korea.
The consequence for arriving later is: one, the real good ones will have already been taken; and second, the options for your body size may have already been exhausted. The prettier options for the sizes as you go extreme (XS or XXL) become fewer. If you possess the more uncommon body size that particular day, then you’re lucky for them hanboks would be practically untouched.
Here’s mine when I decided to go for neutral and earthy colors that day:
Then you can go ahead and try on different types of jeogori that matches your chima. You can do this outside the fitting rooms, since you’re practically dressed anyway.
Once done, you could proceed to the room “next door” (only, there was no door). Just behind the fitting rooms are large mirrors and chairs similar to dressing rooms of artists and actors.This is where they would usually be made pretty by their makeup artists, only that this time you are your own hair and makeup artist.
It’s probably a mortal sin in Korea to go out of the house with a bare face, so looking fine is a must. Luckily, my friend brought her tools and we were able to finish up without looking too out of place. Braiding was totally “in” and those girls were masters of it. Even if we were less skilled, we weren’t self-conscious because everyone was just minding her own business.
Cool tip # 4: The basic hair pins were aplenty and for no charge. With creativity, you’d be able to achieve that classic hair style to match that classic outfit.
Who would have thought of bringing hair pins in South Korea.
Think you’re finished? Nah, you’ll still look bare without those accessory must-haves.
The shelves are full of neatly stacked purse and head bands, matching the hanbok colors. What a task was it to choose among those pretty things. And once you’ve narrowed down the options, it always gets harder to choose.
Total accessories we put on are: headband, purse, and daenggi.
FINAL STEPS BEFORE DESCENT
Presence of mind checked, we secured our baggage on closets below the wardrobe of hanboks. Paid our due, put on our own shoes (because not included in the rental, or I was not aware), and headed out with a smile. Truthfully, it was exciting.
WORRIES OF THE TROPICAL NEWBIES
- Traveling to a foreign land with a pair of comfortable shoes is only but practical. If you’re conscious that you’re shoes may be a mismatch for the costume, don’t worry because you’re probably right. Worry not since the skirt is long enough to cover the odds of exposing your footwear. With few exemptions, of course.
- I came from a tropical country and the coldest place in my home would be the fridge. Though it was the 3rd week of April, it was cold by my standards. I was anxious of the weather that I insisted on wearing my blue shirt underneath the hanbok. Besides that, I even hand-carried an orange woolen jacket. I soon discovered how a nuisance both items would be. I took pains keeping them away from the view of the camera whenever we would shoot.
- I thought the costume was thin. Unexpectedly, I found the costume warm and suitable for the weather. Since I was wearing layers upon layers of cloth, body heat is efficiently maintained. Besides, we were mostly walking under the heat of the sun. First, when we got lost. And second, even when we were not lost.
- Walking on the streets and widely spaced palaces and traditional villages, the place had very few shades to offer. It would be tempting to open an umbrella. But that is not very popular here, unlike in the Philippines. It is cute though to open the transparent umbrellas in the rain. Instead, keep yourself sun protected and only wear face products with SPF. Its almost a basic ingredient in Korean skin care regimen. No wonder they always look dewy and fair.
- You’re not photogenic? Don’t worry, the hanboks are totally photogenic. Try standing in the middle of the road or sitting on a corner of the train and shoot. Whatever normal thing you do as a normal person will be extraordinary because you’re wearing that hanbok. Even children will turn heads on you. The senior members of the population would also enjoy the scene. The reactions are even funnier when you get to the places you are most “in”: the palaces and traditional villages. They would think you were part of the attraction. Fellow Filipinos nearby would mistake us to be Koreans, too. Not bad.
Cool tip # 5: If you are time constrained like we were, try the places we visited to maximize free admission and culture at the same time. The below attractions are decently distanced from OneDay Hanbok: