Dress Code For The Female Business Traveler In Iran
Iran, is a wonderful place to visit for business travel. It will likely be unlike any country you have ever visited and the people are sure to impress. Being on business travel it is paramount to always represent your company in a positive light both during official work engagements and also unofficially during your downtime as well. Respecting the dress code requirements in Iran will support your efforts to represent your company professionally and positively at all times.
Being an Islamic Republic, conservative dress is expected and required officially by law. Just so you are aware there are also “moral police” on patrol in the country to officially enforce the dress code for both men and women although in my travels I have never noticed them. You will learn quickly how warm the Iranian people are during your visit and you should be rest assured that as a foreign visitor you will most certainly not be bothered at all even if you accidentally break a little bit of dress code.
What will probably surprise you most is how fashionable Iranian men and women are despite the dress requirements. You will see some religious women in the traditional black chador (black head to toe covering). What you will see more often are women with colored hair tresses tumbling out of the back of their hair covering. Hair coverings of the finest silks, cashmere and fine fabrics made by top fashion designers. Bright, bold colors and oversized suglasses. As a business traveler it is not my suggestion to push the Islamic dress code to its limits only to note that Iran is not an unfashionable place and bringing your personal style in a more conservative tone is acceptable.
Conservative dress is required. Arms and legs, chest should be covered at all times. Clothing should be loose fitting in general. Skinny Jeans are acceptable in Iran (avoid leggings) especially with loose jacket (mantu) or tunic covering. It is acceptable to wear pants cropped at the ankle. Open toe shoes, nail polish (more subtle tones to be safe) and makeup are also acceptable. Hair covering is required at all times in public and when you enter a home please make note if the women are still covered or not. In many homes women take off their covering however, in religious homes or on any official company business if you are invited in a home ALWAYS wear your head covering at all times unless you are invited to take it off.
Dressing Down: You will find it easy to be comfortable given the conservative dress requirements. However, culturally speaking people tend to dress well anytime they leave the home in Iran. I would leave sweatpants and other very casual fare behind for this trip. This is a little more apparent for men who will wear a button down shirt or blazer even to the market. You do not have to get overly dressed up for your trips around town; It is just uncommon to leave the house overly dressed down (sweat pants, pajamas, etc.)- similar to many European cities as well.
In Winter months bring heavier wool scarves to keep warm and lighter more breathable scarf choices for the warmer months. At least one black one (in case you visit any very conservative homes or religious sites, or are traveling during a time when there is a mourning period for important Islamic religious figures) and several bold, bright colors for daily use. Iranian women themselves are very stylish and will have a selection of high end designer scarves (Burberry, Gucci, etc.). Have fun styling your clothing choices with a nice scarf.
Pants: Jeans, Skinny Jeans, Trousers, long skirts (ankle length) , etc. are all acceptable. Make sure your pants are cropped at the ankle but no higher. Shorts are not allowed for women or men in Iran.
Mantu/ Tunic/ Jacket /Sweater: The Mantu is a loose jacket covering which women will typically wear over their shirt. Other options are a loose tunic style top, a long loose jacket, or my favorite a long sleeve loose sweater (long cardigan) . The key is that your backside should be covered down to at least your mid upper thighs at all times. Also your arms should be covered to at least below elbow length at all times. Very conservative places (mosques , holy sites, conservative homes) will require more strict covering (black long chador) but this is usually for special circumstances and will be provided at holy sites.
Business attire: heels, nail polish, makeup are all acceptable in Iran. Hair covering and loose jacket/top are still required at all times. For business meetings in Iran I would suggest locating a more tailored jacket or mantu of the appropriate length and get a size up if necessary to ensure it is loose. Standard waist cropped blazers are not acceptable. Heels are acceptable but I would probably avoid very high heels and choose a conservative height for business meetings. For your scarf choice in business environments I would stick to black or white and be somewhat conservative.
On your flights into and out of Iran there will be no alcohol served in Iran airspace. Many airlines do not bring any alcohol at all on board because it is not allowed in Iran. While you are traveling it is best to abstain completely from drinking even if it is allowed on your airline outside of Iranian airspace. Also, during your connecting flight into Iran the non-Iranian airlines will not require you to wear your headscarf while boarding (in Turkey for example) but again it is a good idea on behalf of your company to begin embracing, respecting and observing Islamic dress requirements even on your connecting flight to Iran. Once you board have your conservative dress on & apply your hair covering. It is a good idea always in all matters to do things above and beyond what is expected or required. The goodwill generated will be worth your while, since you never know who may be around.
Conservative dress is required and especially important for the business traveler in Iran. But always remember that dressing up being “put together” and a bit fashionable is also very important