Women and the Moral Politics of Dress in Twentieth Century Tehran
This research examines the politicization of women’s clothing under the Pahlavi monarchy and the Islamic Republican of Iran from the 1930s-1990s. I distinctively focus on the governments’ use of women’s clothing to define their idea of Iranian nationalism and how their sumptuary policies affected women’s lives. I assess the motives behind the sumptuary laws for each regime, and argue that both governments situated women as symbols of national health and honor, and used them as visualizations for the success of their platforms. Despite different interpretations of morality, my research suggests that both governments created these laws to “purify” their “corrupt” nation, using the same rhetoric. Paradoxically, this led to a sexualized culture that exists today in Tehran. I analyze a wealth of primary sources including women’s magazines, political cartoons, poetry, newspapers, extant clothing, photographs, legislation, autobiographies, speeches, passports, Revolutionary-era books written by Iranian intellectuals, and oral interviews that I conducted.