The Royal Taylor (Movie)
The film starts with a modern-day press conference, in which Jo Dol-seok is introduced as the only royal tailor, who single-handedly revolutionized the fashion of Korea’s Joseon dynasty. Before one of his works is shown, the scene changes to the kingdom of Joseon, where a different story is told: Jo Dol-seok has tailored clothes for three generations of kings before finally becoming the head of the Sanguiwon, the department responsible for the royal attire. Jo was born a commoner, and looks forward to upgrading his social status after serving the royal family for thirty years. Careful to use the traditional rules and patterns, Dol-seok denies the Queen’s request when she asks him to replace the king’s robe that was accidentally burnt by a gungnyeo (female attendant). He insists that to do so would be against court customs, but also simply impossible in the short time before the robe is needed. Anxious to cover her mistake, the Queen looks for a designer elsewhere. She is introduced to Lee Gong-jin, a young designer whose good looks and expertise at making unconventional hanboks have charmed many women in the capital. He invented the bell-shaped design of hanboks and introduced new colors. Gong-jin falls in love with the Queen at first sight and uses his extraordinary gift as a tailor to save the dress. He subsequently becomes a tailor at the Sanguiwon and begins a prosperous career. He repeatedly uses his craft to support the Queen, who is at risk of being dethroned and replaced because she and the King – who never visits her – have no children.
Soon Dol-seok becomes jealous of the young designer’s talent, whose creativeness he cannot rival with his use of the traditional shapes. He fears his own position will be undermined. He lets the King use him to frame Gong-jin for attempting to assassinate the King. The King then tries to lay the blame on the Queen for inciting the young tailor, but Gong-jin saves the Queen by claiming he acted on his own motives. Even when the young designer awaits his execution, the head tailor vows to have his name erased from history. Only when Gong-jin is dead, not only the queen, but eventually also Dol-seok silently mourn his death.
At the end of the film, women of Joseon are seen wearing Gong-jin’s bell-shaped, merrily colored hanboks. In the last shot, Gong-jin’s design of the queen’s royal ceremonial dress is shown at the modern press conference, but as was hinted in the first scene, it is wrongly attributed to Jo Dol-seok.