Wonsam is a ceremonial overcoat worn by female members of the royal family, court ladies (sang goong), wives of high-ranking governmental officials and on the special occasion of their wedding also by women living outside the palace during the Joseon Dynasty. It’s been also called a daeui (big clothing)daesu (wide sleeves) and jangsam (long clothing). The queen, princess consort, and consort to the first son of the crown prince wore it as a soryebok, an attire for small ceremonies, while wives of high officers and sang goong wore it as daeryebokan attire for major ceremonies.JOJ is being promoted to Suk Won rank in a traditional ceremony

Given the strong chinese influence on the history of Korean peninsula (many members of Joseon aristocracy and merchants often traveled to China) just like many other traditional Korean dresses wonsam’s design was also based on an overcoat with broad sleeves worn originally in the Tang Dynasty. However, over centuries it evolved into a distinctive form of Korean clothes.The gown was generally made of silk. Wonsam worn during winter months used dana thick silk witha glossy surface compossed of asatin weave whereas in summer the women opted for sa, a losely woven silkA nokwonsam with a phoenix emblem

The color and decorations of wonsam around the chest, shoulders and back represent the wearer’s rank (dragon for a queen or an emperess, phoenix and floral patterns for princesses and concubines). JOJ sporting a violet wonsam after being promoted to Jang Suk Won

The emperess was entitled to a hwangwonsam (황원삼, hwang meaning gold), however, that was possible only after 1897 when China’s political influence weakened and King Gojong proclaimed the Korean Empire and declared himself the Empreror.Hwangwonsam (황원삼)

The queens donned a hongwonsam (홍원삼, hong = red), jajeokwonsam (자적원삼, purple) was worn by concubines and princess consorts while nokwonsam (녹원삼, nok = green) princesses and women of aristocracy.Hongwonsam (홍원삼)

Jajeokwonsam (자적원삼)

The sang goong put on a simple chorok wonsam (초록원삼) during the ceremonial events.

Kaeseong wonsam (개성원삼) was worn by the women of the Kaeseong region.Kaeseong wonsam (개성원삼)

Nokwonsam (녹원삼) with a red daedae (waistbelt)

The nokwonsam and chorok wonsam were also used by ordinary brides, granted as a sort of special privilege. Since the wedding day is supposed to be the happiest day in a woman’s life, the dress is only worn while travelling to the bridegroom’s house in a sedan chair. However, unlike the royal brides commoners weren’t allowed to wear the golden patterns on their wonsam.The princesses wear a yellow samhuijan jeogori with scarlet or blue daran chima (skirt with gold patterns) under the gown. A scarlet waistand, a daedae, maintains the whole whole outfit.InHyun wearing a yellow samhuijan jeogori and a red daran chima under her nokwonsam. On the table, you can spot hwagwan with doturak daenggi and deurim daenggi.The haistyle is known as sushik and consists of a longer bongjam (phoenix binyeo) or other type of binyeo that is put through the chignon and on which is fastened either an apdaenggi or deurim daenggi, types of front ribbons that are used to be hung in front and fall across the bride’s chest.  IH wearing a deurim danggi (a front ribbon that has the little pearls unlike apdaenggi) and a doturak daenggi

A headdress called hwagwan (which is a more expensive and intricate counterpart of a jokduriis placed  on top of the head with doturak daenggi  , an enormous ribbon fixed at the back of it and hunging down the back. After the first brief informal greeting, she changes into a flower dress and wears her hair in the oyo style, forming a topknot with a lock. With the exception of a wedding ceremony, a hairstyle known as keun meori was worn with wonsam by royals and court ladies alike. This complicated coiffure was created from eoyeo meori by adding a gigantic wooden structure called a tteoguji (떠구지)which was actually used to be made of actual human hair that was later replaced by wood because it caused headaches, migranes and the ladies couldn’t stop themselves from fainting.Depending of the social status of the wearer tteoljam, dwikkoji and bichigae of various shapes and materials adorned the haistyle.The difference in decoration according the social status


The Dowager Queen Kim wearing a hongwonsam while the Great Dowager Queen Jo is sporting a noeui with the typical golden circles adorning the whole robe.
This ceremonial robe was designed for the queens consorts and likely the wives of the late kings, for example the Queen Dowager, Royal Queen Dowager, or Grand Royal Queen Dowager. The overcoat was made from red silk with circular gold patterns all embroidered all over it.


  1. Oh yay! I wanted to see a post on royal “wedding” clothing!!! Sooo beautiful.
    I see that JOJ is being promoted to Jang Suk Won here, which is a concubine status I think. Does that mean she didn’t get a ceremony when she become sang goong?

    1. It’s the first part of the royal wedding during the second part the bride wears the chijeokui just as IK in the Royal Wedding & Coronation special (that post was one of my first so chijeokui and myongbok will be getting new posts with more and upgraded info).

      The favoured sang goong was announced to the inner court by the Queen Consort, hovewer, this rank of high court official doesn’t count among concubines so the ceremony is far more smaller.

      The promotion to Suk Won level is far more grand because it also means becoming the member of the royal family therefore her wonsam has those golden and silver patterns. Sang goong and commoners weren’t allowed to wear them on their wonsam (they wore only simple chorok wonsam or nokwonsam).

  2. WOW! Awesome post! Really love it >_<

    Ah, since you wrote about Joseon fashion so much, I just wondering, do you have any plan to make a post about Joseon Physician or Royal Physician? I really wanna know about clothes or accessories they wore…

    Thank you 🙂

    1. Thank you! I’m glad you like it!

      I see your are a fan of medical sageuk :-). Which one do you like? Dae Jang Geum, Horse Doctor, Mandate of Heaven, or a completely different one? I admit I have never watched one and my sageuk watch list has included so far only a handful of titles (JOJ, SKKS, Faith, The Legend, Iljimae and TMETS) so I’m not really well versed in the fashion of Joseon doctors and uinyeo and right now I have so many posts planned that I don’t really have time. But your question made me really curious about it so I will look into it and try to write a little article about the topic maybe at the end of August. Unfortunately, not sooner because I’ll be travelling in summer and I’d like lo finish at least most of the posts I have planned.

      I’m really looking foward to your comments 🙂 (I’m going to google some screencaps from medical sageuk to find out what I’m getting myself into ;-))

      1. Really happy that you reply my comment >_<

        Well, yeah, I'm a big fan of sageuk and as you know there are many information about court attire, like your post, that really help me to know about Joseon clothes. But unfortunately the post about physician clothes is really hard to find, so I just wondering…

        I'd like to know about physician clothes in Mandate of Heaven or Horse Doctor. But, it doesn't matter actually, I'd love to know the other too…

        I do appreciate it, if you really wanna make some post about it someday. I will be so happy.

        You don't need to be so rush about it, just take your time, and I'll be waiting 🙂

        Ah, by the way, my name is Riri, from Indonesia. Really happy to know about your blog. I'll read all your work and give my comment as well 🙂

        Enjoy your summer holiday 🙂

      2. Hi, Riri 🙂 !!! Delighted to make your acquaintance! I’m from the Czech Republic by the way 🙂 .
        Unfortunately, despite the popularity of Hallyu stars sageuk still don’t belong among the most popular kdrama genres so it’s not easy to find sources in english for most of the robes and acceccories that are more specific than the basic hanbok of jeogori and chima 😦 .
        Thank you so much again for your awesome comments they encourage me to continue writing about Joseon fashion 🙂 If you have more suggestions or question¨s write them and I’ll be happy to chat about them 🙂

      3. Yes you’re, sageuk still don’t belong among the most popular kdrama genres…

        Okay, I’ll ask you if I have question…

        Ah, do have twitter account by the way?

      4. No, I don’t have one and probably won’t be creating it – I have this blog and tumblr – but if I do I’ll let you know 🙂

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