Poosh (an old Persian word meaning "cloth") has become one of several clothing brands launched in modern Iran in the past 5 years. After the Revolution of 1979, women’s street wear in Iran came down to two relatively drab choices that had to be matched with a demure wearer. The chador, or “superior hijab,” and the manteau, an overcoat designed to conceal a woman’s body shape, became the default wardrobe in Iran's public places. But the women’s mildly disaffected campaign against the hijab (shawl) quickly manifested in more creative and alluring dress choices that pushed the strict religious codes. The Poosh brand today, for instance, advertises as a contemporary fashion dealer that purportedly is a registered brand approved by the authorities and the Ministry of Culture. (See the many styles of fabrics and fashion below).
Clearly, it is a false imagination in the West that Persian women face limitation in the color of their clothing. Iranians call this impression given in movies and the media "utter nonsense." Of course there is a tendency of especially older women in conservative enclaves and towns to gravitate to dark-colored clothing. I saw them often. However, Iranian girls display "designer brights and neons" nearly everywhere. Many wear a loose narrow scarf allowing wisps of hair to frame their face. Untied hair shows from the back. Some wear heavy make-up. The "nose job" (men and women in Iran both get their noses adjusted, as is evident from the bandaid pasted on the nuzzler) is as common as hauling a backpack. Well, not quite. Shops in Iran are stuffed with skinny jeans and tights, and, as one native travel agency states, "Iranian girls don’t show any intimidation in wearing them. So why should you?"
Conservative Islam meets Zoroaster, at a Fire Temple
Blacks come in many shades
Women can be seen wearing the black chador but a visitor will rarely see a fully veiled specter -- the Arabian Wahabi humility (a Sunni habit) is not actually part of the Shiite cultural statement. Iranian men of conservative persuasion indeed do wear black clothes (pants and shirt, often without a tie) from time to time when engaged in religious devotional activities, but on the street their lives imitate a motorcycle culture of the casual and suggestive. Women and men flirt on the edges of establishment custom, as might be expected almost anywhere else in the world. Western men, as I alluded to previously, are especially prize captures for the more adventurous and mostly educated urban females.
Women occupy more than half of university seats in the country and certainly are very socially active and economically more independent than western reporters seem to give them credit for.
In the first hour of my arrival at Tehran's international airport in mid-September 2017, I observed one middle-aged woman loading her luggage into the trunk of a vehicle that had stranded the creeping one lane of traffic behind her. Horns began to join in chorus. But undeterred, this industrious lady turned and glared at the boisterous lineup on the construction-strewn narrow road; then she lifted her finely polished nails and middle finger high overhead and defiantly repudiated the mayhem. The horns went silent. I smiled to myself, a bit astonished and very positively impressed by the dignified style of the flourish at the same time.
Two hijab styles (above), one flaunting the full hair coverage rule, and this one displaying more conservative sensibility in public
Two men (traditional Iranian and European tourist) and a woman (Persian), Tehran
The allure of Iran's women, their perfumes and the colorful patterns of their clothing and home appliances, after all carries on today in alignment with the mystique of the Orient, facilitated by Iran's pivotal role in the emergence of the Silk Road and the spice and gems flow. Alexander the Great, a young man, although already a master military strategist and conqueror, succumbed to the charms of the Persian courtesans even as he presided over the looting and destruction of Darius' great city of
Persepolis and the Magis' Zoroastrian strongholds. Alexander assumed for himself the distinctive "King of Kings" role and married off his army's officers to Persian women.
A palace's deteriorating wall decor
Note: There is no hijab or display of modesty in this modern-style wedding exercise in the ancient Iranian city of Yazd. A drone overhead was one of the photographer's tools.
Persian women: bearers of jewels, fragrances and fruit
(Tour coordinator/author Richard Bangs is on the right)