The customs in every country, region, village and city can be an anthropologic and touristic attraction on its own. But what women wear, has been always a matter of debate and conflict during the history. You can know about the politics and the system of a society based on its women clothing.
In Iran, we have witnessed drastic changes in the politics and social norms during a very short period of time which had direct consequences on Iranian women dressing code.
Iran has a traditional, religious society, and of course, this will affect the standards and regulations indicating the dressing code of its people. However, wearing Hijab, meaning covering hair and not wearing exposing clothes are obligatory by the law.
If you are a woman, aiming to travel to Iran and wondering what should you wear and not to wear, please read this short guide on women dressing codes in Iran. I am writing this because there are many wrong ideas and mythical and exaggerated information about women dressing code, behavior, and situation in Iran in some guidebooks and even provided by non-Iranian travel agencies.
The women’s dressing in Iran can be divided into two main categories. The religious and conservative women or those women working in the governmental offices, on one hand; and on the other hand, the majority of easy going and less restricted women who might be religious and traditional but not so strict with their hijab.
So it is a common scene in Iranian streets to see a woman wearing a black, long piece of Hijab which is called Chador, alongside a girl with a long sleeve, bottoms open shirt and a t-shirt under it, with her hairs open under a loose scarf.
For the tourists and foreigners on the other side, there is a certain tolerance which does not apply for the Iranian women. This means you do not have to wear a very long coat which is called Manteau (French word) in Persian. Only a long sleeve shirt with pants which can be jean or any other material up to the ankles or a long skirt and a loose scarf is perfectly sufficient, although you will be easily spotted as a tourist which is not a bad thing. But if you want to look like a modern Iranian girl you might want to go shopping in Iran to buy one of these manteaux with bright colors and a scarf which stands in harmony with the rest of your clothes.
Iran like other countries of the region has a very high rate of cosmetic consumption. One of the things that might strike you from the very first day in Iran is the beauty of Iranian women, however covered with different volumes of make-up. The purpose of this text is not finding the reason for this social phenomenon but it is to say that wearing makeup not only is not forbidden in Iran but also is over-used by some people.
Another point is smoking, like other myths about the middle eastern countries. Many travelers, especially westerners, are doubtful about the female smokers or is it even possible? Yes, smoking for women is not forbidden by any law, although it is very rare to see an Iranian woman smoking in the streets. I, myself have only seen this in Tehran, it does not make it illegal but you might be stared at by people.
I prefer to stand out of the political statement in this article, although I am not extremely satisfied by the women’s situation in the middle east, sometimes I hear questions about women’s rights to drive a car or a motor. So to be clear, driving a car for women has been always permitted in Iran and actually, Iranian women are way better drivers than Iranian men. BUT it is interesting to know that running a motorcycle or a bicycle is not permitted for women in public. There are exceptions though, like motorcyclist tourists, among them an Iranian one Mahsa Homayunfar, who have traveled several countries on her motorcycle including her own country Iran, safe and sound.
If you are a female solo traveler, you might have been praised because of your courage of traveling alone! However, if you intend to travel alone in Iran, there is not any statistic which says Iran is not a safe country for female travelers; but then again like any other country, you need to be cautious and prudent about the place you are invited or the cars you are hitchhiking or people you are trusting. Still, if you are a woman or several female travelers do not be afraid of traveling in Iran because Iranian are getting so helpful and protective with strangers especially women. It is also worth mentioning that traveling with your partner or boyfriend in Iran is totally acceptable since no one will demand any marriage documents from non-Iranians.
To summarize if you are interested in history and culture, if you want to be fascinated by ancient monuments and a perplexing present, you won’t be disappointed with Iran.
If you have any other question about the dressing code and how to travel to Iran as a female solo traveler, please do not hesitate to contact me: