Why Did Women in Joseon Dynasty Cover Their Faces?

In the Joseon Dynasty era (1392~1910), there was a saying that men and women can never sit together after reaching the age of seven.

It’s called 남녀칠세부동석 in Korean.

Joseon was established under the concept of Confucianism and it advocated strict gender roles.

The Joseon Dynasty indeed had strict gender roles. It required detailed “regulations” for women.

Excerpts from Analects for Women

“…Women shouldn’t peek outside or walk around outside. When going out, women must cover their faces, and if they have to look at something, they must hide themselves. Women should be kept indoors and reduce the number of times going out as much as possible. If women go out without covering their face and meet someone, they should lower their head and turn their face sideways.

There were different ways for women to “hide themselves” on the streets.

1. 너울 (Veil)

Made of thin silk, it’s a formal type of women’s cover that is worn by high-class women. Women could see the outside as the fabric is mesh-like, but others couldn’t see the inside.

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2. 장옷 (Overcoat)

It was a representative cover used until the end of the Joseon Dynasty. Until the early Joseon Dynasty, it was an actual overcoat worn by men. Later on, women started to wear it and it became women’s “cover.”

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3. 쓰개치마 (Skirt)

쓰개치마, as the name suggests, has the same shape as the skirt. Women wrapped their faces around the waist part of the skirt and held both ends together.

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4. 전모 (Hat)

Made of bamboo and coated with oiled paper, it was for the lower class women. It’s known that there are no cases of noble women using this type of cover.

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