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Korea: A Land of Hats

Charles B. Wang Skylight Gallery, Zodiac Gallery
September 10 - December 15, 2019

Hats were key items in every Korean's wardrobe during the Choson dynasty (1391-1910). A hat was not just an article of clothing; it was an important symbol of social status and authority, as well as a badge of ceremony. No outfit was considered complete without an appropriate hat, and this custom was practiced across all ranks of Korean society, from the highest elites to the lowest merchants, from newborn baby boys to venerated old gentlemen. For at least 500 years, hats served as indicators of class, gender, occupation, and affiliation in Choson Korea.

This exhibition highlights the rich culture of Korean hat fashion a century ago by showcasing various hats, including those that differentiated class, occupation, age, marriage status, special occasion, and season of the year. These authentic traditional Korean hats were recreated by surviving artisans, who have been designated as living persons of Important Intangible Cultural Heritage.

The exhibition is complemented by prints by Paul Jacoulet (1896-1960) and Elizabeth Keith (1887-1956), as well as by early twentieth century photographs of Korea. These two travelers visited Korea at the dawn of the twentieth century and provided an interesting Western perspective into the then vibrant hat culture of Korean during that era.

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