Monday, September 5, 2011

Hanbok Project Part II : Making the Jeogori + Folkwear Pattern Review

This is the shape of the hanbok as we know it today: characterized by loose, baggy sleeves, stiff fabric, clean lines, and simple curves. Unlike other Asian costumes, which emphasize the female silhouette by belting or taking in seams at the waistline, the hanbok derives its elegance from completely concealing its wearer's body shape. Which can either make it fantastic or frustrating to wear; on one hand, the hanbok is extremely forgiving for those with less than hourglass figures - some even point out its efficacy at concealing pregnancy- on the other, the ample amount of fabric needs to be tailored perfectly so that it doesn't look frumpy or make its wearer look like she's drowning in a swathe of cloth. Poorly drafted hanboks can look a lot worse than bad kimonos, for example.


Granted, the hanbok IS perfectly tailored and the Tang dynasty costume on the right is modeled by a miniature doll, so I might not have tried to compare at all - but the point is about the placement of the waistline: the empire cut here, in my opinion, makes all the difference between elegant and errrtrocity if you intend to walk around cocooned in a bolt of fabric. Although, I admit my judgment might have been slightly influenced by the clip-art storks and rainbow gradient. The point of the matter is, the lack of a belt or tapering in at the waist does make it unflattering for some body types, especially if you are short, plump, both; or have narrow shoulders.

But history allows for that if you are trying to create something that suits you while staying true to period authenticity. Before the massive digression which led me to ogle at Chinese costumes on Google images, I wanted to talk about the evolution of the hanbok's silhouette. Many people are unfamiliar with the earlier styles less commonly portrayed in Korean period dramas:

This picture illustrates changes in the shape of the hanbok from the 16th to 20th century. What we see are increasingly tailored garments, the shortening of the jeogori (jacket) to ridiculous proportions, and a corresponding rise in the waistline, with the waistband becoming a form of breast binding in the final picture. The more subtle differences are changes in the curve and width of the sleeves, and differences in the placement and thickness of the ties used to close the jeogori. The full article is here for the interested and it emphasizes the impact of socio-economic factors on these fashion trends.

I decided to go with the 19th century silhouette for my design because the position of the waistband is lower than that of the "empire styled" 20th century hanbok as we know it today, therefore giving the illusion of fuller hips and a small waist (which I lack!) The 19th century style also allows for the white of the waistband to peak out beneath the jeogori, but not so much so as to become a rather uncomfortable-looking breast binding. The tight(er) sleeves also didn't make my arms look as thin as twigs in a bag, while retaining some of the elegant curves that the 18th century design lacked.

A popular interpretation and modernization of the 19th century style also draws on dance and gisaeng costumes of the period, popularized by the drama Huang Jin Yi. The best thing about these costumes is the explosion of extravagance in colour and material, achieved by the layering of skirts which allows for a lot of creativity in the use of fabric (translucent, opaque? stiff, drapey?), patterns (traditional arts include fabric painting on skirt...embroidery on underskirts, tiny flower/fortune motifs etc.) and texture (rough, shiny, etc.):

The voluminous skirts and layering allow for a lot of potential puffing, pinning and pulling to create interesting curves, as Sonjjang demonstrates in their modernized hanbok collection:

I'm totally in love with it, so 19th century it is!

Having decided on the silhouette, I started working on the pattern. Now I've mentioned earlier that I've used Folkwear's #141 Misses XS which produced fairly decent results, although I wasn't too happy about the size of the collar and sleeves. Let's take a look at it:

I compared it to the Korean pattern that Sonjjang provided (if you spend above $50 in their shop!) and these were the differences:

1. The seam joining the bodice to the sleeve is curved in Folkwear, while in the Korean pattern it is straight, like a T tunic. I preferred the straight seam because it gives more room for the shoulders and it is a more period accurate cut for a time when French curve rulers were not yet invented.

2. The Korean pattern has two extra tiny bits for the closure of the jeogori, which I suppose you can make in an alternative colour for some added contrast and interest. I really couldn't be bothered to cut those out and sew them because really, it's much easier to just make it in one piece. Although, the diagonal edge in piece F doesn't work for me so I altered it to give it a rounded look similar to that in Sonjjang's.

3. Sonjjang's has an extra seam in the middle for the the back, compare with piece H which is cut on the fold in Folkwear's. I really don't think this matters, and I followed Folkwear's pattern because again, it saves on sewing one extra seam. I think the Korean method was probably followed to economize use of cloth in the ancient days, as for point 2, because tiny bits and bobs could be salvaged from scrap pieces of fabric.

4. The jacket ties are more tapered in Sonjjang's but this is not much of an issue really.

5. The last, and most obvious difference, was in the shape of the sleeves. The last time I used Folkwear's, I was appalled by the seeming disproportion of the sleeves to the bodice was HUGE. See. Here too. So I had to alter the bodice to fit the largest kid's sized sleeve, which also came in the pattern packet. Something also wasn't right about the shape of the sleeve, and it didn't drape in the way it's supposed to according to the photos of Korean-made hanboks. Then I realized what was wrong after comparing with Sonjjang's:

The one in newspaper is what I drafted based on Sonjjang's measurements. It is bell shaped, with a single convex curve tapering in at the cuffs. The length of the sleeves is also longer. These make a huge difference in the drape of the fabric. Instead, the concave shape of Folkwear's sleeve takes it in too much and produces a different effect, especially since the sleeve length (the top line) is shorter and doesn't curve in towards the end. This is the only major problem with Folkwear's pattern, in my opinon, but it can be easily salvaged with a bit of tape and newspaper. Another interesting thing to point out about the hanbok's sleeve construction is the repetition of 1:2 ratios in the draft:

It also occurs approximately in the comparison of lengths between the jeogori and the chima, as well as in some common designs of traditional norigae, where the focal pendant/knot is half the length of the bundled tassels beneath it. It is possible that this ratio holds meaning in Confucian philosophy, given its emphasis on ritual clothing and the expression of virtues through dress.

Anyway, here is my final pattern:

Cut out and put the pieces together:

Sewing the neckband to the front and back pieces is the most difficult stage of the construction process because you have to be very careful with the corners and turns while not getting excess fabric caught...but this was a lot easier than the first time because the whanggeum was such a dream to work with. I made the cuffs and collar out of the wrong side of the fabric.

The inside is nice and black. All that's left to do is to sew the sleeves up wrong side out. I did have to shorten the width of the sleeve again by 5cm because it was still too baggy and looked huge on me.

And voila :) I'm pretty happy with the finished product. Well it's not exactly finished yet. I haven't added the jacket lining or the georum and I'm still thinking about redoing the satiny white fabric, because it is too shiny and wrinkly. I haven't been able to find anything online about the construction of the dongjeong, a removable white collar attached to the rim of the neckline to accentuate the face and neck, so if any one could tell me how, or what material it is made out of, that would be a great help.

What I did for this, was to fold in half and iron a satin ribbon, stitch the ends with a tiny tiny stitch, pin very carefully, then attach it to the collar, catching the folded layer on the other side as I would with bias tape.

It worked pretty well, and I would be pleased with it if not for the ridiculous shine. And it's supposed to be stiff. I really shouldn't have used satin. But I couldn't find ribbon in any other suitable material...and bias tape looks too coarse.

Any ideas? Starched cotton? With anti-fray glue?

Better photos and updates on the chima soon to come.


  1. wow, well done Sharon I'm very impressed! haha my own attempts at sewing are just so sad... shall stick to what I know best ;p or spend more time observing your work! hmm i guess a starched medium weight cotton could be used instead of satin? (poach it from an old shirt of your father's XD)

  2. Oh my god Sharon haha this looks intricate and amazing! So much research went into it :) And the end product looks lovely! What Charmaine says about starched cotton sounds feasible for the collar. I know for kimonos there are also those type of sew-on collars, but I can't be sure what material that is made out of...

  3. Thanks for the suggestions Charmaine and Onyee! I haven't started experimenting with it yet...and starched cotton definitely sounds like a good idea. Will try it and see how it goes! (Although, Phi has mentioned a potential ant attack if starch is overused!) Anyway I emailed Sonjjang about it and the nice lady boss who replied said traditional dongjeongs are made with guksa ( hanji (special Korean paper). I'm guessing the paper acts as a sort of interfacing and stiffener...either glued or sewn together, then pressed flat to the collarband. So perhaps cotton anti-fray glue and iron-on interfacing would work too. We'll see how it goes! :)

  4. How did u put the lining in... I'm having the hardest time trying to figure it

  5. Hello,

    If you refer to the Folkwear pattern I posted above, cut another set of pattern pieces F, G and H (on the fold) with your lining fabric and sew together at the shoulder seams as you would with the normal fabric. Staystich the jacket neckline and clip the corners until the staystitching line to prevent stretching of the curved areas. After that, put the lining and jacket fabric right sides together, and sew lining to jacket along the neckline edge (your neckband will be tucked in between these two pieces). Press garment away from neckband and trim seam allowances. Next sew lining pieces right sides together at side seams, trim and press open. Pull sleeves through the lining armholes to keep it out of the way. Right sides together, sew the remaining hem and front edges of jacket and jacket lining together. Turn right side out through the jacket armholes. On the inside of the jacket, turn under 10mm of the lining fabric around the armholes and slipstitch to the jacket armhole seam allowances. Press and you should be done!

    Hope that helps somewhat! I would recommend that you buy the Folkwear pattern because it has very clear illustrations and instructions on how to put the hanbok together, even if the pattern isn't very accurate :)

  6. Oh if you take a look at I posted some pictures there about the lining.

  7. thank you so much...I will try....I'm more of a hands and visual i get it this time around.

  8. Like you said putting on the collar was the hardest part on the jeogori....You did a darn good job on your 2nd one...

  9. Haha thanks...and good luck with yours! I'd love to see the finished outfit :)

  10. im making my pattern now and im going crazy over your sleeves ... why does it look slimmer than in usual hanbok pictures

  11. I made the gisaeng hanbok's jeogori. The sleeves are narrower than the modern one.

  12. how do you do? My name is Yuni. I am Indonesian who lived in Germany. Korean dress, like hanbok, is very popular in my hometown. I read your blog when I try to find the pattern of jeogori. I want to make one for myself. Would you mind to send me the pattern? You can sent an email to me at

  13. About the white collar, a hanbok maker / fabric dealer pointed me to a thick cotton that feels starched and stiff, with a flat, matte appearance. Of course, this is easy to find in Seoul! I think a good alternative would be just doubling up a white cotton (or using a light canvas backing) and keeping it well pressed. Starch would help, but I don't think it's necessary.

  14. Hi Sharon! I went to sonjjang hanbok and couldnt the cuts of cloth that u had to make the hanbok. I would like to sew one as a birthday gift to a loved one of mine. Do you where i can buy one online or how to can make/ cut them if so what material should I use?
    Thanks ๐Ÿ˜€๐Ÿ˜€๐Ÿ˜€

    1. Hello! Unfortunately sonjjang has stopped selling their cloth online anymore :( although you could try contacting them anyway - they seem quite helpful and may be willing to sell you some! They still sell custom made hanboks if you want to buy one. Alternatively if you can read Chinese, Taobao sells cloth and the finished costumes too. If you want to make your own, it's also all right to experiment with non-Korean fabrics. Just be sure to get a stiff enough fabric for your top - taffeta would be a good choice :)

  15. I’d have to suggest you use interfacing to make the color stiff. It’s cheap and honestly a less thought of solution. I realize it’s not period accurate but it would help if you choose to use fabrics with little weight or a lot of slip.