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Vivian Wang

Dragon and Braids

Cast glass, stoneware, semi-precious stones, crystal, and gold leaf on steel base, 30.5"h x 14"w x 9"d, Item No. 19045,

DRAGON AND BRAIDS portrays a young lady of the Joseon Dynasty of Korea (1392-1910) during the 16th Century. At that time, many women who were members of the upper class wore formal attire consisting of a Chima, a skirt, and a Jeogori, a jacket, as a basic part of their wardrobe. For Koreans, fashion was an important part of a woman’s beauty.

As you can see from my young lady, the outer jacket was long enough to cover the waist and the skirt was full. As time progressed, the jacket became shorter and shorter and the skirt became more voluminous. During this time, clothes were wide and covered the entire body and no skin was shown.

A very significant fashion statement at the time were the extremely extravagant hairstyles, achieved by wearing large wigs. The wearing of wigs had its roots in the 14th century when court ladies sought to emulate the long hair of Queen Myeongdeck. Her hair was so long it could encircle her head three times. To copy this look, women wore yard-long, fake braids wrapped around elaborate hair shapes, usually fake buns.

Small red lips on a very white matte face were also part of the Korean classical ideal of beauty. But such a white powdered face was only worn by brides and court ladies, or gisaeng, who were the Korean version of Japanese geisha.

In addition to the importance of appearance and fashion, the most significant role for women during the Joseon Dynasty was the duty of providing a son for the family. Korean society’s preference for male offspring permeated the culture and led to the customary practice of men taking several wives.