Minor nips and tucks, but black is still in at Tehran fashion week
Robert Tait in Tehran
They are unlikely to grace any catwalk or adorn the figures of supermodels, but the latest in Islamic fashions got top marks from Iran's religious authorities last week in an exhibition aimed at promoting female modesty and countering the influence of western trends.
Tehran's Imam Khomeini Mosque hosted Iran's first Islamic dress fair in which ankle-length overcoats and all-covering black chadors supplanted the sexually daring chic favoured by European designers as the apparel of choice.
The 10-day event, which began on Thursday, is being organised by the police force along with the commerce ministry and the state broadcasting corporation, IRIB, to push the idea of women dressing stylishly in line with Koranic values.
Hundreds of women browsed through an array of outfits, many appearing strikingly uniform in their dark colouring and length. But representatives from the Tehran-based Superior Hijab Production Company modelled a blue chador that departed from tradition by including sleeves, thus solving an age-old practical problem as women could only keep their chadors on by holding them at the neck.
The sales pitch was reinforced by a fringe exhibition of quotes extolling the virtue of Islamic hijab. One quote, from the Prophet Mohammed, read: 'Any woman with faith in Allah and the resurrection day will not expose her adornments to any man except her husband. Any woman who does these things for [anyone] other than her husband has betrayed her faith and provoked God's anger.'
The exhibition was a response to recent trends among many young Iranian women towards short, tight-fitting overcoats and headscarves pushed back to expose elaborate hair-dos.
Earlier this year, Tehran's city council ordered a police crackdown against women dressing insufficiently Islamic.
Hamid Reza Moniri, the exhibition's executive secretary, said it had been organised to help stem a cultural 'invasion' from the west. 'We believe that dressing in recent years has been influenced and damaged by non-Iranian fashions,' he said.
'Some international designers and television news channels have invaded our culture and influenced the morality of our youth and our nation. We don't want to end up like westerners by forgetting our ancient cultures and traditions.'
Rafighe Musapour, 65, dressed in a traditional black chador, welcomed the exhibition. 'It's a good idea to persuade younger women to dress in a more Islamic fashion. We are Muslims and we should try to dress more appropriately.'
But some young women were less impressed. 'The designs here are not appropriate for the youth or people of my age,' said Shakoofeh, 19, a biology student. ' I wouldn't wear hijab at all if it wasn't the law.'