What Street Style in Iran Is Really Like

What Street Style in Iran Is Really Like ...
teenvogue.com 03/10/2017 Culture

Keywords:#Iran, #Iranian, #Isfahan, #Islamic, #Islamic_Republic, #Kashan, #New_York, #New_York_City, #Persian, #Quran, #Revolution, #Turquoise, #Vogue, #Western

Iman Hariri-kia
Oct 2, 2017 5:00PM EDT
"In reality, the Islamic veil is for women the equivalent of the oyster for the pearl. The oyster keeps the pearl safe from the hazards, therefore, Islamic veils must be seen as a protection, not an imprisonment."
I came across this sign in a centuries-old bathhouse in Kashan, a small village in the province of Isfahan, Iran. Clearly meant to be read by tourists, the sign felt more unsettling than reassuring. I appreciated the attempt to connect with foreigners, to allow them understand the reasoning behind donning the hijab. But the analogy was inherently problematic: A pearl can easily live within the nurturing protection of its hardened shell for the entirety of it’s existence, undisturbed. But a pearl can also be plucked from it’s oyster, and shared with the world. No two pearls are the same, and it’s their imperfections that truly make them beautiful.
In this scenario, desire can easily escalate to sin. Clothing is thought of as a tool of disguise rather than an expression of identity. When Iran became an Islamic Republic in 1979, the country transformed from an aristocracy to a theocracy; religious leaders suddenly held high ranking political positions and the Quran became the rule of law. Iranian women were legally required to remain fully concealed in public, regardless of the extent of their personal or religious belief. What was once a peaceful decision became a somewhat taunting regulation.
Although I was born and raised in New York City, I'm the daughter of two Persian immigrants and a dual citizen. I am lucky enough to be able to return to Iran often, as a lot of my family chose to remain residents after the Revolution. Until a month ago, I hadn’t visited for five years. During my second-to-last stay, I was shocked to find that women’s dress was being so closely monitored by the Iranian government. There was an entire police force dedicated to harassing women whose hijabs weren’t properly tightened or who had sleeves that barely brushed their wrists. I even once witnessed these officers raid a bazaar, a social hub where women were shopping with their families and friends. They arrested several women without explanation, rounded them up in a pre-arranged van, and sentenced them to a night in jail — all because their clothing attracted attention. Women weren’t meant to stand out; they had no choice but to blend in.

In the past five years, Iranian society has evolved so much and for the better. Upon my arrival, I was proud to see women rocking bright colors and embroidered pieces: scarves in bright Persian Turquoise and dripping in calligraphy; t-shirts with slogans scrawled across the bosom; denim with rips at the knees. Women who chose to dress more conservatively continued to do so, but others were using their fashion choices to assert their independence and identity. Scarves could be loosely thrown over hair like an after thought, jeans could be slightly cropped or form fitting, and robes had the option to be replaced by oversized cardigans or jackets.
I found myself jotting down my own street style inspiration at every corner. Some noteworthy looks included oversized denim jackets worn with skinny jeans and combat boots, and long, floral maxidresses worn with sneakers and baggy sweaters. Above all, confidence was key among all these women — they fully owned the clothes, the clothes did not own them.
Young Iranian women are using their personal style to fight for progress and for their individuality. Their clothes simultaneously express both their frustration with the present, as well as their romanticism and hope for the future, and they’re doing so in a way that both abides by the country’s laws and feeds their fashion appetites. They are proving once and for all that fashion is innately political. These women shouldn’t be depicted as degraded victims, or mindless religious drones, by the Western media.
Call them what they are: opinionated citizens who crave the opportunity to let their voices be heard. Girls who love the creativity behind crafting the perfect look. Unique, exquisite pearls, finally ready to come out of their shells. They are Teen Vogue.
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