National dress may be many things – symbolic, traditional and time honoured – but rarely is it considered a thing of beauty in its own right. Worn under sufferance by pageant queens and others on parade, the pages of Vogue are not its natural habitat: at least, not until Kim Kyung Soo was invited by Vogue Korea to create a shoot that focused on the Hanbok.
Kim Kyung Soo’s Full Moon Story takes this traditional Korean garment, which has evolved over 1,600 years, and captures it at its most refined in images that have a calm, lyrical quality. Given centre stage are the two key elements of the costume; colour and silhouette. This Korean formal wear demonstrates a mastery of ‘colour blocking’ that predates the collections of Marc Jacobs by centuries. Its shape is equally distinctive, characterised by a tight upper garment and voluminous skirt (the hanbok completely conceals its wearer's body shape). Balance is achieved through clean lines and simple curves.
Consistent but not static, the hanbok has altered over time, particularly the jacket known as a ‘Jeogori’. In 2009 The Suk Joo-sun Memorial Museum of Dankook University used clothing from its 10,000-piece collection of Chosun era clothes (excavated from burial sites) to trace the trajectory of Hanbok design, from ‘the free-size abundance that was popular in the 16th century to early 20th century top coats that leave little to the imagination.’
Today Koreans wear the Hanbok on national holidays such as ‘Seollal’, Korean New Year; ‘Chuseok’, a harvest festival; and family festivities such as ‘Hwangap’, which marks parents turning 60 – but Kyung Soo eschews these lively backdrops in favour of serenity. ‘I wanted a neutral stage; only shadows and reflections mattered to me. Colours, faces and models were enhanced by cold and light tones creating an almost surreal feeling.’
To see this feature by Beth Smith in its entirety, order your copy of Selvedge issue 48 here.
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Images courtesy of Kim Kyung Soo / Galerie Paris-Be