The more I travel to Iran, the more friends and readers ask me questions about the Islamic Republic and how to behave in case they want to visit too. Among the most popular issues they raise, alongside how to get Iranian visa, Iran dress code is always included in a way or the other.
Who wants to visit Iran, in fact, is often worried about being unable to properly follow the guidelines of the Islamic Republic in what concerns clothing style, so here are some of my tips and tricks on how to properly follow Iran dress code.
First of all, to non-Muslim visitors, the main news is the hijab, meaning the Islamic headscarf, a symbol of modesty for a Muslim woman.
In Iran, wearing hijab is mandatory, and although loose and not too strict, foreigners and tourists are also required to abide by the country’s rules. If you have heard horror stories involving Iranian police stopping tourists and ask them to cover every single hair, after four trips to Iran I can say that’s not really the case.
Foreigners are asked to follow the Iran dress code, but no need to panic about it.
The veil can be a shawl or a scarf, and the hijab styles are literally countless: hiding the hair completely, leaving some out to be seen, black, colorful, flowery, covering a high hairstyle that reminds of an odalisque, a small shawl knotted under the chin, a long scarf loosely wrapped around the neck, a shawl wrapped around the head, and so on and so forth. You can choose what type of hijab suits you best, be it a headscarf for a more serious look or with brighter colors perfect for spring. Many Iranian women wear also a chador, full-body-length piece of fabric open in the front and usually black. Obviously, tourists are not asked to wear it unless they are entering the shrines, mausoleums of the main Imams.
Foreigners will also hardly be able to keep up with the latest hijab fashion, but don’t get despondent, you can always learn. After only four times and four years I’ve been going to Iran, I finally gave up and bought myself one of those huge hair claw clips to keep the headscarf hanging and sort of stuck. I have to say that it worked quite well and I even started forgetting to check if the veil was in place.
Alongside the different hijab styles, the dress code for women in Iran involves some more rules and tricks. Women are expected to wear a manteau that covers up to the thighs with trousers underneath that don’t need to be large but can be leggings, tight jeans and whatever type of pants you are more comfortable with.
Winter is hardly an issue especially in cold cities like Tehran as you will definitely want to wear a coat, while in spring and summer you might prefer some lighter tunic, still the same length. Either tunic or manteau, sleeves should either be long or 3/4.
Finally, spring and summer are all about colors, from bright headscarves to colorful manteau to flashy ballerina shoes, while autumn and winter are a bit more subdued color-wise, especially during Moharram, the period of mourning for the death of Imam Hussein celebrated by Shia Muslims in Karbala, Iraq, with Arbaeen on the 40th day of Ashura.
While women in Iran are used to adjusting and revamping the traditional attire into always new fashion styles, for foreigners this would mean adapting their usual dressing routine in order to show respect for the local Muslim culture. Because let’s face it, what’s the point of traveling if you are not willing to respect the hosting country?