TEHRAN – To the untrained eye, Iran’s chador is simply a long, loose cloak that leaves only the face uncovered, but sellers have figured out ways to tailor different styles in seemingly subtle ways to cater to women of all tastes and social classes.
Here in Tajrish Bazaar in Tehran, the capital of the Islamic Republic, the dress code has relaxed somewhat in the years since the 1979 revolution, with one store owner explaining to EFE that while a variety of styles has always existed, the selection really increased around four years ago.
“The chador has no age; people buy it from five-year-old girls to women in their 70s. Normally, older women choose conventional chadors, while young women or mothers seek comfort and opt for ones that are easy to wear,” Mohamad Ali Bahrami told EFE.
The chador is not mandatory, though women in Iran are required by the state to cover their head with a hijab headscarf while in public.
Another seller in the bazaar, Maryam, explained that the official Iranian chador is the old-style garment that has remained unchanged over the years, and is preferred by the most traditional women who are used to wearing it.
“It’s the hardest to wear, you have to be a real expert to wear it. That’s why young girls who have just begun to wear chador start with the other models, which are simpler, and many of them have sleeves,” she said.
Each style also has its own price, from less than 10 euros to over 50 euros ($11-$56), with the most expensive being the profusely-decorated “Arab” style, while the cheapest is the simple “university.”
Nevertheless, Bahrami asserted that the different names are simply marketing, a way for buyers to come and directly request the model they want without any hassle – but perhaps some haggling.