Iran’s Catwalk Regulations

An Iranian model presents the latest Islamic fashion for women at a fashion show

An Iranian model presents the latest Islamic fashion for women at a fashion show

I just read an article about rules being imposed upon models on Iranian catwalks by the Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry:

“Move modestly. No garish makeup.  Don loose and unrevealing clothing.  Those are some of the new rules for Iranian models, who have been told not to attract too much attention during fashion shows.

Live models “should avoid any behavior that would distract visitors’ attention from the clothes put on display,” according to the eight-part “Guideline For Fashion And Dress Shows.”

Models are not allowed to show off the curves of their bodies, and their hair should not be seen,” the document reads. “The wearing of tight and body-hugging clothes and types of makeup that are incompatible with Islamic and Iranian culture are prohibited.”

Am I wrong, or isn’t the point of models to attract attention?  They are walking display cases of fashionable goods.  It’s revealing (haha) that they don’t ban the entire profession of modeling; instead they systematically ban every part of the job description.  Also, these regulations are written as though they address models, but it is the designers who will have to make the largest adjustments, for it is not the model who decides how short the skirt is or how clingy a garment is.  This is a transparently misguided attempt to stave off dirty Western influence from the unsullied reputations of Iran’s citizens.

A bullet point from the Ministry of Culture’s website:

“Conducting research works on the propaganda campaign of international media and becoming familiar with their techniques and the ways to counter their measures if needed.”

The root problem, as the Iranian government sees it, seems to be the perception that being exposed to– and heaven forbid, adopting– Western visual aesthetics is an assault upon the very foundation of Islam and its people.

In looking up the definition of hijab, I discovered that one of its root meanings is “to shelter,” which manages to sound protective and sweet.  Not so darling are the alternate root definitions of “to cover” and “to screen,” which imply outright censorship.  I find the idea of attempting to govern morality through uniforms– because that is essentially what the hijab is– absolutely laughable.  You may be effectively covering sexual organs, but after all, uniforms are one of the most common fetishes.  Though a primary function of a uniform is to identify a person as a member of a particular group, and often to convey asexual professionalism, the result is more often than not the very opposite of that intention.  Everything from military and firemen uniforms to nun, priest, and Catholic school uniforms are firmly rooted in the fetish world, and have been for (at least) hundreds of years.  This connection is not mere coincidence.  Deny simple activities or pleasures, cloak bodies or processes in mystery, and the mystique surrounding those forbidden objects or activities will increase in direct proportion to the severity of the taboo.

I’m curious to hear other people’s take on this issue, please share!

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~ by Tove Hermanson on September 22, 2008.

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