Gache- Korean wigs and their adornments – by Sarah Corbett.

Gache- Korean wigs and their adornments – by Sarah Corbett.

A Gache (or Dari) was a large wig which originated in Northern Korea.. Originally worn by Korean women of high status and also by ( Kissaeng) Courtesans. Over decades the fashion for gache became widespread, and was adopted by women of all classes. The fashion for these enormous hairstyles endured for many years and was commonly seen between 1694 and 1800. Although the wearing of the Gache was banned by King Jeongjo in 1788 the popularity and wearing of them endured for some time following the ban.

The hair to create these imposing wigs was purchased from Buddhist nuns, prisoners and poor people of the lowest classes.  The larger and weightier the wigs, the more beautiful they were considered to be, some examples were over 1 ft tall.  This yearning for vastness led to a shortage of hair with which to create these enormous splendors, and the price of a Gache became more than ten times that of the price of a small house. Less wealthy families would often wait for 6 – 7 years to have funds which were sufficient to complete making a bridal Gache. The bridal Gache was an essential element of a wedding and the soaring prices meant that many families could not afford to purchase a wig. Once a wedding had taken place a bride could not move to the home of her husband and his family until a Gache was purchased. This situation was at it’s worst in 1760 when there were lengthy delays in marriages due to the shortage of wigs.

Added to the extortionate cost of the wig itself the whole ensemble was decorated with silk, silver and gems; ornate hair sticks called Binyeo were popular.. Many of these adornments were smuggled from China. and were objects of great detail and beauty.

 

Reference : Korea’s pastimes and customs- A social history. By I-hwa Yi

The Creative Museum