Korean Bridal Robe – Hwalot

bridal robeThe book The Art of Oriental Embroidery: History, Aesthetics, and Techniques by Young Yang Chung has an entire chapter devoted to the Korean Bridal Robe.

Dating back to the Silla dynasty (A.D. 668 – 935), the Korean bridal robe is a stunningly beautiful garment.  The “flower robe” (hwalot) evolved from women’s court robes worn in the T’ang dynasty.  Traditionally, commoners wore white or subdued clothing except for special occasions when they wore bright, festive colors. As marriage represented the most import event in a person’s life, the participants were allowed to wear clothes fashioned after the costumes reserved for members of the court.

The flower robe is embroidered with auspicious motifs of flora and fauna, including lotus and peony. Lotus symbolizes purity, rebirth, longevity, and good fortune, and peony represents wealth and honor, while the two birds allude to conjugal bliss. A bird with chicks symbolizes many offspring.

The billowing sleeves have blue, yellow, red, fabrics, with a wide strip of white at the cuffs, which also has colorful embroidery.

Korea is famous for its expertise in silk, with rich, deep colors.

On the wedding day, dressing the bride is a complicated procedure.  Over a pair of full, white silk undertrousers, called sok-paji, the bride wore three underskirts.  The first was a slip of loose silk.  This was followed by a white hooped chima (skirt) worn high over the bosom.  Next came a billowing blue silk chima.  After these skirts came the outer chima in brilliant red silk.  The bride next put on a bright yellow chogori (short jacket) that had imperial symbols.  After the choguri came the tailed robe of the bridal coat.


An outstanding feature was the enormous p’ao sleeves, nearly three feet in diameter.  When the sleeves were held together, they formed a striking embroidered picture.

Read more about Korean bridal costumes written by Jooyoung Shin (Ph.D., Seoul National University, Korea) who lectures on fashion design and dress aesthetics.



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