Javins is a New York based writer, Macintosh hobbyist,
and comic book colorist who travelled overland
by truck from Katmandu to Damascus with a group
of females. In Iran, they experienced, first-hand,
the traditional dress code for women. Marie writes...
visiting Iran, I did my culturally correct clothing
research and found out about the chador, the "traditional"
Iranian dress for women. It is a long, black cloak
worn over clothing that covers a female's body
completely, leaving only her hands and face visible.
I thought that I might have to wear one of these
cover-alls, too, and you can be sure that the
idea made me a little uneasy. Yet, as a guest
about to enter a foreign culture, I fully understood
the importance of dressing appropriately.
tour leader understood my dilemma. She simply
instructed me to wear baggy, neutral-colored clothes,
socks and a headscarf. Her advice was sound (albeit
very lacking in style).
outclassed by the local women...
arrived in Iran in a loose-fitting shalwar
kameez (long roomy tunic and pants) only
to find myself hideously outclassed by the
Iranian women who dress with a great sense
of style. Modern Iranian women dress a lot
like modern American women, with one important
difference. In public, they must always
wear a long coat over their regular clothes
and are required to cover their heads with
a scarf. It is the law. The coat and scarf
need not be black -- the more adventurous
fashion plates wear muted greens and beiges
and even earthy reds. Their coat buttons
can be decorative and it is perfectly acceptable
for women to allow wisps of hair to frame
their faces. Many females carry briefcases
to and from work as they click down the
sidewalks in high heels.
to understand the dress code...
on my second day in Iran, in the tourist
city of Bam, I began making changes. I switched
from my shalwar kameez to Levi's covered
by a stylish long coat that I'd purchased
in a local market. From the back, my hair
covered by my headscarf, some of my fellow
travelers said that I looked like a local.
Other travelers thought I looked like a
Mennonite, possibly because I had chosen
a black coat instead of one of the many
other colors available. The important fact
is that I was considered properly dressed.
along clothing tips...
other Journeywoman plan to travel to Iran,
I recommend you make do with loose-fitting,
modest clothing and a scarf until you get
there. Then, you can observe the local women,
find a market, and have the fun of purchasing
an appropriate coat for around twenty American
dollars. These coats are never fitted --
they are very straight and don't reveal
even a hint of the body shape beneath. They
should be long enough to reach your mid-shin
and will probably have shoulder pads to
make your new boxy look more complete. Like
Iranian women, you can wear whatever you
want underneath, including jeans or black
nylons. You should not reveal bare legs
or ankles, and if you wear pants, remember
to wear socks.
always keep your hair covered. Your scarf
can be folded into a triangle and then knotted
under your chin. It is not necessary to
master complicated knots or folds, as the
under-the-chin method is very simple and,
at the moment, very fashionable in Iran.
(However, I must confess that by the end
of ten days in the country, the novelty
of wearing a headcovering had definitely
worn off. The women in our group ripped
the scarves off the very second we crossed
the Turkish border).
Many current guidebooks and travel agencies
still instruct women travelers to wear the
chador. Be assured that it is unnecessary,
except in mosques, where you can usually
borrow or rent one.
Be aware that in the countryside, the women
dress more conservatively than their cosmopolitan
In hot weather, you can kick up your heels
and cheat by not wearing a shirt under your
long coat. No one will ever know!
This clothing advice is based on observations
made in Iran in April of '98. However, this
is such a volatile part of the world that
things might change. The political and religious
leaders are continually determining the
mode of dress for women.
a woman, it is extremely difficult to travel
solo in Iran. I travelled with a company
called Dragoman in the United Kingdom. You
can read more about them at: www.adventure-center.com.
anyone would like further information regarding
Iran and my trip, I can be e-mailed at:
If you enjoyed reading this information,
Marie invites you to learn more about her
overland travel from Kathmandu to Damascus
networking notes (2007)...
an Iranian woman who read your Journeywoman
article about how to wear [dress] in Iran.
That was amazing to find this article on
[the] net. Now, everything changes in our
country. You do not need to wear socks,
and coats are not so long, they can be printed
in designs and short but with long sleeves
to reach your wrists. Coats can be fitted
now but not tight. You still should wear
a scarf but not as before. Now they are
long rectangular pieces of cloth that are
used to cover your hair but not completely.
Sibora, Iran (2007)
found this Reuters news item about culturally
correct clothing and behaviour in Iran in
our local paper (October 12, 2007). I thought
it would be helpful for women travelling
to Iran to understand this. ' Iranian police
have warned 122,000 people, mostly women,
about flouting strict Islamic dress codes
since April and nearly 7,000 of those attended
classes on respecting the rules. Such crackdowns
... are an annual event and usually last
a few weeks. But this year's measures have
been longer and more severe than in recent
years... In addition to the dress crackdown,
the newspaper quoted a Tehran police commander
as saying 482 people were arrested for taking
part in mixed parties. Men and women are
not allowed to mix at close quarters in
Iran, unless they are family members.'
Beverly, Winnipeg, Canada (2007)