Transformed Lives: Women Before Iran’s Islamic Revolution

By Elika Kalami

The Islamic Revolution of 1979 brought drastic changes to daily life in Iran, most notably for its population of women. In the 1930s, the old Shah banned the veil and headscarves. Persian women thrived during this era of freedom as they had the opportunity to experiment with fashion, colors, and culture. Under the rule of the Shah, Pre-Revolution Iran was encouraged to adopt Western-oriented secular aspects, allowing more room for creativity and passion. But when the new Islamic authorities forced a mandatory dress code in the 1980s that required all women to wear a hijab, life for Persian women changed forever. Despite the current restrictions imposed on the country, Persian citizens continue to reminisce on their culture and memories before the Islamic Revolution. 

Here are some photos and summaries that captured the beauty and quality of life in Iran for women before the 1980s:


Taken in 1976, this photo shows a group of Persian women window shopping in the streets of Iran. Just like those living in Western regions, Iranian women loved shopping and adding new items to their collections. While the hijab was still commonly used, many women chose to undertake Western-style clothing, such as tight jeans, short sleeve tops, and miniskirts. An Iranian woman’s love for shoes continues today, as there are no restrictions on what they could wear on their feet.


In the 1970s, Persian women shared common interests and styles in fashion with their Western counterparts. Unlike today’s strict, conservative dress codes in Iran, women were allowed to dress freely and even show some skin through their clothing choices. During this era, fashion was rather elegant and vibrant. When not in traditional attire, women wore shorts and miniskirts and dressed to their liking. Most notably, they were allowed to show off their dark, natural hair without the stress of covering it with a hijab.


In this photo, a group of women studied at Tehran University in 1977. At the beginning of the 1900s, education for Persian women expanded slowly. As the nation evolved and its secularization created demands for professionally trained jobs, many more women were encouraged to attend school and get an education. Women tended to play a significant role in the economy and professional status of the country. Before the Revolution, over 40% of students enrolled in secondary schools were female. Thankfully, the Revolution did not slow down women’s progress in education. More women continued to attend schools and expand their skills after the 1980s.  

The nature of life, fashion, education, and social events changed significantly from the period leading up to the Islamic Revolution of 1979 when compared to the later restrictions imposed upon Iranian women. While the country’s current status is rigid and conservative, I highly recommend that everyone look into the many pictures and magazines encapsulating the beauty and passionate cultures of Iranian women before the Revolution.