Iran Chic: As Western as you want to be.
Barry Artiste, Now Public Contributor
Leave it to a Persian women's persistance to change the middle eastern world.
Iran once the modicum of modesty, with roaming bands of religious nutjobs pulling women off the streets for showing even the minimalist amount of skin, seem to be losing ground in richer and more educated areas of Iran where the Iranian Religious Fashion Police do not dare tread, most likely because they may not whose powerful Iranian family they are harrassing.
Persian Women 's Pride and Beauty in the past forced to reveal only a part of their face take extreme steps in showcasing what little facial area they expose. Iranian women, much like Moscow Women and Dutch Women I have met in my travels to europe and the middle east certainly dress to the nines even if it is just to go outside briefly to pick up the paper. No bingo stretch [amtys and sweats like here in North America.
My feeling is Iranian women have fought perfect tooth and manicured nail in getting their rights to ever to go back to the day when a fashion mistake sometimes would be fatal.
Certainly Persian women's influence in the middle eastern world elsewhere will take hold more gradually than a Western influence derided by strict Muslims everywhere.
Diyana Ishak, The New Republic
Published: Saturday, April 05, 2008
Some of the first beauty tips I learned as an adolescent in London came from my Iranian best friend, Ziba. She opened my eyes to Persian grooming secrets. As we were growing up, I never thought much of her perfectly shaped eyebrows; shiny, straight hair and flawlessly co-ordinated outfits --Ziba was naturally glamorous, and that's just how naturally glamorous people carried themselves, I thought. But then, last year, I visited Iran and peeked into her world.
I was intimidated to travel to Iran. My perceptions were shaped by Iran's political standoff with the West and the bellicose pronouncements of its hardline president. I came cautiously prepared for an austere Islamic society where secret police roamed the streets, aggressively enforcing the mandatory veiling of women.
I cautiously wrapped my black headscarf tightly around my head while my plane landed at Mehrabad Airport. When Ziba greeted me at the airport, she wasted no time in pulling me right up to Persian standards of dress. "What's with the headscarf?" she scorned. "You look too Arab." Her tone of voice left me to accept that looking Arab -- or, indeed, looking anything other than Iranian -- is not a good thing in this fiercely proud nation. She quickly proceeded to unwrap my headscarf and taught me how to wear it like most women do in northern Tehran -- loosely hanging from the crown of the head, with the excess tossed over the shoulders, or bundled beneath the chin.
It wasn't just the loose hijab that was different than I expected. Walking through the streets and bazaars of the capital, I saw some women fully covered in black, while others -- "muhajababes" -- pushed the interpretation of Islamic dress to the maximum. These particular women tend to be young and are terrifically easy to spot in public: They're the ones who stuff their big hair under headscarves, cake on excessive eye makeup under oversized sunglasses and tuck skinny jeans into knee-high leather boots. They call it "Audrey Hepburn chic" in Tehran.
I also observed, rather surprisingly, a large number of women and men with nose bandages walking the streets. In fact, before I had arrived, Ziba and two of her male cousins had put their noses under the knife. Cosmetic surgery is commonplace in Iran, where the number of nose jobs performed each year is about the highest in the world.
Why the Iranian obsession with appearance? In the case of nose jobs, there's a fairly straightforward answer: Since the Revolution, in 1979, the face has been the only part of the female body others could see, so fixating on it makes sense. Another Arab friend of mine had a cruder, but related thought about why Iranians obsess over appearance. "They have a superiority complex," he said -- in other words, beauty is a way to show that they're a superior, more civilized people.
Later in the week, Ziba, her grandmother, her aunt and I drove to a makeshift beauty salon. The parlour was full of women primping for the Iranian New Year, Novruz. Unlike beauty salons back home, this one had an equal mix of younger and older women, who were pushing 70, 80 even. In Iran, it seems there is no age limit for primping.The beautician threading my eyebrows seemed truly comfortable, as did most of the women there. In contrast to feminine fashion on the street, she had a spaghetti-strapped tank top on, revealing her midriff every time she leaned over for more thread.
While I was being worked on, a coiffured lady in her 60s started commenting on the cultural differences between London and Tehran. "In London, one can get away with anything, but not in Tehran," she explained. "Here, appearances are incredibly important, as every detail of one's self is scrutinized by others."Ziba agreed. In a society where so much is left unsaid, she continued, physical appearances must speak for who you are, what you do, where you studied, how much you earn and what social tolerance you have.
You can immediately tell someone's politics by their clothes, their make-up, their shoes.After my beautician had finished threading, she started to vigorously (and painfully) brush my eyebrows with a hard-bristled toothbrush. "You must do this every morning and every night so that you will have obedient eyebrows," she advised. By the time I returned home, I realized that I was more relieved to be free of the need to be perfectly groomed than I was of being free of the dress laws.