I frequently travel to Iran. Every time I return my friends like to ask me many questions about the culture out of curiosity or because they want to visit themselves. The most common questions people ask are how to get an Iranian visa, what food to eat and crucially what to wear.
My personal experiences have taught me that often people who want to visit Iran worry about following the guidelines of Iran correctly. So, I've put together some of my top style tips and tricks on how to dress appropriately while in Iran.
For those of you who aren't Muslim, the leading clothing choice that you need to familiarize yourself with is the Hijab. This is an Islamic headscarf and represents modesty for Muslim women. For all visitors and residents, wearing a Hijab is a mandatory requirement. Tourists and other visitors are expected to abide by the rules. However, don't be too alarmed. The stories of police stopping tourist and demanding them to cover their hair are usually blown out of proportion.
Of course, foreigners are politely asked to respect and follow the dress code but it's not something to get yourself worried about. You can choose a shawl or a scarf to be used as a veil. Also, there are many different Hijab styles. You can opt to hide your hair completely or leave a little showing. Also, there are vast ranges of colored Hijabs that are flowery, striped and patterned. There are also many ways that you can wear the scarf – loosely wrapped around the neck or a shawl wrapped around your head and draping onto your shoulders. A lot of Iranian women also wear a chador. This is a full-length cloak that is open at the front. Of course, visitors are not expected to wear this unless entering highly religious shrines.
Aside from the hijab, there are some other tips and tricks that you should be aware of. Women should wear a manteau. This outfit modestly covers up to the thighs with trousers underneath. The trousers underneath don't have to be gigantic. They can be leggings or tight jeans or any pants that you feel at ease wearing.
I recommend wearing a padded coat in the winter months. If you visit in the spring or summer, then a tunic is probably your best option. Both tunics and manteaus should be ¾ length or long.
Lastly, if you visit during the spring or summer, remember color! Think bright, bold headscarves and eye-catching ballerina shoes. In contrast, during autumn and winter, the colors to wear are a bit duller. The colors that you wear is important during Moharram (the mourning period for the death of Imam Hussein).
It's true that women in Iran and use to adapting and modernizing their clothes to fit in with their cultural requirements. For foreigners, it's not always that easy. But let's face it, there's no point travelling to a different country such as Iran to experience their culture if we aren't willing to respect their ways of life. If you follow my guidelines above, you will have a fantastic experience without having to worry about how you look.