When modern Koreans wear the hanbok, the Korean traditional wear consisting of the billowy chima skirt and the small bolero-like jeogori jacket, it appears they have little idea on just how different their hanbok is from that of the old. At the dawn of the 20th century there appears to have been something of a scramble to "reform" the hanbok, ostensibly for "practical reasons". The chima of the modern reformed hanbok seems to have a sleeveless bodice, so that rather than being fastened on the waist or under the breast it hangs from the shoulders. There are, it seems, also chima with wide and lavishly embroidered skirtbands that fasten over the breast, much like a tube top. Having never seen a hanbok in real life, my knowledge on the workings of the modern hanbok is patchy at best.
Rather than saying it was for practical reasons, let's cut the crap, Koreans. Admit it that you didn't want everyone to think that you let your women walk around with their tits hanging out of their shirts.
From the mid-16th century to mid-17th century, the jeogori was quite long, more like a proper coat than the little jacket it is now, maxing at 78 cm in lenght measured from the shoulder. However, from 1650's on, the hem started shortening and shortening, reaching the shortness of only 20 cm in late 19th century. At this point it no longer covered the breasts, and while the skirtband of the chima had also climbed with the hem of the jeogori, it now fastened just under the breasts instead of the natural waist. Because of this, women came to adopt a piece of clothing called heoritti, which they would tie around their bosom. Originally the heoritti appears to have been plain white, but later, seeing as they were exposed, they grew more decorated.
However, at some point around the end of the Joseon dynasty, women of the lower classes would stop wearing the heoritti altogether.
Hate to put out the eyes of anyone reading this, but...
Also from 1951.
Date unknown, but looks like turn of the century.
Also from 1900.
Date also unknown, but also looks like turn of the century.
But why did baring ones breasts come into vogue? Han Hee-Sook writes in his (her?) article "Women’s Life during the Chosŏn Dynasty" thus:
Another important task for women from the commoner and lowborn classes was that of bearing children. Women belonging to these classes exhibited a unique fashion style after giving birth which basically consisted of them exposing their breasts, a practice which appears to have been limited to women from the commoner and lowborn classes. Although it is unclear when such a practice began to take root, it appears to have been closely linked with the emergence of the preference for sons. This practice of bearing one’s breasts after giving birth to a son and proudly breastfeeding the child in public, over time, became firmly entrenched within the culture of these classes. As such, the bearing of one’s breasts came to be seen as a sign that a woman had carried out her duty of producing a male heir.However, in 2008, in the journal Feminism published by Korea Womens Studies Institute, Chun Boh-Kyun wrote in his (her?) snappily titled article "조선 여성의 ‘젖가슴 사진’을 둘러싼 기억의 정치 - 그녀들의 ‘미니저고리’가 ‘아들자랑’이 된 사연" (Feminism, 2008: 4, pp. 125-157) that the idea of women baring their breasts being a form of braggery about having a son was a theory early Western delegates came up when captioning the photos they took of bare breasted Koreans. One that Koreans were only too happy to adopt as the official explanation. But is it the real explanation? The article seems quite interesting, as it deals with the politics of remembering and how the pride over sons was construed as the official shared explanation. The only problem is that I don't know korean...
International Journal of Korean History, 2004: 6, pp. 141–146, 152–153
Could this reformatory and revisionist reaction to Westerners evaluating gaze be the reason Korea skipped straight from this innocent primitivity to the repressiveness of today? At least I hear that Koreans are repressed. I do know they're somewhat backward.
Anyway, when I first heard about this, I envisioned nubile young beauties with their perky little breasts peeking out from under their jeogori. Now I weep, because that fantasy is dead. Wasn't there even one hot babe to photograph..?