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.


  1. Great blog. I agree, many women in Tehran look very odd these days. You can look amazingly trashy while still covering your hair, arms, and thighs. There are still many chadoris around, too - I am convinced chadors are bad for your health because they restrict free movement.

  2. Goodness me they way you described ''iranian women '' was pretty mean , i've been home (Tehran) less than 3 month ago and what i figured from what you called 'Iranian women'' was those minorities who have nothing to do but driving around to get sleep around cause they dont have clubs and bars and similar public places to get their one night stand like Europeans .
    I personally believe that all societies have A group of uneducated , careless and shallow people (not just women) who likes to enjoy their lives in some other ways .
    You may think im telling you these out of my prodigious , but i personally prefer to stay international cause like eley kishimito said , Place of birth is just an accident .
    The point im trying to make is that , the precentage of those women who have been trying to stay independent by educating themselves and working their ass off to gain more respect from their societies are fairly high in compare 10 years ago .
    sadly some people instead of showing a bit of appreciation towards those who have been fighting for their rights in such suffocating atmosphere , their started to point to their weaknesses and what they don't have, 'being privileged by living in a better society''.
    the changes in the last few years was impressing and im proud of those women who know their rights .
    At last me as a young Iranian women who studies in one of the most famous fashion universities in the world , wanted to kindly ask you that instead of criticizing all 'Iranian women'' by what you see in streets , try to look deeper and have more knowledge about what you write in your blog to avoid insulting the feelings of those who you called them ''IRANIAN WOMEN'' .
    maybe you never had this chance to dig deeper and study their social behaviors with more sensitivity .
    The third world countries always been struggling to choose between their ethics, their traditions and modernity and how to transform them to something young modern and perhaps fashionable with all those limitations they have.
    I hope someday soon you'll have this opportunity to meet a real ''Iranian woman''to understand their mentality and their great souls .
    wish you luck with your next blog
    Kind regards . Sisi Mhd

  3. iranian women never cease to amaze. they are the toughest women on the face of the planet. despite all the setbacks and all the repression they suffer in Iranian society they still live, fall in love, have children and raise those children as best as they possibly can. this item is not meant in any way as criticism towards all Iranian women just part of society that we cannot deny exists. this does not mean strong educated, cultured women do not live in iran.