Beyond the Chador

Two Bakhtiari women from Western Iran. Two Bakhtiari women from Western Iran. Photograph: Ien Rappold 2003

'Beyond the Chador: Dress from the mountains and deserts of Iran' was the name of an exhibition mounted by the Textile Research Centre in Leiden, from 23 January until 29 August 2013. Visitors at the exhibition were struck by the sheer diversity, the bright colours of the garments and multitude of shapes, which constitute such a marked contrast with the dominant perception of Iranian clothing as being dull and uniform.

Iran is a country with an ancient and proud history. It is also a country with a harsh climate, with deserts and mountains and an overall lack of water. Formerly known as Persia, it lies at the crossroads between Asia, the Middle East and Europe. Iran is also the homeland of many empires, including the Persian Achaemenids, the Parthians, the Sassanians and the Safavids. Over the centuries numerous groups crossed the country, in both directions. Some of the newcomers settled down, others moved on. Nowadays Iran shares frontiers with (clockwise) Iraq, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The country’s geography, climate and human history have created a complex tapestry of cultures and traditions. Although rapidly vanishing in some areas due to national pressures and globalization, many aspects of these traditions can still be found in the regional dress of the country, especially that worn by women.

Most of the outfits in the exhibition date from the late nineteenth and the twentieth centuries and are now housed in the collection of the Textile Research Centre, Leiden. Many of the garments were collected during long periods of field work in Iran between 1998-2003 by Gillian and Willem Vogelsang. The garments originate from among all of the main ethnic groups, plus some smaller ones.

For a brief film impression of the exhibition, click here.

Exhibition homepage.

Digital source of illustration (retrieved 12th july 2016).


Last modified on Thursday, 13 May 2021 17:20