Even though I lived in Seoul for a year, I never got to cross “wear hanbok” off my Korea bucket list, so when my mom came to visit earlier this year, we had a fun day of dress up in Insadong, a neighborhood in Seoul.
The traditional form of dress in Korea is called hanbok. There are many different styles for different occasions. Insadong is a major tourist area in Seoul, due to the traditional village there and many cultural activities. There are traditional-style restaurants, Korean-themed souvenirs, and landmarks such as palaces nearby.
One of the many cultural activities is wearing hanbok! And it is VERY affordable—just 3,000 won (less than $3!)
The Hanbok experience is located in the Insadong PR Center, which was a bit tricky to find—we had to stop by the Tourist Information booth near the subway to ask for directions. We ended up going to Anguk Station (Line 3, orange line), Exit 6, walking straight out until we reached the large intersection, turning left, and turning left again at the first real street. After walking a few hundred meters, the center was on the right. The map and directions from the tourist booth helped a lot, so be sure to pick one up.
Some places charge up 30,000 won to wear or rent a hanbok, depending on how long you want to wear it and for what reason (foreigners can get discounts to palaces if we come dressed in hanbok, for example, so some people may rent outfits all day for discounts and just for fun).
Inside, you have to sign in so you can reserve a time slot (I don’t think you can reserve in advance). The catch to paying so little is that there is a limited selection of styles, and you only have 20-30 minutes to keep the outfit on and take photos. This can be very limiting if you come at a time with many people; luckily, there was only one other tourist there so we practically had the place to ourselves, didn’t have to wait long to take wear the outfits, and I’m pretty sure we got a good 45 minutes in the hanbok. We went on a weekday.
After finding a style you like and a good fit (in which the attendants will “assist” you in a very Stacy London “What Not to Wear” way), simply put the hanbok over your street clothes. No dressing room required! They had outfits of their ancient generals, royalty, and what everyday-people wore back then. There were also accessories to add flair to your outfit.
One thing I liked about this location is that the building and small greenery out front provided a really nice backdrop to our outdoor photos. The ladies working at the desk were kind enough to take photos (though I used my bluetooth remote for most shots). They really seemed to enjoy having us, and asked if it was OK to snap our photos for their website—I have yet to check and see if we made the cut, but we obliged.
Once your time is up, simply take off your garments, hang them back up, and bounce! It was fun dressing up and learning about the culture with my mom. It’s inspired me to experience the traditional dress of every country I visit. Next culture on the list: Thailand!