Surely there are things the Iranian government has decided it can't afford, but it can find the time and money for a "fashion show." Islamic morality policing is a cheap, lazy political tool with which to look pious and busy, while reminding the public who is boss.
Meanwhile, if the women still run afoul of some future crackdown, the woman hired by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance to put on the show says "we want to put bar codes on officially approved dresses and provide those wearing them with written permissions in order to prevent them from being arrested."
Gee, there's nothing creepy about that or anything. What if vice police's bar code scanner is on the fritz that day? "Ahmadinejad steps into Iran’s dress-code debate," by Thomas Erdbrink for the Washington Post, December 26:
TEHRAN — In the Islamic republic of Iran, the law requires women to cover their hair and bodies in public. But how to do so remains up to them, and the result is persistent confusion in the streets.
Though leading Shiite Muslim clerics advise women to wear chadors — the traditional head-to-toe cloak, usually black — Iran’s urban fashionistas increasingly prefer tight-fitting coats and scant head scarves.
Now, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is stepping into the dispute. He wants to settle it by promoting government-approved apparel for women, garments intended to introduce an array of clothes that are “Islamic and beautiful” at the same time.
Hard-liners are not amused. They say that the new designs encourage “Western values.” But at a recent government-sponsored fashion show, young women and their mothers gazed approvingly at the plastic mannequins showcasing the new coats and scarves. [...]
To many of those attending the government exhibition, the middle road between the chador and some of the Lady Gaga-like creations that some women make of their obligatory coats and scarves seemed to offer a solution to their fashion dilemmas.
“Oh lord, isn’t this beautiful?” exclaimed Zahra Ranjbar, an expert on Islamic clothing, as she walked passed a mannequin showcasing a brown coat cut well above the knee. Ranjbar was hired by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, the organizer of the fashion show, to advise young women on proper dresses. She wore a chador herself, but “only because I was told to by the ministry,” she admitted.
Ranjbar said more variations of Islamic dresses are needed to keep women interested in covering up. She fully supports “regulations” to clarify what can be worn and what cannot, she said, arguing that such clarity helps not only women, but also the police who enforce the dress code.
“We want to put bar codes on officially approved dresses and provide those wearing them with written permissions in order to prevent them from being arrested,” Ranjbar said. “We are doing this for the people, in order to protect them.”
But several fashion designers who sell dresses from their homes derided that idea, saying it would add even more permission slips to the already overprotected lives of Iranian women. Besides, they said, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
“Again we will face a situation in which a small group will decide for all women what is allowed and what not,” said Kiana, 26, who makes manteaus costing up to $300 apiece and did not want to be identified by her full name....