Saturday, September 17, 2011

Hejab Fashion at the Iranian Cinema Awards

Here's a look at some of the fashion, hejab and colors Iranian actresses were able to get away with at this year's Iranian Cinema Awards.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mixed Messages

TEHRAN -- It was not enough that became notorious here among Iranian websites for a Fars photo depicting Tehran mayor Qalibaf seated between two very large, very round watermelons, or the story about Arab pop singer Nancy Ajram holding a concert for her Iranian fans. On the heels of a ban on "half-naked men" and "love triangles" on Iranian TV, Khabaronline seems to have decided that it's appropriate to tell the Iranian fans of True Blood how this HBO series is going to end -- and it's directly translated from the Hollywood Reporter, no less.

The headline: “Cast tell about their deaths on True Blood + pictures.”

By all accounts, True Blood is not an Islamically-appropriate show and by Islamic Republic standards it reeks of western decadence. For those who haven’t seen it, the story of Sookie Stackhouse is filled with graphic sexual encounters, vampires, witches, brujos, ghosts, fairies, shapeshifters and mediums considered un-Islamic. During Ramadan, borderline supernatural themes of an Iranian TV series caused uproar here with Friday prayers leaders openly speaking out against the IRIB for funding such productions. The inappropriate-for-family-viewing broadcast during the Holy Month claimed the lives of two young children who wanted to see what it would be like to be ghosts.

With this report, Khabaronline, which is affiliated with Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani and in a way the unofficial Majles website, officially violated what is known as Arzeshhaye Khanevade (family values) in the Islamic Republic. For those fans who may not have seen the season finale, this Khabaronline article is not advised for you either. -- Tehran Editor

Friday, September 9, 2011

Sex Ed Video: A View from Tehran

Editor at Large: Can you put this new sex ed video in perspective.

Tehran Editor: Iranian officials seem to have finally come around to believing the reason so many marriages are falling apart is a lack of proper education. Obtaining the DVD from local pharmacies requires being married and having a shenasname (an identity booklet) to prove it. But the beauty of Iran is that nothing remains a secret for long and when something is labeled forbidden, Iranians find a way of getting their hands on the contraband item. Where there is a will there is always an Iranian way. The educational video was probably leaked online to satisfy the curiosity of everyone.

What did you think of it?

Most people are sexually active in Iran and this is why this video is so hilarious for everyone here ...we all know about the birds and the bees. As an unmarried Iranian girl who knows a little something about something, all I can say is:

* What I like to call the "Superman" soundtrack at the beginning of the clip, encouraging people to get to the finish line, is not exactly an appropriate start!

* The animated flowers at the start can put anyone off sex… they look like one of those vicious meat-eating plants, the ones that seem harmless at first, before they attack you. It actually reminded me of the 1980s musical/horror flick “Little Shop of Horrors.”

* Basically this video says a lot about how it’s done in books and in hadith but what about personal experience? Who actually opens a book and says, “It says here, step one: kiss your partner for 20 seconds because a kiss between a husband and wife sometimes last for longer than a few seconds! What about putting some emphasis on the good old fashioned trial-and-error method? I doubt the first people who had sex had access to books!!!

* The choice of hadith is also repulsive…women must wear the best perfume and clothes at home and offer themselves for sex every night and every morning… What about what the woman wants? So much for IR's claim that women are not objects and prostitutes in our society.

* Before sex make jokes with your wife and play with them (shookhi and bazi in Persian are not exactly what they seem to be when translated into English). "Play" in Persian brings to mind shooting hoops and throwing a ball for the kitty or a stick for the dog to fetch! And shookhi is like a bad crude joke, like Ghazanfar telling his girlfriend "Chetori goozo!”

Some of the other ridiculous tips:

* Touch lightly because if you are rough that is chelandan -- squishing!

* Touch on the cheeks, face, neck and roye hame ja (everywhere)!

* But then, 'Do not touch wherever you like, touch where the lady tells you to!' Don’t always touch the same place: touch her on her neck one night and touch her back the next night!

* The good doctor actually sticks out his tongue when he instructs on using it to touch! That's icky.

* Lick the skin above the lips… So this is where some guys learn the fish/dog kiss, the one all girls hate!

* Just stand in front of each other…no further description available, not even a train-in-tunnel imagery from a Leslie Nielsen movie?

* Don’t be a starfish! Don’t just lay there... stop and start! Move for one second and stop for one second …az to harkat az man (khoda) barakat!!!!!!!!!!!

Translation: "You make the move (woman); and I (God) will bestow the gift!

* There is a reason you have a mirror in your bedroom. It’s so you can look at one another while doing the lord’s work.

He said that?

In the extended version of the video. And here's some of the best for last:

* Women should stop complaining about painful intercourse because there are no pain neurons down where it matters. Any pain you feel is all in your head! Three words, Doctor: Try bikini wax!

* Using drugs can improve sex! And they show pictures of the Iranian version of ecstasy pills!!!!!!!!! Not Viagra! Even before warning that smoking messes up your sex life.

* And to know if a woman has been satisfied all you need to do is pick her up and see if she is heavy. A fool-proof method to detect an orgasm is when gravity makes her heavy! because if you ask her she may be faking it and say yes. But if you pick her up and see she has gained extra pounds that means a job well done!

The doctor advises couples to do it four times a night ! This somehow put into perspective why they used the superman soundtrack at the beginning!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Khaleh Zanaki Chic!

New collection aside...

Editor at Large: Even though it never occurred to me to raid my aunt's or great grandmother's closet, I find myself drawn to Marni's 'Khaleh Zanaki' chic. It's practical and looks like something real women can wear without feeling like they were in some kind of sexual bondage. Considering how refreshingly loose-fitting the clothes are -- and most the green running through the new collection is non-Green Movement green -- could you wear it there?

Tehran Editor: I agree, khalezanaki chic. It would be perfect for underneath the chador, but not goshad enough for the IR gashts.

Editor at Large: It's just as well, because it remains out of reach even on sale. An alternative (though not a substitute for the beloved Milan-based label) is Anthropologie. Its cuts never suit me, but it does Khaleh Zanaki with a flair. And so does Toast, even better.

Ramadan Special: Mani-Pedi Nightmare in Tehran

TEHRAN -- Every girl needs a bit of pampering, particularly if she lives here, where almost everything is forbidden, especially during Ramadan, a month of prayers and fasting, all the more challenging in the dead heat of summer.

One thing about Ramadan though is all the specials on offer. I decided to treat myself to one of them: "Ramadan mani-pedi special" after one of my friends told me about a great salon she had recently discovered. (If you were wondering, yes, you can get into trouble for having painted nails because you can't wash for the daily prayers and therefore it's a telltale sign that you do not pray. Nail polish makes your hands and feet pretty and you are not supposed to have anything pretty either ... not officially anyway. This is Iran.

And this being Iran, why would it stop anyone from trying to look their best?

When I arrived at the salon for my 10 o’clock appointment, I was asked to pay $25 USD up front, which is not customary in most parts of the world. (Regularly, it's $30: 15 for nails, and 15 for toes. But even a $5 discount is considered 'special' here.) One thing about the Persian culture I will never understand is why everyone is in a rush to get paid before doing a job. This was the first warning sign for me to walk away, but I needed pampering so I paid and was told to seek out Sanaz.

A bulky woman, with hair color on her eyebrows, who I assumed was Sanaz, told me to sit behind a station. The mani-pedi station was the second warning sign telling me to walk away, which again I chose to ignore. The station was more like a desk under which my feet disappeared. No comfy chair I could recline in and let the professional take my feet into her own hands. After a ten-minute wait, another woman finally sat behind the chair opposite and asked me what I wanted, which seemed odd given that I had already paid for a mani-pedi. I told her the shape I wanted my fingernails and toenails to have and she asked if I wanted a manicure-pedicure? I said of course and then she asked the strangest question: you mean you would like to have your hands and feet soaked and your nails filed?

Being no stranger to mani-pedis, I was mildly unsettled. And yet again, I ignored the voice telling me to ask for someone else. So the process began.

She asked for my foot. As I had lost sight of my feet, I raised the left foot but she told me she wanted the right one. Skipping the soaking part, she began to file away and I crossed my fingers that she wouldn’t mess it up.

Meanwhile, the bulky woman whom I learned was the Sanaz I had made an appointment with, sat next to the girl working on my feet. One by one, the other girls in the salon came and she filed and shaped their nails for them.

A good 15 minutes passed before the girl supposedly working on my feet brought out a small basin with sudsy water and told me to put my feet in. She waited a few minutes before proceeding to dry my feet and ask me the color of nail polish I wanted. No foot scrub, no pumice, no exfoliation, and no lotion.

When I chose pink, the girl, who I was becoming more confident by the minute was the apprentice, told me to choose another color as ”pink is not suitable for toenails!” In Iran, "the customer is always right" is totally meaningless. I do not mean to frown on the Persian culture here, it's just that this concept is so unimaginable in this country.

After a few minutes of me holding my ground, she reluctantly painted my toes pink and then started on my fingernails. Again, she proceeded to file my nails before soaking them. I lost my temper at the point she started removing non-existent hangnails. I snatched my hand away and Sanaz told the apprentice she would finish the job!

Sanaz tried to correct the disaster her apprentice had created and avoided eye contact until I told her I wanted black tips instead of white ones. “But it’s a French manicure, how can you have black tips?”

I convinced her that the gospel of manicurists would not be unwritten, would not be lost, especially because no one would find out that this blasphemy was her doing. (Asking for your money back is not an option in Iran.) Before leaving, I complained to the manager of the salon who told me apprentices must practice to learn. “This is how it is done everywhere, even in kharej," meaning abroad, she said.

I came home with uneven nails, which I had to file myself. At least I had gotten the colors I wanted. -- Tehran Editor

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Remembering Bijan

LOS ANGELES -- Thanks to Bijan we saw Iranian faces in the American glossies. The two bottom ads are from an earlier campaign -- the eighties, I believe. Seen above with son Nicolas and daughter Alexandra in 2009. And here's another with his girlfriend Mahtab Mojab. -- editor at large

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Pushing the Palette

NEW YORK -- Though many of the top designers are pushing color and "color blocks" this season, Meatpacking District fashonistas were still clinging to their blacks and mauves this weekend. In fact, many of them were only a rousari away from proper hejab.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

13-Bedar Fashion

VIRGINIA -- Photographer Ali Khaligh captures some interesting fashion statements at a recent 13-Bedar picnic at Algonkian Regional Park in the D.C. area. So here's the question: Are U.S.-based Iranians influencing Tehran or is Tehran influencing young Iranian Americans?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Paris Mis-Match

PARIS -- This weekend in the Marais, I came across an Iranian expat and three of his friends, all of whom work in the fashion industry. During a quick chat, we tried to characterize the fashion sense of the inhabitants of a few of our favorite fashion capitals. Here's what we got. Parisians: homogeneous. Londoners: individualistic (within a certain realm). New Yorkers: a tendency to wear their money. On Tehranis, we defer to you. Help us nail it in a word or two. Creative?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Lebas Eidi

TEHRAN, PARIS -- Iranians greet the new solar year decked out in new clothes. They wear the new outfit when they go eid didani, or when visiting family and relatives during the Nowruz holidays. In the old days, many people could not afford to buy new clothes throughout the year, so they would only make this special purchase for Nowruz, thus it became known as eid clothing (lebas eid), which is important for many Iranians.

editor at large: Did you get a new dress for Nowruz?

tehran editor: No, I didn't shop for Nowruz at all. I mean I didn't even think about it. But I gave my family clothes as their eid gift. I think clothes are more meaningful given as a present.

Did you get eid clothes?

editor at large: No, not at all. No time. Lacking the spirit. And it's expensive, especially here in Paris. What would you like to be wearing this season? Any favorite lines?

tehran editor: Well, I love bright colors particularly red and hopefully after the Nowruz celebrations when I find the time I'm gonna try and buy a few new colorful things. I'm a big fan of H&M and Express when it comes to jeans but I don't go for a specific line. I mainly choose dresses and wear them according to my own fashion sense.

editor at large: Has anything caught your eye online? I love this outfit from Celine's summer collection (pictured above).

tehran editor: I like your taste -- so chic ! I would buy the following (1, 2, 3, 4, ) because I'm a dress person, but then again I like to go find outfits and throw stuff together. There are many little shops that I like to visit and get stuff from.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Flea Market Chic

PARIS -- The "Salon du Vintage" opened in the Marais today and runs through the weekend. But "flea market chic" is a concept that has yet to catch on in Iran.

tehran editor: Here we have something called the Friday Bazaar. It's open only on Fridays and you can find anything and everything there from record players to traditional Turkmen outfits and jewelry, to Indian saris, wooden furniture and antiques...a lot of stuff. All prices are negotiable and the sales people will cave if you walk away and pretend you lost interest in their stuff.

editor at large: Secondhand clothes?

tehran editor: Clothing is not something people buy secondhand; appliances and furniture though, yes.

I used to have an American boyfriend, a former rocker. There was a time when he wanted to be nice to me so he sent me a care package full of clothes. While they were nice clothing items, they were all secondhand and I donated every single one becuase I don't understand the concept of wearing secondhand items. I understand that it's a difference in culture, but I didn't like it one bit and said thank you to be polite. He realized his mistake and never ever gave me anything secondhand again.

Another issue is secondhand furniture. While I didn't have an issue buying a secondhand fridge, my mom was very unhappy with my decision and in the first chance she got, she gave me a fridge and made me get rid of the used one.

I guess for many Iranian women certain secondhand items like wooden furniture are ok to buy, but others like shoes, fridges, washing machines, etc. are an absolute no-no...

There is also an annual charity event in which they give away clothes and school stuff for kids and everything given away is new. It has been drummed into people here that if you want to give away something to the less fortunate, make sure to ask yourself whether you'd wear it yourself if someone gave it to you. Basically this translates into get new stuff even if you're going to give it away.

Friday, March 11, 2011

...32 Years Later

TEHRAN -- For Iranian women, forced to live under the inflexible laws of the Islamic Republic, fashion and beauty are serious concerns whose pursuit has consequences that can range from the comical to the dangerous.

Plastic surgery is a fashion statement in Iran much like wearing a designer dress or carrying a Birkin bag. While Barbie dolls are considered a Western influence and the Islamic government invested heavily in designing and marketing domestic replacements for Barbie and Ken known as Dara and Sara, many Iranian women have the Barbie complex. Middle class and “new money” alike, devote much time and effort to getting painful surgeries so they can imitate Barbie’s high cheekbones, upturned nose, and ample bust. Oblivious to Western blonde jokes, many finish off the Barbie appearance by going blonde -- a look that is more often a miss than a hit. Bleach blondes, platinum blondes, and plain tasteless blondes are a common sight.

Perms might have gone out of fashion in most parts of the world but they are still in high demand in Iran. Hairpieces are also popular among a portion of the women here. They are used for different purposes: in the front to create the long-bangs-covering-one-eye look or in the back to create a mound of hair under a headscarf, which serves to stop the veil from falling off and to convey that the woman in question has a desirable mane of irresistible tresses concealed from view. One government official declared on state television that the tall hairdo is a sign of the end times and the coming of the Messiah. It has been foretold, he explained, that when the return of the Hidden Imam draws near, women will be seen walking around with hairdos that resemble a camel’s hump.

The police have similarly declared jihad on knee-high boots on the basis that they accentuate a woman’s calves, an example of tabaroj (religious terminology for “lady bumps”), which endangers the health of the family. Iranian women have not been deterred from walking around in such ungodly footwear. One young lady, however, who was arrested for wearing boots and given a $1,200 fine, said she has no choice but to retire her footwear for good as the judge told her she would serve six months in jail term if she was arrested a second time on a boot charge.

Iranian women are also fans of tight-fitting attire. However, in a country where a simple hairstyle can bring about judgment day and boots hugging a woman’s calves are a forbidden means of seduction, one trend at their disposal is the anorexic model look. Without feminine curves, they can get away with wearing a figure-hugging manteau and put on a show strutting around in uncomfortable stilettos.

The growing number of anorexics and bulimics in Iran may also be due to the fact that clothes are not made to fit the bodies of Iranian women. Most businesses import their women’s clothing from China and Southeast Asia, where the typical female dimensions differs from those of the curvy Persians. Hence a size 36 (U.S. size 2) Iranian girl will not fit in what is imported from the Far East and sold as a size 36 in the country. Poor body image is the consequence, which often leads to women starving themselves in order to fit in the size 36 Chinese import.

What is considered fashionable in Iran and particularly what becomes the color of the year has almost nothing to do with the rest of the world. A member of the clothing guild tells Vitrine that when he sees there is more of a certain color in the goods he has imported he floods the market and peddles it the color of the year.

A radical Islamist country such as Pakistan has models and supermodels who are even seen walking the catwalk at Milan Fashion Week. The same extremist country has Islamabad fashion week and yet in a country like Iran designers are given no platform to publicly present their creations and very few have the courage to hold underground fashion

Despite much propaganda and hours of IRIB round tables about decadent Western fashion and cultural inroads, the Islamic Republic has been unsuccessful in offering a successful Islamic alternative for women's clothing.

The recently inaugurated Islamic fashion exhibition left much to be desired. The lines presented were nothing more than unimaginative knock-offs of traditional, ethnic Iranian outfits, which in the words of one young woman, were better suited for the museum of anthropology.