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Islam Portal

A chādor or chādar (Persian چادر‎) is an outer garment or open cloak worn by many Iranian women in public spaces; it is one possible way in which a Muslim woman may follow the Islamic dress code known as ḥijāb. A chador is a full-length semicircle of fabric open down the front, which is thrown over the head and held closed in front. It has no hand openings or closures but is held shut by the hands or by wrapping the ends around the waist.


Traditional use

Traditionally a light colored or printed chador was worn with a headscarf (rousari), blouse (pirahan) and skirt (daaman) or skirt over pants (shalvar) and this style continues to be worn by many rural Iranian women, particularly elderly women. Historically in urban settings the face would be covered with a long rectangular white veil (ruband, see also niqab) starting below the eyes. (The modern chador does not require this veil.) Inside the house, particularly for urban women, both chador and veil were discarded and women wore cooler and lighter garments, while in modern times, rural women continue to wear a light-weight printed chador inside the home over their clothing during their daily activities. Chador is more commonly worn by Shia Muslims.


Women with Chador

Before the modern revival of the chador, black was eschewed for its connotations of death and funerals; white or printed fabrics were preferred for everyday wear. Some women still prefer to wear different, lighter colors. Contemporary elderly rural women have disdained the modern fashion, and some young women indulge in colored chadors.

Iranian women are not required to wear chadors. Some do so, as wearing it is a claim to respectability and Islamic piety. However, women may also fulfill the government requirements for modest dress by wearing a combination of a headscarf and a long overcoat which conceals the arms and legs. The overcoat is known by a French word, manteau.

Like the hijab, the chador has become popular among women in Islamist movements wishing to visibly identify themselves as Islamists and as an assertion of dignity and Islamic culture. [1]

History of Iranian women's clothing

Fadwa El Guindi, in her book on the history of hijab, locates the origin of the Persian custom in ancient Mesopotamia, where respectable women veiled, and servants and prostitutes were forbidden to do so. The veil marked class status, and this dress code was regulated by sumptuary laws.

This custom seems to have been adopted by the Persian Achaemenid rulers, who are said by the Graeco-Roman historian Plutarch to have hidden their wives and concubines from the public gaze.

The barbarous nations, and amongst them the Persians especially, are extremely jealous, severe, and suspicious about their women, not only their wives (hai gamētai), but also their bought slaves and concubines (pallakai), whom they keep so strictly that no one sees them abroad; they spend their lives shut up within doors (oikoi) and when they take a journey, are carried in closed tents, curtained on all sides, and set upon a wagon (harmamaxai).[2]

Note, however, that the wives are hidden in wagons and litters, that is, by purdah, not by chadors. There is no pictorial evidence for the chador before Islamic times. Wolfgang Bruhn and Max Tilke, in their 1941 A Pictorial History of Costume, do show a drawing, said to be copied from an Achaemenid relief of the 5th century BCE, of a woman with her lower face hidden by a long cloth wrapped around her head. This is evidence of veiling, but not of a chador.[3]

It is likely that the custom of veiling continued through the Seleucid, Parthian, and Sassanid periods, though there is little in the way of pictorial evidence for this. Upper-class Greek and Byzantine women were also secluded from the public gaze. El-Guindi believes that the Islamic hijab is a continuation of this ancient Mediterranean and Middle Eastern custom. Muslim women were to be veiled or secluded because it marked them as respectable, see Sex segregation and Islam.

French illustration of woman in Qajar court-style chador, 1880s. From Dieulafoy's Tour du Monde, 1881-82.

It is not clear when the chador took the form in which it is currently known. European visitors of the 18th and 19th centuries have left pictorial records of women wearing the chador and the long white veil, but it is likely that the garment was worn long before that.

The 20th century Pahlavi ruler Reza Shah banned the chador in 1936, as incompatible with his modernizing ambitions. According to Mir-Hosseini as cited by El-Guindi, "the police were arresting women who wore the veil and forcibly removing it." This policy outraged the Shi'a clerics, and even many ordinary women, to whom "appearing in public without their cover was tantamount to nakedness." However, she continues, "this move was welcomed by Westernized and upperclass men and women, who saw it in liberal terms as a first step in granting women their rights." [4]

Eventually rules of dress code were relaxed, and after Reza Shah's abdication in 1941 the compulsory element in the policy of unveiling was abandoned, though the policy remained intact throughout the Pahlavi era. According to Mir-Hosseini, 'between 1941 and 1979 wearing hejab [hijab] was no longer an offence, but it was a real hindrance to climbing the social ladder, a badge of backwardness and a marker of class. A headscarf, let alone the chador, prejudiced the chances of advancement in work and society not only of working women but also of men, who were increasingly expected to appear with their wives at social functions. Fashionable hotels and restaurants refused to admit women with chador, schools and universities actively discouraged the chador, although the headscarf was tolerated. It was common to see girls from traditional families, who had to leave home with the chador, arriving at school without it and then putting it on again on the way home'. [5]

In 1980, the new government of Islamic Republic again intervened to dictate what women should wear in public – this time, restoring the veil. Roving morality police enforced hijab upon often unwilling women. The code was enforced most strictly in the years immediately following the revolution. With the cooling of revolutionary enthusiasm and increasing popular disenchantment with the theocratic regime, the rules of hijab have been eroded in numerous small ways.


  • Briant, Pierre, From Cyrus to Alexander, Eisenbrauns, 2002 (English translation and update of 1996 French version)
  • Bruhn, Wolfgang, and Tilke, Max, Kostümwerk, Verlag Ernst Wassmuth, 1955, as translated into English as A Pictorial History of Costume and republished in 1973 by Hastings House
  • El-Guindi, Fadwa, Veil: Modesty, Privacy, and Resistance, Berg, 1999
  • Mir-Hosseini, Ziba (1996) "Stretching The Limits: A Feminist Reading of the Shari'a in Post-Khomeini Iran," in Mai Yamani (ed.), Feminism and Islam: Legal and Literary Perspectives, pp. 285–319. New York: New York University Press
  1. ^
  2. ^ cited in Briant 2002 p. 284
  3. ^ Bruhn and Tilke 1955, p. 13, plate 10
  4. ^ cited in El-Guindi 1999, p. 174
  5. ^ cited in El-Guindi 1999 pp. 174-175

See also


Simple English

A chador (Persian چادر) is a piece of clothing. It is for Muslim women. In Iran, women wear chador in public. Chador covers all the body except the face. However some religious women, cover their faces with their chador too.

A chador is a full-length semi-circle of fabric open down the front. It is thrown over the head and held shut in front. A chador has no hand openings or closures but is held shut by the hands or by wrapping the ends around the waist.


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