Iranian Fashion in the 21st Century – William O Beeman

Fashion in the twenty-first century in Iran has become highly inventive, surprisingly innovative, and undoubtedly glamorous. This is a surprise to some in the West who are accustomed to seeing images of large public gatherings of men and women in drab clothing engaged in religious or political activities that seem to be decidedly lacking in any elements that could be called “fashionable.” Women in particular are portrayed in the all-enveloping chador, usually solid black, which has become a Western trope for female repression. Fashion in Iran has, in fact, been remarkable for its flexibility and for its role in cultural communication. It has been directly responsive to social and political events in the country for as long as documentation has existed. Iranians take enormous care in their dress, exhibiting a great deal of attention and individualism. Every element of Iranian fashion is socially coded, making it easy to determine the political, social, and personal attitudes of the wearer. Because dress is such a potent public statement, attempts on the part of the Iranian state to impose standards and requirements on the population have been a universal phenomenon over many centuries. Before one can understand the current status of fashion in Iran, it is necessary to understand the elements from which fashion is constructed. These consist both of material element, like fabrics and tailoring, ethnic traditions from the many cultural groups that live under the rubric of Iranian culture, and historical social forces that have inspired the expression of Iranian identity over the years. These three elements: material, cultural, and historical, have shifted and interacted with each other to create fashion variation.

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