This is the 1 billion rials question ! As a woman, how to dress in Iran ?
If you are already in the trend of modest fashion, good for you, it is going to be easy. If not, you might have to think about your garde-robe a little differently than usual.
I dont think it would come as a breaking news to anyone that Iran is a Muslim country, it’s official name being the Islamic Republic of Iran. Therefore as a woman, there is some do and don’t that you should follow carefully, both to be confortable and respectful of the law and the people. It is not that complicated and you will find below the golden rules.
1. DONT FORGET YOUR SENSE OF STYLE IN IRAN !
I know, this might come as a shock to you , but Iranian ladies are both pretty and very stylish. They really found the way to make the best out of the rules they must abide to! I noticed it in Esfahan, but I know it to be even more true in Teheran. Therefore, if you don’t want to look like a poor lost tourist, please pull yourself together and read the below before packing your suitcase.
Mayday mayday, someone is posing way too much !
2. IT IS ALL ABOUT SUBTLE COVERING
To dress up in Iran, the idea is definitely not to make yourself completely disappear under a pile of large clothes, but rather to hide some specific areas of your body. Below are the things you should cover, and how :
Your arms : All the way till under your elbows. You can definitely wear 3/4 sleeves, or roll up your long sleeves if it gets warm.
Your legs : But a little free ankle should be acceptable. But nothing above that.
Your behind : And by your behind, I mean your butt, yes. That is maybe the thing you will have to think about the most when packing, cause you might not have a full supply of long shirts and tunics in your closet.
Put it shortly, long shirts and tunics are your best friends. You can also consider some long kaftans or kimono to wear above your regular clothes. And if needed be, you can always buy one of the beautiful manteau that Iranian ladies wear.
Long shirts and tunics are your best friends !
3. HOW TO COVER YOUR HEAD IN IRAN ?
First of all, let’s be clear : All women above 9 years of age, locals or tourists, must wear a headscarf. There is really no way around it for now, so if you don’t feel comfortable with that, you shouldn’t plan a trip to Iran.
However, when it comes to headscarf, it is probably not what you think ! Think about it more like the 60s trend of Jackie O and less like Saoudi Arabia. The whole point is to cover part of your hair, and if I understand correctly, your neck and the top of your chest. I have seen quite a few tourist, wrapping their headscarf around their head like a sort of turban, and although I loved the look I am not sure it is actually the point.
While in Iran you will see all type of local women, wearing their hijab in all sorts of way. Some wear it very loosely with plenty of hair coming out, some wear it quite tight around the neck but push back on the top of their head, some will wear the tight black hijab covering all of their hair, and some women wear the full chador.
My recommendation would be to bring a variety of scarves from home and probably buy a few in the country. There are cheap and obviously the offer is very large ! Dont shy away from colours, as Iranian women themselves wear very colourful hijab. My best recommendation though, is to avoid silk, that just slip down every 2 sec and go for a light cotton scarf. In term of shape, long and a narrow is the most convenient (like 1.5m x 50cm for example).
Please don’t mind me, I am just casually smiling at the ceiling !
4. WHAT KIND OF SHOES CAN YOU WEAR IN IRAN ?
Any kind of shoes !! I read here and there that open toes sandals were not accepted and that painted toe nails would drag attention to you, but I don’t think that is the case at all. Regardless if you wear boots, sneaker, espadrilles or sandals, just be confortable, and be yourself.
No tunic, no problem. A long sleeve dress with leggings works too !
5. ADAPTING TO THE CONTEXT IS ALWAYS KEY
Of course, you might visit some more or less conservative areas of Iran, and I recommend you to dress accordingly to feel confortable. In Teheran, the fashion is a lot more liberal, while in Esfahan it is a little more conservative and Kashan is VERY conservative, most of the women wearing the chador.
This being said, in both Esfahan and Kashan, I only interacted with warm and friendly local ladies and men. And yes, you will stand out. Regardless what you wear, you will look like a tourist ! And yes you will get some looks, but in my experience, 99.9% of the time, if you smile at the person staring at you, you will get the warmest smile back! I guess it is more a curious stare than a judging one.
If you are not fully convinced, I recommend you to read the article “A Girl’s guide to dressing up for Iran” by Iranian travel blogger Matin Lashkari, an insider perspective on how to dress in Iran. Her whole blog Travestyle is worth reading if you plan a trip to Iran (or if you just want to learn a thing or two about this beautiful country.)
The least conservative I dressed in Iran …. and not a good illustration for this section as it was shot in Kashan ,
the most conservative city !
6. A SHORT NOTE ON MORAL STANDARDS AND FEMINISM
Now, before I leave you to study your garde robe and see if you have anything suitable for Iran, I wanna say something about moral standards and feminism.
I know some of you out there don’t want to visit Iran because they don’t agree with the whole hijab thing. I remember the AirFrance stewardess making a scene when the flights from Paris to Teheran were reinstated, because they refused to wear the hijab upon landing in Teheran. Ladies, feminists, I get you ! I am a strong feminist myself and I can be outraged by a lot less .
However, I don’t believe anything good comes out of standing by our positions, refusing to discuss, to understand, to see from our own eyes. When did boycott and embargo lead a country anywhere ?
What is the worst thing that could happen because you wear the hijab ? You will look bad in your pictures ? Wrong ! You will look pretty stylish. You will get super warm ? True ! But hey, so will you if you visit Greece in the summer.
What is the best thing that could happen while you visit Iran ? Discover an amazing culture, discuss with genuinely warm people, and maybe, just maybe, the inflow of tourists in the country, will slowly slowly lead to some cultural evolutions.
And maybe it won’t. But that is okay. The Iranian women have their own battle to fight, and I am certain they have the strength to do so !
Happy to discuss any of the above with you and answer any questions in the comment section below !
A little moment of freedom !
So, now you know how to dress in Iran, it is time to plan your itinerary. Check out my articles about Esfahan here and here , and about Kashan here. And everything you need to know about getting a visa is here
A très vite,