Yesterday, NPR's All Things Considered visited the shop of Iraqi entrepreneur Ali Mohammed who specializes in clothes for the "modern Iraqi woman." The shop - and the women who frequent it - reveal much about the country's shifting social norms.

Iraqi street fashion has been constrained since 2003, as insurgent forces specifically targeted women who did not wear hijab, and women who wanted to dress in trendier outfits normally covered head-to-toe with an abaya, as to not attract attention.

However, as the situation has stabilized, many women are embracing different styles. At the posh Hunt Club, western style clothing is considered normal. There was even a "Miss Hunt Club" style pageant, that brought forth all kinds of participants.

Contestant Samaa Sameer, 18, was eliminated before the final round, but she says the pageant was a good way to show her confidence. Her mother, who wears a headscarf, beamed.

Sameer says she can't wear trendy clothes everywhere in Baghdad, but at social clubs like this, it's just the thing. She says it may take at least five years before Western clothes for women are common on city streets.


Mohammed summarizes the change in attitude well, saying of his clients:

Iraqi women ought to be free to wear whatever they like. They should be free to choose hijab if they wish, or they ought to be able to express themselves with Western clothing.

In Baghdad, Hemlines Rise As Violence Falls [NPR]