Iran Hijab? Worrying about what clothes to wear to Iran is probably one of the biggest issues holding back women before coming to Iran. Most of the time I see foreign women here it always seems like they feel unattractive or insecure about their fashion. After all they are comparing themselves to some fasionable locals or perhaps the other ones wearing black chador. Confused? Well it's enough to put many women off, and that's totally understandable.
But wait! Let me share some inside secrets with you before you run away.
Are you thinking: 'A country with a fashion police deserves to be at the bottom of my travel list? Or maybe you really want to go but are just so confused with how to prepare? Either way just remember a few things,
1. Over 60% of Iran's population is under 30 years of age.
2. Women hold over 60% of university placements across the country.
3. Women have become extremely assertive with social issues and female rights.
4. Women have won record seats in parliament in the 2016 elections.
5. Women are getting much more socially active than men in society these days.
6. Women are getting more successful in the workplace than ever before.
But keep in mind Iran is very diverse culturally. So for a little stereotyping; the metropolitan and northern Caspian areas are more trendy and liberal, whereas smaller cities and along the Arab borders tend to be more conservative. With the exception of the progressive Kish Island of course.
So here are some tips to make things a little simpler so that you don’t get into trouble.
Let's face it, scarves are trendy for both girls and lads so bring a few you already have. If you're stuck, then just go shopping, there are obviously tons to choose from. Wear them as a head scarf in Iran, and show off your Iran style back home with your new trendy neck scarves.
STYLING TIP: Before coming to Iran, I recommend experimenting with colors, shape and wrap style works best for you.
HAIR TIP: Don't struggle adjusting your head scarf all the time. Pin you hair up with claw clips, barrette or bobby pins. This will stop the scarf from slipping off.
COVERING TIP: Don't worry about covering the front of your hair, most Iranian girls expose their fringe (bangs) to be more unique. If it hangs out the back it's okay too, but personally I think this looks rather daggy.
FABRIC TIP: While silk is great with aesthetic appeal, the best scarves have a bit of friction. Try light and gauzy natural cotton.
WEAR TO BUY: That's easy, find scarves in any bazaar throughout the country.
You may have read clothing in Iran has to be loose fitting so that it doesn’t reveal your body shape. This is probably why I see so many tourists wearing baggy cargo pants and bohemian slacks. While 'loose' is encouraged, it's not observed closely and you'll cover your curves with an over garment anyway. Shops in Iran are packed with skinny jeans and tights. And if Iranian girls aren't worried, why should you be?
Tip: Remember, you’re a tourist anyway. The worse that can happen is a simple request. Something I’ve never heard of happening to foreigners. Things are easier on you than you think, so don’t make it harder than it is.
There are absolutely no restrictions to color when it comes to Iran's dress code, it's purely a cultural choice. While there's a tenancy to wear black it's usually a family respect thing. Go to Mirdamad or Vanak Sq during summer in Tehran to see real colors. It's not just Tehran either, traditional clothes around Iran ARE colorful all the way from Kurdistan (west) to Khorasan (east).
Before coming to Iran dig through your closest to find your coolest cardigans or tunics. I know a 3/4 tunic or cardigan is in there somewhere. A tunic if the perfect option for summer trips to Iran, and a cardi is great for the mild cusp of spring and fall. Just cover over your bum and you'll pull off any skinny jeans.
TIP: If you don’t have a tunic, get creative with light cardigan layered over a long tank top. Basically anything mid-thigh will do. You might also find a nice dress to use, so get creative before you splash cash on new clothes for Iran.
Iranian women cover up either with a chador (the full body sheets) or a manteau (a light overcoat). I'm guessing you'll avoid the chador so why not buy a manteau instead. There are many styles and materials to choose from, so there's your first activity to do in Tehran - shopping! It can be worn when you get back home too, after all the word manteau is French for 'coat!'
Unfortunately there is gravitation towards heavy make-up and nose jobs with Iranian women. Maybe it's a protest against for the compulsory hijab covering their hair. But the fact is you’ll see plenty of Iranian women wearing layers of make-up.
Make-Up TIP: If you’re into make-up, you won’t be alone in Iran!
Flip Flops and open toe nails are perfectly fine, you'll see a lot of girls wearing sandals during the summer. Just remember to carry a pair of socks if you want to enter a mosque. Cleanliness is a big deal inside homes and when visiting special sites, as bare feet is often improper. Although many mosques and museums have plastic bags to wear over your shoes, or to store your shoes at the entrance.
I must admit this area is a little grey. Some say the age is 9 while others say 12. Let's put it this way, if you’re daughter has childish features and doesn’t really have developed female curves, then give her some freedom. However if she’s taller or voluptuous, then try to encourage her to wear the scarf and manteau combination. The fashion police won't usually say anything, but if she's running around wearing shorts and a tee, she might find it difficult visiting tourist attractions or checking into hotels. But go easy on her, you want her to enjoy her holiday, and who knows she might just be the most fashionable kid on the block! Feeling something like this:
Okay, so let’s say you're going to a business meeting or a fancy luncheon in Tehran. But you have high heels that go great with your new formal pants. I would suggest as long as your pants fit right above your ankle, you’re good to go. But anything higher on the shin towards knee level should be avoided.
Just remember being overly judgmental is forbidden in Islam, along with just about every other faith in the area (Sufism, Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian etc). There are so many cultures throughout Iran that you'd be foolish to stereotype Iranians based on their appearance or fashion. While many people are curious about you, as you are about them, it's highly unlikely that people will judge you based on your fashion style or even faith for that matter. Likewise try not to judge them, because some of the women wearing black chadors might just be the most open minded and nicest people, you'll ever meet.
Are you kidding me. Wearing high boots with skinny jeans or leggings is very popular in Iran, especially during the winter.
Ok so let's distinguish between indoors and outdoors. If you get invited to an Iranian house, you should feel free to wear whatever you like, you shouldn't get in trouble. It's up to the owner how they run the household, or they wouldn't invite you over in the first place. But just remember all households are different so the lady of the house may choose to wear a chador around unrelated men, or they may not. Just try to be respectful, and if you're curious just ask how they feel about wearing their hijab - most likely it's a self choice: the modesty helps them feel closer to God.
You can try all the city bazaars, however more and more Chinese goods are finding their way into the busy stalls. So to find something more modern try shopping around Haft-e Tir Square, Valiasr Avenue, and up towards Tajrish in the north of Tehran.
Were these girls tips to Iranian hijab and manteaus useful? Leave your comments below.
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