Last Updated on June 21, 2023 by Shariful Alam
The History of Bengal muslin is a story of luxury and exotic beauty. This imperial fashion has myth and legend that serves centuries.
What if I say a Muslin cloth is found in the pharaoh’s mummy in Egypt? Would you believe it? Maybe not. But the fabric wrapped in the mummy in Egypt not called Muslin then, but it is the same cloth that we had as Muslin 400 years ago. There are so many stories in the past to understand the oldness and delicacy of this fabric. Muslin is a cloth with too many transformations due to its extreme popularity.
After reading this article, you will know the neutral history of Bengal Muslin. We serve the most authentic facts about muslin fabric.
The Muslin Dhaka team has 26 years of cumulative experience in fashion marketing. We love to tell stories about fashion and fabric.
There are a lot of ancient sources that talked about the Bengal muslin superiority. It is commonly said that exoticism and luxury are the leading causes for it being so desirable. It’s in history that Romans exchange gold for Muslin. Surprisingly, almost half of the Roman gold was spent on buying Muslin at the time of the Roman emperor Vespasian. (Ad 9 to 79)!
Bengal Muslin | Finest Ancient Cloth of this Planet
Before jumping deep into the history of Bengal muslin, its legacy is almost 4000 years as long as we know! In history, There was a minor confusion about the “name & origin” of Muslin. Though few researchers claim Muslin originated in Mosul, Iraq. The majority has concluded that it dates back to ancient Bengal. (Bangladesh & a part of India)
Historians said a few things about Muslin in many times. The most common saying the luxury & exoticness of this fabric are incredible.
Let’s take a look at a few quotes from history:
“Muslin is a cloth made of cotton, produced in India. It is magnificent and soft and used for making clothes, curtains, and bed linens. Muslin is also exported to other countries and is very popular in the Middle East.” Ibn Battuta (973 AD – 1048)
According to William Bolt, who wrote 1770 in his “Consideration on Indian Affairs,”
“the Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb, once chastised his daughter for being naked. Although the princess was fully clothed. The princess protested for she was, wearing 7 layers of fine Abrawan muslin. The fabric was so fine and sheer that she appeared to be wearing nothing at all.”
Marco Polo’s said in his book The Travels 1298 AD that Muslin is the finest cloth. It is so soft that it can pass through a ring. There is some finest cotton that creates Muslin. The weavers are highly skilled, and they know their work very well. It is so costly in every corner of the world for its big round of applause beauty.
The famous literature “A small passage” Gaius Petronius Arbiter describes a luxurious lifestyle by stating that a woman has her wardrobe full of muslin clothes. Some are too transparent to wear, some are so beautiful to use. Muslin fabric needed to be more pricey for its lightness, comfort, and softness.
The Roman historian Pliny the Elder thought Muslin was the most delicate of all fabrics. It has the top level of luxury in fashion. It was initially imported from ancient India.
Once at a wedding, a bride appeared in Muslin cloth, and people thought she was naked. It implies how transparent the Muslin was. The transparency made it famous in women’s fashion in the past. Aristocratic women loved to wear Muslin publicly.
From history, we also know that Muslin is a cloth made from cotton that originated from ancient India, today’s DHAKA. It became famous in England in the 16th century. Muslin is often used for clothing, curtains, and bed linens. It is prized for its softness, lightness, and transparency.
Unique Factors That Made Bengal Muslin Historical
· Highly Comfortable Fabric
· The Finest even better than Silk!
· So many emotional traces are left behind.
· The extreme level of skill for the craftsmanship
· Exotic vibes with a luxury feel
· Too much costly
Muslin had too many diversities, touching the heart of luxury fashion. It has never faded.
History of Bengal Muslin | The Symbol of Luxury Fashion
This beautiful fabric always gave birth to stories that became myths & history later. We share a few from our extreme hard work and research.
Was Muslin a Piece of Cotton or a Different Material?
Muslin was a type of cotton that came from “Phuti carpas.” It was not outside cotton, but the “Phuti Carpas” is unique and softer than regular cotton. It grows in several locations in the distribution of the Brahmaputra River. We can say, Muslin is a type of unique cotton fabric which need extra ordinary craftsmanship. During the Mughal reign, Dhaka gained the tag of Muslin supremacy, and then it started as the name of Dhaka Muslin. This Dhakai muslin became a global brand. Read the story of Dhakai Muslin.
The Significance of Muslin to Mughal Emperors
In the seventeenth century, south Asia had been altering the fashion sense in clothes. The textiles were a massive concern to the king. Princes wear muslin to mark their approaches as royal and memorable. Muslin was their first choice till then.
The Mughal emperors and their wives endorsed this lightweight and sheer cotton clothes.
They put so much effort into getting the best weavers under their sponsorship. They banned them from selling the finest fabric to others. The legacy of Muslin faded when the British turned up.
The Craftsmanship and Legacy of Bengal Muslin
The most striking fact about Bengal Muslin was its craftsmanship. It required a high level of skills and expertise. The movement of fingers was the core thing, along with focus. History tells us the artisans went to the middle of the Jamuna River in the evening to get the perfect weather.
Early morning and late evening were the most suitable time for the weaving. Their singing interpreted them as mermaids earlier. It tells that the Muslin had so many emotional traces from its beginning. That’s why the royal people were so fond of Bengal Muslin, and the craze is still there.
How did the weaving happen?
· Three fingers had to move and play gently with the fabric, and ultimately, it produced the Muslin cloth.
· Extreme focus & patience is mandatory for making Muslin. Women were the best fit for this job besides men.
· The weather and humidity played a significant role in making this fabric.
We have heard from our grandparents that a Muslin cloth gets passed through inside a ring; that’s true. (already see the picture above) Do you know what the reason behind it is? The exclusive handicrafts of the artisans.
They were so good at their work, no machine required for the production. If there is anything that you need for the repetition of Bengal muslin, that is the expertise only.
How much time and weight did it take for a Muslin cloth?
One yard of fabric is only 10 grams. Unbelievable right? But the production of Bengal muslin was a complex and time-consuming process. Typically, the entire process took 3 to 6 months to bring Muslin to the market. The demand for Bengal muslin was so high. The poetic name of the fabric is “woven in the air.”
The Threat to Bengal Muslin
The production was interrupted in the 18th century due to some biased steps taken by the British ruler. The muslin industry was brutally suppressed by several foreign policies. They were supposed to benefit the textile owners of Britain.
A merchant once noted that there were instances where thumbs were cut off to stop muslin production in 1772. Such acts affected the quality of Muslin badly. This interventions made muslin gone for two centuries.
The Fortunate “Come Back”
The crafting was an end; No one knows how to make it. But thankfully Bangladesh government encourages local weavers to be enthusiastic about their craft. The consequences are that Muslin returns to its dynamic fame!
After 200 years of disappearance, it is come back.
What was Bengal muslin mainly used for?
Apart from aristocratic fashion, Muslin was used for home decoration. Since it is a lightweight cotton fabric, the scopes of Muslin were versatile.
It treated luxury & exotic fashion in the times of Rome. We got Muslin literature from Gaius Petronius Arbiter. A Roman senator in ( 54-68) Ad Neronian era.
Undergarments and children’s clothing were highly famous, too, for their sheer features. Muslin was not only used regularly but also in Home décor!
Even current days, Curtains, towels, crib sheets, blankets, and bedsheets are the core examples of Muslin.
How “Bengal Muslin” became “Dhaka Muslin” ?
Dhaka became the Muslin capital because of the artisans, the quality of muslin fabric. Geographical location, Quality and Mughal emperors endorsement made Dhaka the center of Muslin trading as well. Dhaka Muslin became a global brand of bengal muslin.
Khadi Muslin appeared in the limelight during that period. Gained widespread popularity in France, and spread across the Western world. “Generic Muslin,” apparently the Dhaka Muslin, was the most fashionable side of luxury items. The pride of Bengal is now vanished, which is a matter of regret. It’s time to revive the ultimate luxury version of Muslin through our actions.
Muslin is not just a historical fabric of Bengal; It is always a pride.
Last Words : History of Bengal Muslin
We have tried to give you full-book information about the history of Bengal Muslin. Try to cover relevant information with the stories. The craftsmanship of Muslin required more training and support to get it in the best shape.
The fashion world owes to the delicacy of Bengal Muslin, which has made it sought after for centuries.
To know more about the current status of Muslin fashion, read the future of Dhaka Muslin.
Shariful Alam Pavel, A fashion lover, passionate marketer. Love to share wisdom based on real life experience to enrich knowledge.
Founder of Muslin Dhaka, a brand, speaks the truth about royal muslin and fashion. Explore the digital fashion universe with organic cotton muslin and much more!