“The Burka Prevents Love”…Iranian Women’s Fashion Transformations

Women in the Qajar era in Iran (1796-1925) walked slowly to gain a small area of ​​individual and social freedom. The visits of Europeans and Iranians traveling abroad at the time led to the growth of the idea of ​​freedom of women in the minds of the Iranian people. As a result, the rate of fanaticism and extremism eased during this period, and it is no longer the same as it was in the past. Despite this, with the decrease in the severity of fanaticism and the old restrictions and limitations, women have had a long way to establish their presence in society, because by reading the history of the Qajar era, we find that the best place for women throughout the reign of this dynasty was the home and the harem.

The only period in which women achieved changes was at the end of this dynasty, when women tried to play a more active role in society. Here we are going to look at the type of women’s clothing in this period as one of the obstacles that stood on the way to liberation, and after which there were great efforts to change it.

According to the fashion style followed in that period, the socks were usually blue or black, which matched trousers, the shoes were closed at the front and open at the back, like tread, and without heels, and most women wore “jewa” and sandals.

Graham Wilson, an American missionary who lived in Iran for years during that period and recorded his observations, writes: “The clothes of women in the Qajar period in the alleys and streets correspond to their seclusion. The clothes exist ​​” from a shirt and tight pants. pulled at the ankle, a chador consisting of four square meters of cloth that completely covers it, a linen burqa completely covers her face. In front of the eyes is a light piece that enables her to see, but her eyes are not seen. These clothes are intended for going out of the house and are of two or three kinds of material: blue, black or white. The conclusion is that men cannot distinguish Their women are among the other women. The women lift their veils as they walk in the streets to breathe, or to see the road better. But if a man surprises them, they hasten to cover their faces. The old women who wash their clothes on the side of the channels or on the stone, try to wash their clothes in such a so so nder to see their bodies.

Dr. Wells, a British physician, writes in his book “Iran before a Century” about the clothes and adornment of Iranian women at home: “The lower part of the body (due to wearing many clothes) always looks far swollen , and is bigger than it really is Underwear except for their husbands According to their belief any kind of decoration is only shown to their husbands.

According to the fashion style followed in that period, the socks were usually blue or black, matching trousers. The shoes are closed at the front and open at the back, like a platform, and without heels. Most women wear “jeans” and sandals. German researcher and tourist Dalmani, who wrote the book “From Khorasan to Bakhtiari” and presents his observations in Iran, mentions about women’s clothes: “Shoemakers make uniform shoes for women. All shoes are flat and curved. The lower part is made of wood ., glued on leather, and decorated with pieces of bones and copper, and women walk with difficulty.

In the last years of the Qajar rule, women’s fashion was influenced by the comic magazines and postcards that Iranians brought from the West.

Despite this, the situation of women was better in some areas, especially in villages and among the nomadic tribes, and because women in these societies put in a lot of effort at work, they appear more respected and esteemed in the eyes of men, and the divorce rate is lower in these societies.

Women would participate in celebrations and weddings with men by dancing and cheering, and there was no objection to their appearance in front of men. The members of the tribes were convinced of one wife, and it rarely happened that a man would marry a second wife. They viewed temporary marriage as an ugly and hateful act. Iranian author Mirza Hussein Khan, in his book “The Geography of Iran”, describes the women of the provinces of Gilan (in the south) and Khuzestan (in the south) as previously mentioned, and states that they are more free in their movement in the foreign country compared to other provinces, and the inhabitants of Tink provinces rarely care about the issue of the headscarf Women.

In the last years of the Qajar rule, women’s fashion was influenced by the comic magazines and postcards that Iranians brought from the West. These magazines and postcards were not only of interest to men and women seeking innovation, but also to the wealthy and middle class, as they were sold cheaply alongside expensive European goods. Therefore, the features and clothes of European women won the admiration of the inhabitants of Iranian cities and left their mark on them.

At the end of the Qajar era, some women opposed the wearing of the burqa as an obstacle to growth and progress

The dresses on the thin bodies of the beautiful models in the magazines have given rise to the obsession of women looking to western culture to lose weight. Women moved away from excessive makeup, and over time, women chose the simple style of appearance.

In the events that led to the Constitutional Revolution (the revolution that took place in 1906 and through which the Iranian people obtained a national parliament for the first time) women were able to contribute their part to change the conditions at the time. And Iranian women, by using clothes that do not show features, gave their help for the advancement of the revolution. Nazim al-Islam Kermani, a journalist in the era of the Constitutional Revolution, quotes in his book “The History of the Awakening of the Iranians in the Time of the Traders’ Sit-in at the British Embassy” as the traders protested against the government and the Grand Vizier at the British Embassy, ​​who demanded court proceedings: “An unknown woman came to the embassy door and asked the Hajj pilgrim Muhammad Taqi, gave him a bank note and said to him: Spend this amount on the protesters. Haji Muhammad Taqi took the money, and no matter how much he tried to find out the identity of the woman, she would not let him, nor a check received from him for the money.

Women’s demand for their rights came after the constitutional revolution, which coincided with the popular liberation movement at the end of the Qajar era. As a first step, some women opposed the wearing of the burqa as an obstacle to growth and progress. And the crown of the Sultanate (one of the daughters of Nasir al-Din Shah, the greatest king of Iran in the Qajar dynasty), and she is one of the modernizers of her time, saw that “the burqa prevents love and marriage,” and the crown of the Sultanate writes in her memoirs: “Isn’t it better for a woman to meet a man face to face like him? All the inhabitants of the world to complete their union with love?”

In addition, some women of that period, such as Sedika Dawlatabadi (journalist and women’s rights activist), called for the removal of the hijab. With the establishment of women’s associations in conjunction with the change in the way of dressing, efforts to raise the level of culture and women’s rights escalated.

With the Qajars away from the political scene, the improvement in the situation of women was noticeable, and they were able to influence Iranian society. As if the speculation of Haji Pirzadeh (of the Dervish of this era) that he mentioned on his journey during that period was fulfilled: “The time will not pass for men and women to sit under the elm trees, drink tea, and the veil will not return.”

During the period of the Constitutional Revolution and the beginning of the twentieth century, many Iranian women were freed from these accumulated clothes, imitating the liberal European and Oriental women.

During the Pahlavi period that brought about the coup of Reza Shah, the latter forced women to abandon the veil, which led to the dissatisfaction of many of them, and the emergence of a movement against this coercion in Iran . As for the era of his son, Muhammad Reza Pahlavi, the veil was optional in Iran, until the Islamic Revolution in 1979, when it became mandatory.

At the beginning of the revolution and during the eighties and nineties of the last century, covering the hair was a must. The colors of long clothes outside the house were usually blue, black or gray, but the tradition gradually changed. changed, especially during the era of reformist President Muhammad Khatami in the mid-nineties who called for some freedoms and reforms in the country. Since that time, women’s veils are no longer what they used to be, so it was easier and easier to cover the hair, and colorful costumes appeared on the streets on women’s bodies.

And in recent years, those long dresses have also shortened, as if Iranian women with such small and slow movements wanted to get their right or some of them to choose the veil. There are movements that have arisen against the veil in Iran, and the veil patrols appear and disappear from time to time, such as the recent period in which these patrols returned to the main squares in the cities, and their sharp confrontations led to discussions and movements against the compulsory veil which are still ongoing.

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