This outfit is from a visit to the Middle East in July and August of 2001. We went to Iran to visit my Dad’s family and we visited many places around the country. In this picture my mom and I are standing in front of a mosque in the holy city of Ghom. There are very strict rules in Iran about women practicing modesty and “guarding their virtue”. In Iran’s Holy City, and especially in the mosques there, the dress codes are even more strict. Not only would it have been disrespectful for a woman to be dressed like a “Westerner”, but it was against the law and we would have been in a lot of trouble.
For me, this was quite an unpleasant experience. Although the mosque was beautiful and the experience of being there was unlike any other, I was very uncomfortable in the strange clothing and burning up hot in the summer sun. I was twelve years old at the time, and very close-minded. I was self-conscious in the long black shawl. When I saw myself I thought it looked strange, although I fit in to my surroundings much better with it on than I would have without it. By donning the uniform of those around me, I was sending a message of respect for their laws and culture. This style of dress identifies ethnicity, gender roles, and religious ideas which, in Iran, also tie into political beliefs. It also identifies a rite of passage, as girls do not start wearing “hijab”, or the scarves covering their head and neck, until they are about eight or nine years old.