Does Women's Fashion in Afghanistan Still Matter?

Published August 24th, 2021 - 10:18 GMT
You have to be like a Pearl in the oyster in this colorful city by Fatimah Hossaini
You have to be like a Pearl in the oyster in this colorful city by Fatimah Hossaini (Instagram)
There was once a time when Kabul was known as the “Paris of Central Asia.”
Traditional clothing in Afghanistan is generally loose-fitting and conservative.
By Ewelina Lepionko

Throughout its 100-year modern history, the Afghan state has experienced remarkable transformations and devastating upheavals. Each time the Afghan people have seen weathered the losing and winning of even their most basic rights. 

Across generations, these victories and defeats have meant that the Afghan people, especially women, have had to devise different ways to defend what is rightfully theirs.

Obviously, the most pressing topic is looks, especially women. The question of what they can wear and what is forbidden in street fashion returns.

Traditional Afghanistan clothing is and has always been, unique with beautiful Afghani designs and colors. 

Afghan clothing styles reflect that Afghanistan is home to various ethnicities including the Tajiks, Pashtun, Hazara, Uzbek and smaller populations of Aimaq, Turkmen, Baloch, Pashayi, Nuristani, Arab, Brahui, Pamiri, and Gurjar. They have their own particular traditions. Each region has its own style.

Over the centuries, however, numerous variations on this theme have developed. These differences reflect the ethnic and cultural origins of the wearer. 

The style of Afghanistan clothing in the 1950s was much like western clothing during that time. When it was in fashion in the west, women in the capital city of Kabul were also wearing short sleeve shirts and mini skirts! 

Old photos show women out on the streets in short skirts, chic scarves, and beehive hairdos. 

Today Islamic ideas of modesty are very different from those in the west. While people in western countries tend to dress to suit themselves, Afghans dress to convey honor and respect to others.

Generally, traditional women's dresses in Afghanistan are made from light linens and are loose-fitting for ease of movement. They wear a dress with loose-fitting pants that go down to the ankles.

It is called Firaq partūg. The Pashtun dress is the most popular of the Afghan clothing, in particular the female dress which is known as Gand-e-Afghani.


A post shared by aamir ali shah (@aamiriat)

In public, Afghan clothing covers the whole body, including the head for women. A chador (headscarf) is worn to cover the hair.  The use of a hijab, typically worn by women in Iran and other Islamic countries, is also a common way Afghan women cover their hair today. Only very conservative women wear an all-covering burqa. During the Taliban rule, all women were forced to wear a burqa when going out of the house. 


A post shared by Osam Miwata (@osammiwata)

On formal occasions, women wear fancier dresses that have intricate embroidery on them – sometimes small mirrors are sown on the dress. Those dresses are detailed with gold threading (Zardozi), gold beads, and come in many different colors on silk fabrics. 


A post shared by Mohsin Sons (@mohsin_sons)

The question is, what will the streets of Afghanistan look like during the current crisis in the country?

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