[Newsmaker] Tradition, family behind first lady fashion

By Jo He-rim
  • Published : Jun 30, 2017 - 14:32
  • Updated : Jun 30, 2017 - 23:33
Traditionally, South Korea’s first ladies, unlike their American counterparts, have not had much liberty in choosing their outfits when accompanying their husband on official overseas trips. Without fail, they have all donned Korea’s traditional dress, hanbok.

First lady Kim Jung-sook has also stuck with tradition, wearing a sky blue hanbok for the official dinner at the White House on Thursday night, hosted by US President Donald Trump and his wife Melania Trump. In her hand was a gray-blue square clutch made of nacre, or mother of pearl.

The two state chiefs wore formal suits and matching blue ties, while the US first lady sported a sleeveless white dress.

South Korean first lady Kim Jung-sook (left) heads to a dinner at the White House in Washington, DC on June 29, 2017, together with her US counterpart Melania Trump. (Yonhap)

Kim’s hanbok dress was elegant and classy, but fell short of making a fashion statement. Cheong Wa Dae, however, says the message is in the fabric.

The hanbok she wore was made of material her mother gave her as a gift when she got married in 1981.

Kim’s mother ran a linen shop in Gwangjang Market in central Seoul.

The fabric was dyed in a traditional method, using a wooden roller and natural dyes extracted from plants.

“The first lady wished that the linen market would be reinvigorated and the traditional costumes be worn more often in daily lives,” an official at the Blue House explained.

This combined photo shows South Korean first lady Kim Jung-suk in various outfits during her visit to the US. (Yonhap)

The overriding theme of the first lady’s styles during this trip to the United States is “tradition meets modern fashion,” the official added.

Kim’s style for photos shot on the stairs of Air Force One as the plane was bound for Washington, Wednesday, was Western formal with a white blouse and black blazer, but her shoes had traditional overtones: Their pointy toes resembled the tip of traditional Korean padded socks, curled in a round swirl. It was Kim’s idea to add a touch of Korean accessories, Cheong Wa Dae explained.

On arrival at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington on Wednesday, the first lady wore a white jacket with a blue tree print on top of a silky white dress.

“The color carries the message of hope for a successful first summit in trust building between the two countries,” the official said.

By Jo He-rim (