Every aspect of the life in Joseon used to be governed by the ideals of the Confucianism and that applied also to the designs of underclothes. The undergarments worn during that time and today with hanbok belong therefore without a doubt among the most sophisticated underwear in the world.
The general term used for undergarments regardless of the gender is the sokgot (속옷) and while women wore many layers of sokgot, for example, the upper class women used to put on up to seven layers of undergarments consisting of sokbaji (underpants), sokchima (underskirt), mujigi (petticoats) and finally sokjeogori (underjacket) or sokjeoksam (undershirt).
On the other hand, the men underclothes were far more simple in their composition – a sokjeogori (underjacket) and sokbaji (undertrousers).
The usual colour of sokgot was white, however, the final choice was always left to the woman and was dependent on the occasion.
For instance, a pink ramie sokjeoksam was a must for a wedding night or look at the magnificient see-through get-up that Jang Ok Jung put on to catch Lee Soon’s attention.
The material varied according to the social status and the season.
Jang Ok Jung wearing a silk sokgot
The members of the royal family and the noble women could afford silk or ramie sokgot while the commoners were restricted both by the law and their means to durable, cheap cotton.
1) SOKJEOGORI AND SOKBAJI
Both garments copy the outer jacket and pants in design and composition, the only difference is the colour (often white) and the material which is usually finer and more luxurious like silk, muslin or ramie.
Moon Jae Shin wearing black sokgot.
And as the king, LS has wears the best and therefore the lastest trend among Joseon aristocrats for a moonlight tryst is a transparent ramie underwear.
The men’s sokjeogori is longer that the one worn by women and loosely fits to the body. It has overlapping halfs bound together by the strap known as otgoreum.
The sokbaji are tightly tied to the boseon around the ankles by daenim (straps).
The Joseon women regarded sokgot to be very important and some of them used more luxurious fabrics for undergarments than for geotchima (outer skirt).
The highborn ladies used to wear several layers of underclothes such as darisokgot, soksokgot , dansokgot or gojengi and other types of petticoats to achieve a desired voluminous silhouette which was the paragon of feminine beauty.
1) SOKBAJI AND THE EVOLUTION OF PETTICOATS
The basic sokbaji worn by Joseon females are simple and indentical to those used by men, usually made of white materials or a colour that is coordinated with the shade of the sokjeogori and tightly tied on top of the boseon (socks) by a strap called daenim.
However, the design of women’s pants gradually evolved into bloomer-like undergarments in the Shilla period and apart from the typical sokbaji they’d started to put on a hybrid pant-skirt undergarment called the son-gun or malgun over it; in the late sixteenth century these underpants evolved into many forms of petticoatsand set themselves apart from the the sokbaji worn by men.
Among others, women began to wear over their sokbaji the dansokgot (bloomers with front and back openings), soksokgot (it’s shorter than an outer slip, the legs are wide like underpants, and part of the bottom is closed like underwear) and the bloomers in use today are known as the gojaengi.
The commoners referred to the petticoat garments as geotsokgot (outside underpants)as they were worn over the sokbaji. Since the petticoat often peeked through the folds of the hanbok in back or at the hem, women took special care to sew finer fabric or embroidery to the back and hems of their petticoats. Even commoners who could not afford expensice clothes for the whole petticoat are known to have added silk to just the fringes.
2) SOKCHIMA AND MUJIGI
The underskirt is in composition identical with with that of the outerskirt:
chima geun (skirt strap), uke geun (shoulder strap) and chima margi (skirtband).
Many women used to put on more layers of sokchima as a substitute for petticoats.
To create and emphasize the desired voluminous look, the upper class women often wore mujigi (rainbow) underskirts under their formal dresses.
The mujigi was probably named because it formed rainbow with its many layers of varied length skirts. Older women died the skirts in solid pink while younger women enjoyed different coloured dyes for the various layers.
3) SOKJEOGORI AND SOKJEOKSAM
Jang Ok Jung wearing a ramie sokjeogori
Both garments can be worn separately over the bound sokchima, however, while they are made from the same fabrics as the other parts of sokgot and both are put on top of the sokchima to cover the uderskirt’s belt, their composition significantly differs.
Jang Ok Jung sporting sokjeogori from fine cotton
The main difference lies in the fact that while the sokjeogori copies the standard jeogori and is bound together by the omnipresent otgoreum.
Jang Ok Jung wearing a lilac sokjeoksam
The sokjeoksam, on the other hand, is an undershirt of a slightly smaller size compared to the jeogori, worn under the hanbok jacket, and has a button closure instead of the cloth string plus unlike the underjacket is always worn during the wedding.
Jang ok Jung wearing a transparent sokjeoksam
The fact that Ok Jung put on this piece of lingerie and that LS personally braided her hair into the hairstyle worn only by married women reveals how much the night they spent together meant to them and that they both considered it as their wedding night and their small private wedding ceremony.
4) HEORITTI AND HEORIMARI
From 1650’s on, the hems of jeogori started shortening and shortening, reaching the length of only 20 cm in late 19th century. At this point it no longer covered the breasts therefore another types of underwear were developed to hide the revealing bosom.
One of them was a heoritti (the chest hider) which was tied around the breasts. Originally it appears to have been plain white, but later, seeing as they were exposed, they grew more decorated.
The second one was a piece known a heorimari which functioned like a corset
However, at some point around the end of the Joseon dynasty, women of the lower classes would stop wearing the heoritti altogether.
4) GODARISOKGOT AND DARISOKGOT
The godarisokgot and darisokgot were two of the most fundamental forms of underwear btoh for men and women in Joseon dynasty, it consisted of a cloth which measured approximately 1.5 meters and was folded and worn with a tie around the waist.