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Kids' Zone Monica Dispatch

How Do Women Dress in Iran?
April 1, 2000

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By Iranian law, all women must wear clothes that cover them from head to toe. They call this dress the hejab. The law states that any female over the age of seven must wear the hejab. This law applies to all foreign women visiting Iran, which means that we also must cover ourselves up like the Iranian women. If we do not follow this law, we could get into a lot of trouble with the local government.

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On our second day in Iran, our new friends Maryam, Maral and Reza take us to the market in Khoy to find maknes: a covering for the head, neck, and shoulders held in place by elastic. A string of elastic slides over your neck, and the makne or scarf, goes over your head. It's easy and comfortable to wear-much better than the long safety-pinned scarves we wore to cross the border from Turkey into Iran.

I'm wearing a long skirt that I pulled over my pants. Kavitha, Jasmine and Abeja are looking for a roupush, a baggy trench coat that covers jeans and pants. The roupush is worn by most women in the state capital of Tehran. We decide not to buy chadors, the long black capes that swirl around your entire body from head to toe. Chador means 'tent' and wearing one takes a lot of practice-we see women holding them closed all the time. If their hands are busy, they hold the chador closed between their teeth! The chador is worn by most women in the smaller Iranian cities like Khoy. With Maryam's help, we find suitable maknes at the market and feel that we look like the Iranian women.

Even though we're wearing proper dress now, we still stand out among the Iranian women. Being foreign women, it is not easy for us to look just like the Iranian women. We attract more attention than the local women. People practice their English on us or ask us questions about our jobs and our homes. Sometimes, they want to click a photo or capture a video with us. Even though we look and feel different wearing the hejab, the Iranians feel more comfortable talking with us when we are dressed like this.

Some women, like our friend Reza's mom, even wear the hejab inside the house. Others take it off the minute they step inside their homes. But, sometimes it gets in the way. For example, Iran was represented at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games by 25 men and one woman: Lida Fariman, the first Iranian woman to attend the Olympics since the 1979 revolution. She carried the Iranian flag for the team while dressed in a white hejab. She competed in her shooting event while wearing a heavy black head-dress in a hot room, but she did not win.

What do you think about the hejab? Unlike women in some other Islamic nations, Iranian women hold jobs and go to school. They are more educated and have more rights than their Pakistani and Afghani neighbors. Is it, then, that important to be focusing on what they wear? I surely do hope you had fun reading about the how Iranian women dress. Stay with us and we'll uncover those parts of Iran that are "covered up" right now, together.


p.s. - Please e-mail me at

Kavitha - Persian New Year Fun
Brian - Answers to Your Questions About Iran

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