Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hanbok Project Part IV: Dongjeong and Finished Jeogori

For a while I was thinking about how to make the dongjeong, the white band placed around the collar of the jeogori to accentuate the face and neckline. Traditionally, it was apparently detachable - and I took this to mean that the dongjeong was not physically attached to the collar in any way, but folded, ironed on or starched. Now however, I am not sure if this could mean loosely slip-stitching it on, or gluing it with a substance that can be washed out with water. Silk kimonos were, after all, historically taken apart for washing then sewn back together by hand. This Japanese website selling dongjeong and hanbok does it the same way as bias tape, attaching it to the collar with a slipstitch. On a side note I wish I discovered this website sells a large variety of ornaments and some very very beautifully embroidered hanboks. Prices are quite steep though, (seriously, SGD543 for a hairpin?) and if I'm not mistaken they only deliver within Japan.

I asked Sonjjang about traditional dongjeong making and they said it was put together with guksa fabric and Korean paper (hanji). Korean paper is pretty similar to Japanese washi, it's durable and can apparently stand unsupported, thereby giving the dongjeong stiffness. Obviously hanji is pretty impossible to find outside of Korea so I decided to try other methods of fabric stiffening. In Spotlight, I found Stiffy:

According to the manufacturer's description, this product can work on most fabric types, and you can control the degree of stiffness you want by diluting it with water. It comes out in a thick white liquid. It can be used to make fabric bows, stiffen needlework, add lace, ribbon and trims to craft projects or mold or drape dollies and lace. Just rub and work it into your material with your hands (gloves!) then leave it to hang or sit in a mold overnight.

I got some double fold bias tape, rubbed Stiffy into the fabric, and here are the results:

Now it can stand! A bonus is that Stiffy stops fabric fraying as well, so no need for anti-fray glue.

I chose double fold bias tape because the white colour appears stronger with two layers of fabric, and single fold bias tape doesn't fold all the way under the first layer, ending up with a semi-transparent section right down the middle. See here. Not ideal at all for dongjeong making.

After stiffening, I ironed the bias tape folds real crisp and straight, and stitched it onto the jeogori in the usual way, without the finishing topstich. Instead I slip-stitched the closing flap of the bias tape to the collar on the inside, so that no stitching shows through in front.

Before completing the jeogori, I also added Bemsilk lining to the inside of the jacket to make it more comfortable to wear. Initially, I wanted to line it with the wrong side of the whanggeum fabric, but it felt too stiff and scratchy, and it clung to my skin in a most unpleasant manner. Using the Bemsilk lining made it a lot less irritating, but it also made the front and back panels of the jeogori more drapey and heavy, losing the perfectly clean, sleek lines that double-layered Korean fabric can still achieve. I suppose because a sok-jeogori was usually worn under the jacket, that could be made out of comfortable material to prevent the scratchy jeogori fabric sticking to your skin. Even today, hanboks are commonly worn with a basic camisole or t-shirt as an undergarment, perhaps for similar reasons. Or perhaps the whanggeum is the only problematic fabric; Korean silk would surely not be as stiff and uncomfortable, or so I would think. Have to find out more about that next time.

To attach the lining, pin pin pin pin pin fabrics right side together. Sew all the edges up, leaving the arm holes open and with the sleeves pulled through. Be careful not to catch the goreum while sewing. Invert the whole thing right side out through the armholes, then slipstich (again!) both layers together at the armhole seam.

I think I'm now pretty good at slipstiching. Hate it. Anyway, a picture :)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Hanbok Project Part III: Making the Goreum

The goreum refers to the ribbons that tie the jeogori shut. It is super easy to make. Sew two rectangle pieces wrong sides together, leaving one side open. Invert the piece right side out, press, and slip stitch the last side shut.

But I'm giving it a post of its own because of my quest for the perfect goreum fabric, which led to some pretty interesting experiments with lots of red cloth and a love-hate relationship with duchess satin.

What I really learnt from making it is this; when you want a particular shade of fabric for your design, seek until you find. Don't compromise with the cheapest or closest alternative you can get. If staring at substitutes makes you unhappy because you see in your mind how more perfect it will be in the colour you can imagine, wait, and then search harder. Because it exists, you just have to find it, and that is just a matter of time.

Of course you can probably choose to dye your own cloth as well but I chose not to go down that road, because I don't know anything about dying and it didn't make sense paying $10 for dye when I just needed 1/4 metre of cloth.

So then. In my original design I wanted the chima to be dark red, but after working on the jeogori and thinking about what goes with black and gold, I knew I had to use dark red for the ribbon. The red cloth that Sonjjang sent was more of a pink warm red though, and the transparent undertones didn't work with the gold. So I went to window shop in Spotlight with some fabric swatches and found the perfect shade of red in Chinese brocade with black flower motifs. Think qipao fabric. Unfortunately gold peonies did not go well with black Chinese flowers and the motif was too virulent on the cloth to be cropped out.

So I got a swatch from the Spotlight counter (If you don't know can request for little bits of sample fabric if you bring the roll to the cutting table and ask nicely. I just found out the other day!) and took it to the ribbons section but it didn't match anything they had on the shelves...which were orangey-red and dark pink-red. I then went to Arab street as Kim Soon looked promising, but they didn't have the shade I wanted either. On my way back to the MRT with Charmaine we decided to check out one of the cloth shops that was positively begging to be explored with its rolls and rolls of fabric, and in there, I found this.

A beautiful, beautiful dark red duchess satin. Actually it was polyester duchess satin. My first encounter with the fabric. And it draped so beautifully and felt heavy and expensive and perfect, I couldn't imagine how much better the real thing could get.

Texere Silk describes it:
French for ‘skin of silk,' Peau de Soie is a stout, soft silk with fine cross ribs. A medium weight fabric with satiny finish, it looks like Charmeuse, but Peau de Soie has a moderately stiff drape. Used in evening wear, bridal gowns, and elegant dresses. Sews easily, but pins and needles leave marks.
Designers prefer duchesse satin because the skirt keeps its full draped curves, instead of fluttering, as would a thinner fabric.

McQueen dress. Enough said.

Anyway when I reached home and started making the goreum I realized I had been so seduced by the fabric that I had completely forgotten about the properties of a ribbon:

1, it has to be flat, and stay flat so it can be tied neatly. You can't press duchess satin flat flat. As Gertie says, it rolls like the dickens. And two layers of duchess satin inverted rolls even more, trust me. After steaming and pressing and a few averted finger burns with the iron I gave up trying to make it flat.

2, it has to be light. I was prepared to be flexible on this one, but the duchess satin weighed more than the entire jeogori itself (made in the lightweight Korean whanggeum cloth) so the ribbon was pulling the whole piece forward and drooping sadly in front.

So I took a look at the alternatives, a horribly shiny acetate satin (bottom), and the red-pink okdolgyeon intended for the chima (middle).

The duchess satin (top), as you can see, best matches the gold fabric, the okdolgyeon gives a nice matt sheen while the acetate satin is shiny in a cheap disgusting way. (Please, whatever you do, don't buy this fabric. For $3 a metre it cannot be used to make anything decent!)
The quality of this cloth is so horrible, the corners kept fraying and popping out when I tried to invert it. Also, it was as hard to press as the duchess satin.

I then thought about making the goreum with the okdolgyeon, which is actually quite acceptable and normal given that a lot of 20th century hanboks have slightly transparent, very well pressed goreums. HezaChan's hanbok is one example:

And so is the hanbok here:

Okdolgyeon has that stiff structure and clean transparency when pressed, so it would work perfectly, but the red-pink colour was really putting me off.

The duchess satin was still calling out to me, so I knew I had to find some way to make it work. One solution was fusible interfacing, which stops the fabric rolling, but it adds to the total weight. Then I thought of a tutorial on Interfacing Alternatives I read some time ago, which suggested the use of cheap fabrics like canvas/cotton to give weight and body to silks. Two layers of duchess satin was still too heavy for the jeogori, so I thought about backing one layer of satin with a layer of stiff okdolgyeon, since it was transparent and would let through the satin's darker red on the back side of the ribbon (thus losing its pinkish colour).

After sewing them together, the duchess satin was still all rolled up and twisty.

Okdolgyeon on the top layer here. But then came the miracle, purely by experiment. Using the okdolgyeon layer as a press cloth, I steamed the duchess satin on high heat, and voila!

A flat ribbon! This is how the okdolgyeon underside looks:

Still a bit pink but I could live with it. As it is I am pretty happy with the results and the fact that the beautiful duchess satin was put to use, plus I found the exact colour I was looking for.

A proper picture of the jeogori to come after I sort out the dongjeong.

In the meantime, some tips on tying the goreum. Always remember that the left ribbon is longer than the right one, and the finished bow should point towards your left side. There are two ways to tie the ribbon:

One is HezaChan's method, posted on youtube:

The other is here, where you wrap the second tie around the loop instead of pulling it through. Watch the video from 1.00 onwards. I personally prefer this method because you have more control over the shape of the wrap and it looks neater (at least when I try it).

There you go :) Chima making next.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Game of Thrones Costume Design

Some very interesting insights into the designer's thought process behind the costumes for Game of Thrones. (Thanks Jina for sharing!)

I especially love Michele Clapton's use of colour and texture for the different kingdoms. Characterization is obviously the most important consideration, besides trying to create a visible identity through dress for the different people groups. Practical considerations are also very important in the design process or one can get carried away by concepts and ideas; here she thinks carefully about the needs of the actors, the logic of certain clothes in certain weather conditions etc.

What I call fictional realism is something used to great effect and success here (and in lots of other period shows - Starz's Camelot, The Tudors), where costumes signal "recognizable characters and elements" in a world that is "gritty and real", and therefore close to our own - while drawing audiences into the fantasy and unfamiliarity of it. Although this is progression from the purist vision of perfect re-enactment, and while many moan over how Elizabethan The Tudor's costumes are...who cares as long as it works brilliantly to suggest character, fits into the world of the show, and makes a pretty sight? Really looking forward to the series!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Hanbok Project Part II : Making the Jeogori + Folkwear Pattern Review

This is the shape of the hanbok as we know it today: characterized by loose, baggy sleeves, stiff fabric, clean lines, and simple curves. Unlike other Asian costumes, which emphasize the female silhouette by belting or taking in seams at the waistline, the hanbok derives its elegance from completely concealing its wearer's body shape. Which can either make it fantastic or frustrating to wear; on one hand, the hanbok is extremely forgiving for those with less than hourglass figures - some even point out its efficacy at concealing pregnancy- on the other, the ample amount of fabric needs to be tailored perfectly so that it doesn't look frumpy or make its wearer look like she's drowning in a swathe of cloth. Poorly drafted hanboks can look a lot worse than bad kimonos, for example.


Granted, the hanbok IS perfectly tailored and the Tang dynasty costume on the right is modeled by a miniature doll, so I might not have tried to compare at all - but the point is about the placement of the waistline: the empire cut here, in my opinion, makes all the difference between elegant and errrtrocity if you intend to walk around cocooned in a bolt of fabric. Although, I admit my judgment might have been slightly influenced by the clip-art storks and rainbow gradient. The point of the matter is, the lack of a belt or tapering in at the waist does make it unflattering for some body types, especially if you are short, plump, both; or have narrow shoulders.

But history allows for that if you are trying to create something that suits you while staying true to period authenticity. Before the massive digression which led me to ogle at Chinese costumes on Google images, I wanted to talk about the evolution of the hanbok's silhouette. Many people are unfamiliar with the earlier styles less commonly portrayed in Korean period dramas:

This picture illustrates changes in the shape of the hanbok from the 16th to 20th century. What we see are increasingly tailored garments, the shortening of the jeogori (jacket) to ridiculous proportions, and a corresponding rise in the waistline, with the waistband becoming a form of breast binding in the final picture. The more subtle differences are changes in the curve and width of the sleeves, and differences in the placement and thickness of the ties used to close the jeogori. The full article is here for the interested and it emphasizes the impact of socio-economic factors on these fashion trends.

I decided to go with the 19th century silhouette for my design because the position of the waistband is lower than that of the "empire styled" 20th century hanbok as we know it today, therefore giving the illusion of fuller hips and a small waist (which I lack!) The 19th century style also allows for the white of the waistband to peak out beneath the jeogori, but not so much so as to become a rather uncomfortable-looking breast binding. The tight(er) sleeves also didn't make my arms look as thin as twigs in a bag, while retaining some of the elegant curves that the 18th century design lacked.

A popular interpretation and modernization of the 19th century style also draws on dance and gisaeng costumes of the period, popularized by the drama Huang Jin Yi. The best thing about these costumes is the explosion of extravagance in colour and material, achieved by the layering of skirts which allows for a lot of creativity in the use of fabric (translucent, opaque? stiff, drapey?), patterns (traditional arts include fabric painting on skirt...embroidery on underskirts, tiny flower/fortune motifs etc.) and texture (rough, shiny, etc.):

The voluminous skirts and layering allow for a lot of potential puffing, pinning and pulling to create interesting curves, as Sonjjang demonstrates in their modernized hanbok collection:

I'm totally in love with it, so 19th century it is!

Having decided on the silhouette, I started working on the pattern. Now I've mentioned earlier that I've used Folkwear's #141 Misses XS which produced fairly decent results, although I wasn't too happy about the size of the collar and sleeves. Let's take a look at it:

I compared it to the Korean pattern that Sonjjang provided (if you spend above $50 in their shop!) and these were the differences:

1. The seam joining the bodice to the sleeve is curved in Folkwear, while in the Korean pattern it is straight, like a T tunic. I preferred the straight seam because it gives more room for the shoulders and it is a more period accurate cut for a time when French curve rulers were not yet invented.

2. The Korean pattern has two extra tiny bits for the closure of the jeogori, which I suppose you can make in an alternative colour for some added contrast and interest. I really couldn't be bothered to cut those out and sew them because really, it's much easier to just make it in one piece. Although, the diagonal edge in piece F doesn't work for me so I altered it to give it a rounded look similar to that in Sonjjang's.

3. Sonjjang's has an extra seam in the middle for the the back, compare with piece H which is cut on the fold in Folkwear's. I really don't think this matters, and I followed Folkwear's pattern because again, it saves on sewing one extra seam. I think the Korean method was probably followed to economize use of cloth in the ancient days, as for point 2, because tiny bits and bobs could be salvaged from scrap pieces of fabric.

4. The jacket ties are more tapered in Sonjjang's but this is not much of an issue really.

5. The last, and most obvious difference, was in the shape of the sleeves. The last time I used Folkwear's, I was appalled by the seeming disproportion of the sleeves to the bodice was HUGE. See. Here too. So I had to alter the bodice to fit the largest kid's sized sleeve, which also came in the pattern packet. Something also wasn't right about the shape of the sleeve, and it didn't drape in the way it's supposed to according to the photos of Korean-made hanboks. Then I realized what was wrong after comparing with Sonjjang's:

The one in newspaper is what I drafted based on Sonjjang's measurements. It is bell shaped, with a single convex curve tapering in at the cuffs. The length of the sleeves is also longer. These make a huge difference in the drape of the fabric. Instead, the concave shape of Folkwear's sleeve takes it in too much and produces a different effect, especially since the sleeve length (the top line) is shorter and doesn't curve in towards the end. This is the only major problem with Folkwear's pattern, in my opinon, but it can be easily salvaged with a bit of tape and newspaper. Another interesting thing to point out about the hanbok's sleeve construction is the repetition of 1:2 ratios in the draft:

It also occurs approximately in the comparison of lengths between the jeogori and the chima, as well as in some common designs of traditional norigae, where the focal pendant/knot is half the length of the bundled tassels beneath it. It is possible that this ratio holds meaning in Confucian philosophy, given its emphasis on ritual clothing and the expression of virtues through dress.

Anyway, here is my final pattern:

Cut out and put the pieces together:

Sewing the neckband to the front and back pieces is the most difficult stage of the construction process because you have to be very careful with the corners and turns while not getting excess fabric caught...but this was a lot easier than the first time because the whanggeum was such a dream to work with. I made the cuffs and collar out of the wrong side of the fabric.

The inside is nice and black. All that's left to do is to sew the sleeves up wrong side out. I did have to shorten the width of the sleeve again by 5cm because it was still too baggy and looked huge on me.

And voila :) I'm pretty happy with the finished product. Well it's not exactly finished yet. I haven't added the jacket lining or the georum and I'm still thinking about redoing the satiny white fabric, because it is too shiny and wrinkly. I haven't been able to find anything online about the construction of the dongjeong, a removable white collar attached to the rim of the neckline to accentuate the face and neck, so if any one could tell me how, or what material it is made out of, that would be a great help.

What I did for this, was to fold in half and iron a satin ribbon, stitch the ends with a tiny tiny stitch, pin very carefully, then attach it to the collar, catching the folded layer on the other side as I would with bias tape.

It worked pretty well, and I would be pleased with it if not for the ridiculous shine. And it's supposed to be stiff. I really shouldn't have used satin. But I couldn't find ribbon in any other suitable material...and bias tape looks too coarse.

Any ideas? Starched cotton? With anti-fray glue?

Better photos and updates on the chima soon to come.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Hanbok Project Part 1

After making a cotton hanbok with Folkwear's pattern, I wanted to try doing something more elaborate with traditional Korean fabrics. The first step was to search for cloth suppliers online--which sounded simple enough at first, until I realized that most of the websites were written in Korean. (Papabear has posted some useful looking links here, if you can read the language) Other shops on ebay didn't have the materials I had in mind-I didn't want anything too brightly coloured or pastel because those tones just don't represent me. Which is a bit of a problem if you're trying to sew a hanbok:

On the other end, there are hanboks with muted dark tones, but these are traditionally worn by older people. I needed to find a balance. So I turned to modernized designs for inspiration, and boy was I inspired! Here are some of my favourites from trawling the internet:

LOVE the crazy wig! And the combination of textures, the metallic colours, the artful stone work, the subtly layered patterns on skirts. I'm not a fan of the ginormous norigae tassel though. Anyway! After some hunting I found Sonjjang, which has an English website and they sell Korean fabrics, so after some negotiating with the wonderful shop owner and tinkering with potential designs, I bought these materials:

2 yards of black whangguem for the jeogori. The colour is a lot more golden in real life-it is called "huang jin" after all-which was a bit of a surprise because it was really quite blinding gold. So much so it seemed like Chinese New Year came early when put together with the red fabric I intended to use for the chima. BUT, this material is fantastic. I think it is 100% polyester - and I'm not sure if there's a Western fabric equivalent, but once you start cutting the fabric, IT DOES NOT FRAY. Not one bit. Unless you intentionally tug at the weave, it is a dream to cut and sew. The fabric is quite stiff but slightly translucent, and the intricate gold details are printed/gold foiled-it is wonderful.

White satin, for the waist belt of the chima and jeogori cuffs. This material is stiffer, heavier and thicker than ordinary satin though. One side is rough but it drapes beautifully and the smooth side looks a lot more expensive...if you compare it with equally cheap, costumey satin fabrics that hang horribly.

Black nobang. It's somewhat like organza, but stiffer, thicker, and NOT SHINY. It is therefore a lot less transparent than I expected, and blocks out most of the colour of cloths placed beneath it. Not that good for if you want an iridescent effect with multiple coloured skirts for the chima, but great for pinning to build up volume in the gisaeng fashion. The downside is, it frays as much as organza.

Maroon okdolgyeon. What eventually came was pinkish red instead of maroon because they didn't have anything in the colour I wanted. It didn't go as nicely with the whangguem cloth as I hoped so I am thinking of putting it aside for another project at the moment. If you want to buy this cloth take note it has tiny pomegranate embossings with Korean words on it, which you can't tell from the picture on the website, and its width is 22 inches, therefore you need twice as much yardage. The material is kind of like linen and I am guessing it is a modern replica of the hemp traditionally used to make hanboks. Because it is slightly stiff it puffs up beautifully and although it is quite thin, the material is almost opaque.

I also got some navy blue silk charmeuse for the goreum and some norigae ornaments.

In the end, this was the design I had in mind when I selected the materials (those of you who have given me feedback on the other initial designs, thanks!). The picture at the bottom is a final edit after seeing the real thing.

Although I'd much prefer if the jeogori was silver, the gold works as well although to me it seems less elegant. If you have any other suggestions for the colour of the chima and goreum, do let me know and I'll do a mock up in photoshop while considering!

More updates later on in the week, including a review of Folkwear's pattern and the making of the jeogori :)