Chador: An Essential Identity Characteristic for Women in Persia

  March 07, 2022   Read time 1 min
Chador: An Essential Identity Characteristic for Women in Persia
The chador has developed over the centuries into a national item of outdoor clothing.

Reza Shah Pahlavi’s campaign in the 1930s to modernize Iran deemed the chador as a symbol of women’s repression and backwardness, banning it in public, forcing government employees to make their wives appear in public without a chador, and ordering the police to remove chadors by force. Predictably, this radical move resulted in more repression for the vast majority of women, many of whom immured themselves in their homes for fear of assault and humiliation. A governor’s wife, who had to appear at public functions preferred to commit suicide rather than cast away her chador.

This policy brought about change. Women in some urban families adopted modest European style clothing, some covering their hair with scarves or hats. But during the latter part of the reign of the second Pahlavi monarch (1941–79), under the influence of Mohammad Reza’s “modernizing” policies, including television and banning women in hijab from workplaces, young women closely copied their European counterparts and wore whatever they wanted.
The Islamic Revolution gave the black chador a new meaning, that of returning to the nation’s national identity and Islamic roots. At the time, some women who did not belong to particularly religious families adopted the chador in a show of allegiance with the ideals of the Islamic Revolution, hence the revolutionary image often associated with the chador. However, most Iranian women wore a chador before the revolution and many still continue to do so.
The chador, apart from its use as hijab, also has formal connotations. I have observed that some women who normally wear an overcoat will wear a chador to a funeral or a mourning ceremony in a mosque.