Wedding Gown

Wedding Gown

활옷

late 1800s

Satin weave silk; silk embroidery; paper edging on neck and sleeves

Overall: 114.3 x 174 cm (45 x 68 1/2 in.)

The Worcester R. Warner Collection 1918.552

Fun Fact

This bridal gown is made of densely embroidered silk, but its collar and sleeves are made of thick paper.

Description

This wedding gown is exquisitely embroidered with various symbols of happiness in colorful silk threads. Butterflies stand for marital happiness; the phoenix, numerous offspring; and lotus flowers and white cranes, longevity. Yet, the bridal gown does not attest to the life of luxury. To the contrary, many traces of repairs, trimmings, and patchwork, reflect Joseon-period women’s commitment to value neo-Confucian aesthetics of frugality and modesty.

Substantial repairs and patching reveal that this gown served as an important communal resource to be shared and passed down through several generations. Only its collar and sleeves, which are made of thick paper, are replaced with new ones, while the robe was reused for decades.

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