Having a clothing strategy for Iran is as important as having flights booked or some sort of accommodation pre-arranged.
It’s just one of the main parts of the planning process. Coming from a non-Islamic country, it can feel daunting to try to nail the right technique of covering yourself up in a proper way.
In this post I’m going to share the strategy that I used for my 2 week trip around Iran. I did quite a lot of research with books (like Lonely Planet – they always know), online resources and other female bloggers’ posts. And in the end, I tested it out!
TravelGeekery is no fashion blog. No pretty poses in the newest fashion trends. But when it comes to travel, we often know what we’re doing! The response to my post about What to Wear in Morocco has been tremendous. So I hope you’ll like this one too :)
Main pieces of clothing for a summer trip to Iran
You might have noticed there’s no post about packing tips here on TravelGeekery. It’s for a reason! I’m still fighting with it myself. Unfortunately I’m hardwired with the mindset that If I don’t need it, I’ll pack it anyway, what if I’ll need it?
But getting there! And the trip to Iran was a great test to my skills.
I chose the following pieces to take on the trip with me:
- 2x long-sleeved T-shirt (of which one was thermo-regulating)
- 2x loose pants
- 1x pair of leggings
- 1x loose long dress
- 1x loose knee-long dress
- 2x tunic
- 3x scarf
- 2 pairs of shoes: sporty trekking sandals & Tom’s
Of these staples, I created over 10 different combinations. Enough to last 2 weeks. Not that you need a different outfit each day, though! I could have easily gotten by with removing (at least) the following items: 1 scarf, leggings, 1 tunic and perhaps even the knee-long dress.
Iran-bound flight – how to dress?
You’re quite free to choose. But out of respect, you should be wearing Iran appropriate clothes already on the flight there. However, it’s enough to put the headscarf on only once you land in Iran.
What needs to be covered in Iran
Generally speaking: no hair, no cleavage, no shoulders or upper arms, no legs above the ankles.
Leggings are ok as long as you have a tunic/dress/shirt covering you up at least to your mid-thighs. If you follow these simple rules, you’ll be fine.
Men have it simpler – they just shouldn’t show their legs and upper arms.
There are, however, many subtle details when it comes to women’s clothing:
Hair: In Tehran and in big cities in the North the rules are slightly more relaxed. You must have the scarf basically just on the top of the head. Your hair can get out in front.
Arms: In most places it’s fine to have lower arms exposed. Just in the more conservative South I recommend that you opt for having your entire arms covered.
Legs: It’s ok if your pants are a tiny bit above the ankles, but don’t let them travel more!
Feet: Good news! You can have your feet exposed! Use this privilege to the fullest, as that’s the only body part that can fully breathe.
Overall, you as a foreigner, are doing enough just by trying. And don’t worry if you don’t get everything right. The friendly locals will most likely warn you before the moral police does.
Did locals stare at me? You bet! But not because I’d wear something inappropriate, more so just because I stood out. And who’s not curious about foreigners in less touristy places? I would be!
Dealing with heat in Iran
Ok, it’s really hot in Iran in summer (except the mountain peaks). And you might not be used to wearing so much in such heat.
Your secret weapon? Airy fabrics! The baggier the better. Linen, cotton, … all the materials that can breathe are you friend. Stay away from polyester.
Still not enough? Bring with you a refreshing water spray. It works like charm.
How Iranians dress
Iranian ladies typically wear long pants and a tunic or a coat called ‘manteau’ reaching to mid-thighs or knees. And a scarf, of course.
They also usually rely on darker shades of clothing. Elderly ladies do pure black, younger generation throws in more colors. You can often see women with heavy makeup on, as if compensating for the inability to show their hair.
Iranian women are so beautiful! You’ll see also quite a few who’ll wear floral dresses with matching scarves. It’s the nomadic tribe members who wear colorful clothes like that.
Little girls do not have to have their hair covered. They start some time between the age of 9 and 14, so their outfits can vary greatly.
As for men, you’ll again see all kinds of outfits, but the most typical are long pants plus a T-shirt or a button down shirt. They are usually dressed very well. Most of the young Iranian men we met had PhD degrees and wore fitting button downs.
Don’t let the clothing rules bother you too much and just go explore this amazing country! You won’t believe how beautiful it is and how friendly the locals are. See my other post that I wrote about the country and its people. I was really mesmerized.
And here’s a link straight to the Iran edition of Lonely Planet guidebook for you to check out.
Another good resource I found is a local girl’s guide to dressing up for Iran – see it here.
You’ll have to get ready for a few more things than only clothing. See a full list of Iran tips here.
Have you been to Iran or are you planning to go? Have you already been to an Islamic country where you had to cover up? Let me know in the comments!
Lovely pinners, here are some pins for you :)