Steam control in Tehran — plus some indication of the long-running animus between Arabs and Persians, and of restlessness with Sharia. By Frances Harrison for BBC News, with thanks to PRCS:
Women in high-heeled shoes and plenty of make-up strut down the catwalk amid clouds of artificial smoke.
It is the first time live models have been allowed to appear in a fashion show in post-revolutionary Iran.
Iran fashion show
The only unusual aspect is they’re draped from head to toe in the all enveloping chador that hides everything except the face.
It’s part of a new drive to give women more attractive choices of Islamic dress that allow them to express their individuality, while remaining within the letter of the law.
Not everyone in the all female audience was happy.
“I don’t think ordinary people will like this show because everything comes from Arab culture,” complains Faranak who says she wants something more Iranian and indigenous.
Her friend agrees: “Here we didn’t see anything interesting – in terms of colours and designs we have much better stuff; just look on the streets of Tehran they’re wearing much better clothes”.
Many of the women on the streets of Tehran do indeed look more like Western fashion models than the models on the catwalk.
In skimpy tight overcoats and high heeled shoes and token headscarves perched on the back of their dyed hair, they are what the authorities call “western dolls”.
Many young women born after the revolution do not seem to have accepted the official idea of Islamic dress.
Conservative MP Rafat Bayat, who always wears a black chador, believes the problem is the state never educated young people properly.
“The generation born after the revolution has grown up in families that do not believe in these principles and they are estranged from these laws,” she says.
“We thought there would be no problem because we had an Islamic Republic and we thought everyone knew the constitution,” says Mrs Bayat with regret.
According to the law, a woman who does not cover her hair and body in public can be fined or imprisoned for up to two months.
But there are hundreds of shops throughout North Tehran selling glamorous strapless dresses and low-cut, beaded tops for women to wear at parties.
During the reformist period, restrictions were relaxed to allow women to wear bright colours for the first time since the revolution.
But right-wing conservatives are outraged by what they see as western permissiveness now creeping into Islamic dress.
There is also a growing awareness that heavy-handed police action like raids, arrests and closure of fashion boutiques simply do not work.
And interestingly, though he is an ultra conservative, President Ahmadinejad did not bring about the crackdown on un-Islamic dress that many feared.
“Observance of hijab has got worse since the new government because Mr Ahmadinejad is not that strict on this issue,” complains Mrs Bayat.
“Mr Ahmadinejad thinks we should not use force when acting on this issue so as a result hijab has become weaker” she says.