Basically, the rules are quite simple: for men, no short pants or extreme short sleeve and tight shirts. For women, head and hair must be covered, and it is also necessary to wear something loose to cover the body.
What to wear then?
Shorts are not acceptable in public places.
Wearing ties or bows is not a problem.
T-shirts are acceptable.
Obeying Islamic rules including Hijab or Islamic dress-code is necessary for Iran. However, these rules are not observed very strict, especially for tourists and foreigners. You must not worry about maintaining your hijab since in times you have forgotten about it, the maximum penalty will be a request (usually in a kind way) to make it correct.
There are some minimum requirements for foreign women dress-code in public places :
1. Color: It’s a completely false belief that wearing must be dark in Iran. There is no limitation in this respect and we recommend you make sure using light colors in summer.
2. Head: Hair should be covered. It does not mean you shall have a tight scarf around your head. Don’t worry, It is very usual that some parts remain out of the cover. It’s quite acceptable for women to allow whips of their hair to frame their face. Appropriate hats & caps can do this function as well as scarves. The scarf is the most common covering for the head and is called “Roosari” in Farsi.
3. Body: Should be covered with loose clothes like man shirt, coat or manteau. Arms should not be bare.
4. Legs & feet: Legs should be covered down to ankles. Feet can be bare and you can wear sandals. Tight jeans are no problem.
What did Iran Travelers say about Iran dress code?
If you have an experience of wearing hijab in Iran you can leave a comment for others who search for it.
I found this Reuters news item about culturally correct clothing and behaviour in Iran in our local paper (October 12, 2007). I thought it would be helpful for women travelling to Iran to understand this. \’Iranian police have warned 122,000 people, mostly women, about flouting strict Islamic dress codes since April and nearly 7,000 of those attended classes on respecting the rules. Such crackdowns … are an annual event and usually last a few weeks. But this year\’s measures have been longer and more severe than in recent years… In addition to the dress crackdown, the newspaper quoted a Tehran police commander as saying 482 people were arrested for taking part in mixed parties. Men and women are not allowed to mix at close quarters in Iran, unless they are family members.
Beverly, Winnipeg, Canada (2007)
I went to Iran with my wife last year and when we landed at IKIA she was by far the most covered woman around. If you go to cities such as Tehran, Shiraz and, to a lesser extent, Isfahan you\’ll notice that there are many women making small albeit noticeable fashion statements, and dressing in quite a modern and fashionable way by the standards of the region (dyed hair, wigs, buns, visible make-up, heels, etc.).
So, in big cities covering your hair (not completely if you don\’t want to) and a knee-long coat or top over your jeans or trousers will be fine. My wife walked around in her jeans and all-stars and with her blonde hair being visible and we encountered no problems.
Yazd and Kashan are more conservative, so lower the tone accordingly.
Finally, places like shrines, mosques, etc. require full covering, but as previous posters noted chadors are available for visitors, or you can buy yourself one at a very affordable price.
Liilak, Feb 18, 2013
The woman in the Chador is the often shown image of women in Iran, but in the cities this style of dress is fading out fast as young women everywhere push the boundaries of what is allowed, by wearing shirts or stylish dresses over trousers, which are most commonly jeans, and wearing coloured manteaus with belts around their waist ,and head scarves with patterned designs of every color .
Heads are still covered but the percentage of hair covered reduces to a token scarf hanging on the back of the head in cities like Tehran or Shiraz and the more affluent areas of most towns and cities in Iran. Women still cover their heads but great pains are taken to have the most fantastic hairstyles showing but still covered in a way that will not get them into trouble.
Tourists are given a lot more leeway and to be honest most tourists just wear trousers, shirt and a head scarf so that they are still respecting the local rules.
It is easy to buy a manteau and many of them are made of light material and look really good.
We saw women with maybe 10% of the hair covered, half length sleeves and 3/4 length trousers, and many young couples holding hands as they walked down the street in Shiraz. We met one Irani woman who posed as a tourist in Yazd so that she could wear a shirt rather than a manteau. She said it was great but she still felt like she was taking a risk.
In the religious cities such as Esfahan, Mashhad and Qom, clothing is a bit more conservative in some areas, although if you Couch Surf, most people live in areas where clothing is indistinguishable from Tehran and Shiraz.
Wear exactly what you feel like while cycling, t-shirt and shorts are fine. Iran\’s dress code is great for men.
I\’ve stayed nice and cool throughout the desert, I don\’t know what all the fuss is about.
Iran\’s a great country to travel in and I\’ve had no problem regulating my temperature.
Wind-stopper cycling leggings can be useful in very rural areas…just pull them up and women will be able to take their eyes of your legs.
Plenty of women travelers have trod where you wish to, whether it be Iran or another Islamic country. Learn from their experiences regarding women travelers\’ dress in Islamic countries and acceptable women\’s Muslim clothing for travelers.
Having just returned from two weeks in Iran, I would like to offer some comments about appropriate attire for women. Iranian law requires that heads and necks be covered and female bodies must be modestly covered to at least mid-thigh. All the women on our tour purchased a manteau (resembles a lab coat and comes in different fabrics and colours) and hijab (or scarf) on arrival. We found that we could wear anything – or nothing – on our upper bodies under the manteau.. Loose pants or ankle-length skirts with no bare skin showing meant no critical looks from passersby. Bobby pins or safety pins ensured that scarves would stay draped. It was interesting to note that local women, especially the young ones, often showed a lot of hair and had their headscarves artfully wrapped around their heads. Their coats were often quite form-fitting. Their liberal use of makeup made us foreigners all look like frumps.
Pam, Toronto, Canada
When travelling within Iran women should wear loose fitting cotton trousers and loose fitting long sleeved shirts with a headscarf at hand. This clothing is very cool and comfortable and does not cause offence.
Gina, Wellington, New Zealand
I bought a black coverall that women wear over their clothes and a black scarf when I got to Tehran: that way, I did not stand out in the crowd and it helped me a great deal. Usually tourists wear a raincoat or a long shirt but it makes you stand out in the crowd like a sore thumb! Buying clothes in the country you are visiting is usually a good thing. In Iran, it is better to wear black. Never wear bright colors, or white, other women seldom do and you will attract unwanted attention.
Maryan, Paris, France
When visiting Iran, women must wear the hijab (headscarf and modest dress) in public at all times. At a hotel in Tehran a sign in the lobby of the Homa hotel reads as follows: \”In the name of God, respectful ladies are asked to observe the Islamic hijab and not to use cosmetics in public. Please use a scarf to cover your hair and neck. A long loose dress and dark stockings (or trousers). We wish you a nice trip.\”
The hijab warning shouldn\’t come as a surprise to visitors. To obtain a tourist visa from the Iranian embassy in Ottawa, Canadian women must first submit two photographs showing them wearing a headscarf. And they must be wearing it when the plane touches down in Tehran.
Martin Regg Cohn, chief of the Toronto Star\’s Middle East Bureau
I am an Iranian woman who read your Journeywoman article about how to wear [dress] in Iran. That was amazing to find this article on [the] net. Now, everything changes in our country. You do not need to wear socks, and coats are not so long, they can be printed in designs and short but with long sleeves to reach your wrists. Coats can be fitted now but not tight. You still should wear a scarf but not as before. Now they are long rectangular pieces of cloth that are used to cover your hair but not completely.