Wedding Textiles in Asia

Korean wedding

Wedding traditions vary all over the world. On Sunday, March 10 from 12-2 p.m., learn more about the traditional Korean wedding ceremony at our afternoon of Korean culture, featuring a wedding reenactment and a traditional meal. Korean weddings are traditionally held at the bride’s family home, and includes a ceremony that involves the couple bowing to each other and sipping wine to seal their commitment. After, the couple will take part in another ceremony called pyebaek, in which the newlyweds bow toward the groom’s parents and offer symbolic gifts, such as jujubes or chestnuts (symbolizing children). At the end, the parents will toss the jujubes and chestnuts back at the bride. While traditionally this ceremony has been reserved for the parents of the groom, today couples are increasingly including the bride’s family as well.

In Korea, a marriage is such a special ceremony and celebration that common people could wear special attire for it that was exclusively worn in the palace, such as the ensemble worn by the woman above on the left. Garments like these were worn as everyday attire by a queen and as vestments by court ladies in the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910), but as wedding attire outside the palace. While some rented these suits from local administrators, some villages collectively owned outfits that villagers could share.

 slendangYou can also find ceremonial clothing on view now in the galleries! In the Orientation Gallery, the three textiles on view from South Asia and Indonesia demonstrate the shawl-like textiles commonly used in those regions, in contrast to the robe silhouettes commonly used in China, Japan and Korea. These textiles could also have ceremonial functions in addition to simply being worn; this Indonesian slendang (shoulder cloth) was likely draped across the shoulders of the bride and groom to symbolize their union. Additional Indonesian textiles are on view in the adjacent gallery featuring the exhibition Marking Transitions: Ceremonial Art in Indonesia, which we’ve written about before (hurry to see the show in person–it closes March 24!).


In our other exhibition Kimono in the 20th Century (also closing soon on March 10), you can find a tomosode, or a dark kimono characterized by family crest markings and yuzen (resist-dyeing) designs. These kimono were traditionally worn by brides until the 1930s, when the more elaborate uchikake  became popular. After that, the tomosode was more commonly worn by the bride’s mother or older sisters. To this day, the tomosode remains the most formal type of kimono.

Again, check out our upcoming program featuring a Korean wedding reenactment on our website here, and make sure to see Kimono in the 20th Century and Marking Transitions before they close! ~CM


Slendang (shoulder cloth), Indonesia, Palembang (south Sumatra province), 20th c., Silk and gold threads, Gift of Mrs. Eleanor McLain, 1993.71.1

Tomosode, Japan, 1930-5, Itome yuzen on chirimen, embroidery, couched gold wrapped threads, padded hem, crepe silk, lining, Gift of Mrs. Paul Hunter, 1981.3.2


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