Silk gowns honor Korean tradition

Candid Closet

September 25, 1997|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,SUN STAFF

It has been nearly 30 years since Susan Park left Korea. When she arrived in Baltimore in October 1969, she brought with her several treasured traditional gowns, hand-made of silk, embroidered with ancient symbols and worn on anniversaries, Christmas, the Korean Thanksgiving and first-birthday celebrations, which are a big deal. Recently, Park, a registered nurse, wore a brightly colored gown, decorated with jade, coral and amber medallions, originally a symbol of purity, as she spoke DTC ofher culture to students at Roland Park Country School, where her daughter Jane is a senior.

In this country, what is the point of wearing traditional Korean clothing?

It's a symbol of respect.

When do you wear your gowns?

At first-year birthday parties. The more people who come, the better luck the birthday child is said to have. The children wear a special outfit, too. Also weddings, engagement parties, Christmas and New Year's Day. Not long ago, my parents had their 60th wedding anniversary in Seoul and we all wore traditional clothing.

Why are these gowns so full?

They are designed to cover how you sit on the floor. They're more proper. Traditional Korean clothing has changed, though. The original features haven't been changed, but the length and the shape are a little more defined, a little more fashionable. The waist is longer and the skirt shorter, since the younger generation sits on sofas, not the floor.

Would you wear a traditional gown to a dinner party here?

Sometimes I wear a Korean dress when I'm mingling with Americans. I like to show them.

What kind of shoes do you wear with the gown?

In the home, we take our shoes off and and use slippers. It's especially useful when you have little kids. Your nice clean carpet doesn't get snowy, wet or muddy.

When you shop for Western clothes, what do you look for?

I'm more focused on color coordination, style and price. I'm a good shopper. I wait until things go on sale.

Where do you shop?

Loehmann's, Marshall's, Nordstrom.

What do you look for?

I like the looks of Evan Picone suits, and Gianni Versace and Liz Claiborne petites.

Do you and Jane shop together?

We love to shop together. We're the best of friends.

Jane, where do you shop?

I like Express.

As an obstetrics nurse, what do you wear?

Scrubs, with flowers and big smiley faces that make the patients smile. A pin that says, "We Care," with lots of hearts.

Do you know any snappy dressers? Let us know. Write to Stephanie Shapiro, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St. Baltimore 21278.

Pub Date: 9/25/97

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