It is true that in Iran a woman should not publicly emphasize her charms; she should cover her hair with a scarf and wear clothes which do not reveal her figure. Not all Iranian women are happy with such a requisition and they try to accentuate their looks with every possible means…
The easiest way to stand out from the crowd of women covered from head to toe in dark fabric is to wear a colorful coat. Especially in big cities one can see many women who like to break the monotony of prescribed apparel. I noticed that young women frequently match black clothes with turquoise ones, with a very elegant result. The scarves on their heads are not always black either and they do not cover the whole head but only the back of it.
However, what is the most conspicuous is their make-up. In the post-revolutionary times make-up was still absolutely forbidden. A woman who would make a public appearance with lipstick on her mouth could be punished with flogging or a high fine. That has changed.
Today, we can see on the streets many women with delicate make-up which enhances their features, most often their big beautiful eyes. In bigger cities there is no dearth of girls with strong make-up: clearly defined eyes, colorful eye shadows, rouge on the cheeks, and intense color of lipstick. All that within the boundaries of good taste as Iranian women are truly elegant.
Apart from make-up there is one more way of highlighting the eyes. It is very radical and rather irreversible: rhinoplasty. One cannot but admit that many Iranian women are very “nosy” and, to be more beautiful, they decide to undergo a nose surgery. Actually, the 2 or 3 women walking the streets with plaster on their noses were not enough to raise our curiosity, however, with the number systematically growing we started to wonder what was going on.
Our Iranian colleague explained to us that a nose job was done not only to enhance beauty but also to raise the prestige of the person. If one can afford such an operation one is perceived as well-off. That is so strongly imprinted on the people’s minds that there are a few (and I write “people” as the phenomenon also concerns men) who proudly strut down the streets with a plaster on their noses even though they had not undergone the operation. They only do it to come off as rich. A nose surgery costs from 500 to 2000 American dollars. Supposedly, in 2006 in Tehran alone about 35 thousand people underwent the plastic operation.
Another subject is wedding fashion. A few times we were able to get a glimpse of a bride in a car beside her prospective husband. Those were just moments and we could not see much. However, one day, in front of a photo lab, our eyes were treated to the view of a bride at her loveliest, that is in her wedding gown, with full make-up on, and an intricate hairdo, with only a hooded cape lightly thrown over the shoulders. What a sight! We were so shocked with the richness and elaborateness of the dress and with the fancy hairstyle that we did not even take a photo. We would probably not have be allowed to take one anyway, though. We later learned that such wedding make-up costs more than 200 dollars, for the most modest designs, and much more for complex ones like the make-up we had seen.
It is hard to even describe what the bride had on her face. It was the whole palette of colors, including shiny golden and silver elements. One cannot say that the make-up was kitschy or exaggerated because it contributed to the finished piece (not necessarily of art) constituted by the face, the dress, the car, and the whole environment. The view was truly unforgettable.
We heard that wedding apparel for that one day in a girl’s life cost astronomical amounts and is not subject to economizing. Well, there is nothing left for us to do but, one day, return to Iran, get ourselves invited to a wedding and see it all with our own eyes. The ceremony must be beautiful but we also wonder what the life of the newlyweds looks like in Iran ;)