What is a Chador?

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The chador is a loose robe worn by some Muslims, often with a hijab, to comply with Islamic laws on modesty. It is associated with Iran but also worn in other parts of the Middle East. Traditional chadors come in various colors, and what is worn underneath is a matter of personal preference.

A chador is a loose robe that is worn like a cloak by some Muslims. Many people associate the chador specifically with Iran, but it is also worn in other parts of the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia. Muslims typically wear their chadors with the hijab, a veil that covers the hair, throat and neck, to ensure that their appearance complies with Islamic laws on modesty and deportment.

The roots of veiling and covering appear to be ancient; Muslim society was certainly not the first to cover up for its women. However, the headscarf certainly reached new heights during the flowering of Islamic culture in the Middle East, and the chador appears to be an invention of the Muslim world.

A typical chador is cut in the shape of an open half circle. To put on the garment, women pull it over their heads, tightening it at the front, wrapping the body in the fabric. When the chador is worn well and is the right size, it covers everything but the hands, feet and face, with the hijab acting as extra security to ensure nothing indiscreet is revealed.

Traditional chadors come in a huge array of colors, which might come as a surprise to people familiar with images of Muslim women dressed in black on the streets of the Middle East. The trend of wearing black chadors emerged in 20th century Iran when black was considered more modest and appropriate for women of good race. More colorful chadors can be seen in rural areas, and even in areas where the black chador is more common, it’s not uncommon to see a bright hijab peeking out from underneath.

Some very traditional women wear the chador with a ruband, a white apron that starts under the eyes and runs down the front of the body. However, this is not necessary and is becoming increasingly rare.
What you wear under the chador is a matter of personal taste. In revolutionary Iran, for example, many women resisted the chador requirement, wearing bold clothing underneath where no one could see them. Others like to wear modest clothing under their chadors as an expression of piety and as a matter of taste and personal comfort.

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