What Is an Iranian Hijab?

Lainie Petersen

The Iranian hijab refers to the types of clothes that women in Iran must wear in order to conform to Islamic dress standards, which are legally enforced in Iran. Women in Iran are expected to cover their heads and bodies while in public or in the presence of men to whom they are not closely related, but there are significant variations on Iranian hijab. Some women choose to dress very conservatively, wearing a black chador over modest clothing and a headscarf, while others will opt for a more modern look, wearing the manteau, a rain coat, over slacks or a long skirt and a simple scarf tied over their heads. The choice of clothing is dictated, in part, by a woman's personal preference as well as the area where she lives and her profession.

An Iranian hijab refers to the headscarves and coverings that women in Iran must wear.
An Iranian hijab refers to the headscarves and coverings that women in Iran must wear.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of Iranian hijab is a necessity for a woman to cover her head, particularly her hair. This is usually accomplished by wearing at least one scarf over the head. Some scarves are simply placed over the head, and the ends are wrapped around the neck. More conservative women may choose to wear the khimar, which is like a long hood and is pulled over a woman's head and covers her shoulders and chest. Women may also wear an underscarf or hat under the khimar for extra coverage.

Dress standards are enforced within the Iranian borders.
Dress standards are enforced within the Iranian borders.

In order to conform to the Iranian hijab, a woman will generally cover her entire body while in public. This means that she will either wear a long skirt or loose trousers. In addition, her arms and chest must be completely covered. She will need to wear an outer layer that prevents the shape of her body from being seen. Very conservative women might wear an open-front cloak known as a chador, which is worn over the head and then is held shut in front by its wearer's hands or teeth. An alternative to the chador is the manteau, a boxy raincoat that women wear over their clothes.

Some women living and working in Iran will occasionally push the boundaries of what is considered to be an acceptable Iranian hijab. These women may wear headscarves that show a significant amount of their hair or a manteau that fits tightly or that is relatively short in length. Periodically, the Iranian government cracks down on these violations, and its police will either warn these women about their dress or even place them under arrest.

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