|The annual Duksung Hanbok Party requires partygoers to wear hanboks. Photo provided by Wearing Flower Shoes.
Surrounded by skyscrapers, traditional culture is often forgotten in the busy life of contemporary Seoul. “Wearing Flower Shoes” hopes to spread the beauty of Korean traditional clothes, hanbok, back into our daily lives.
The hanbok club of Duksung Women’s University, Wearing Flower Shoes, was established in 2011. This was when the famous hanbok designer Lee Hye-soon was denied entrance to a restaurant in the Shilla Hotel for wearing At that time, it was supposedly considered an inappropriate dress code for such a high-class restaurant.
“It was quite a sensational incident at the time,” said Lee Ji-min, the leader of the club’s accounting team. “There were many voices on campus calling out to bring back the beauty of hanbok. One of the ideas was holding a Hanbok Party.”
After organizing the first party in 2011, Wearing Flower Shoes was established as an official club to continue sharing the charm of our traditional clothes. Since then, the club has held the Duksung Hanbok Party annually for the last six years. During the party, everyone is required to wear a hanbok at Deogudang, a hanok located in the university. In the traditional tavern, various recreational events are prepared, including an “OX Quiz” regarding knowledge about hanbok and the Duksung Hanbok Queen Contest where the best hanbok dresser is selected.
The party not only focuses on traditional clothes, but traditional culture as well. Booths selling traditional accessories such as hairbands and fortune-telling cafés are available, as well as a traditional palanquin that people can ride on. Instead of dancing to pop songs like in other parties, people can join ganggangsulae, a traditional Korean circle dance play.
“An entire Hanbok Party is planned and proceeded by the students from scratch,” Lee stressed. “We lend hanboks to those who want to participate in the party but don’t own one. Organizing the entire process of contacting a hanbok lending business, casting an event MC, advertising, decorating and more are no easy task. But seeing the partygoers including foreign exchange students posting compliments online about how fun and unique our party was, we’re encouraged to continue hosting it every year.”
Wearing Flower Shoes also participates in other events that involve hanbok. Last February, they were invited to a Hanbok Club Party hosted in Itaewon and last October, they participated in “a good night to see ghosts,” a hanbok recreational event hosted at Sinchon.
Kim Hyo-won, the vice president of the club participated as a staff member in “A good night to see ghosts.” The experience she had with other partygoers was most memorable to her.
“We shared acorn jello in our booth and explained about Korean goblins to the guests,” Kim recalled. “I was surprised to see so many people aware of our ancient folklore. For example, they already knew that Korean goblins don’t have horns and that their images had derived from that of the Japanese goblin, oni. It was nice to know that people have more interest and knowledge in our traditional culture than I’d expected.”
Although most would agree on the exquisiteness of hanbok, it is rarely worn by the public due to its inconvenience and high cost. Its long skirts make it difficult to be worn on a rainy day while the cost of an average traditional hanbok begins from 300,000 won.
“I occasionally spot people wearing contemporary life hanbok,” Lee said. “As it is cheaper than the conventional hanbok and more convenient with its refined design, I think more people would start wearing them once they get over people’s attention on the street. The long wide skirt that covers up a large portion of the lower body is another feature many girls would find attractive.”
The increase in contemporary life hanbok, however, will not bring the demise of Korean conventional hanbok. According to a survey from Duksung Hanbok Party, majority of people preferred traditional hanbok to the modernized ones.
The ultimate goal of Wearing Flower Shoes is straightforward.
“We want to share the beauty of our traditional clothes through the annual Hanbok Party until its popularity deeply spreads to the daily lives of the public,” Lee said.