Attempts are underway in Bangladesh to revive the hand-woven that was once worn by Queen Marie Antoinette using traditional spinning and weaving machines.
Among the thin woven muslins, this cloth is a special product around the capital Dhaka and is called “Dhaka muslin”. It is woven very thinly with very delicate threads, and it was even said in European social circles that the lines of the body of the person wearing the garment could be seen through when the lights changed or when it got wet with a shower.
Certain cotton, which grows only near Dhaka, was needed to revive this fabric, but it was believed that the plant had already become extinct. Botanists went to the other side of the globe and searched around for the plant.
It took five years to search for cotton as a raw material. Dhaka muslin cannot be woven without the cotton ‘Phuti Carpus ‘. It is rare and extinct to revive.
The cotton was found in Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London. During the Mughal Empire, there were hundreds of fabrics imported from Dhaka by East India Company merchants.
A genetic test of the fibres revealed that the cotton, which was thought to have been lost, was actually nearby. It had already been discovered by botanists in Kapasia, a riverside town in northern Dhaka.
The identified cotton is currently cultivated on an experimental farm, and research is underway to increase production scale.
Elegant garments made in Dhaka muslin have long been a favourite of the Mughal Empire and attracted European aristocrats and celebrities at the end of the 18th century.
Queen Marie Antoinette of France wears a muslin costume in a portrait painted in 1783.
But when the East India Company conquered the delta region of Bengal in the 18th century, paving the way for British colonial rule, the muslin industry was destroyed within a few years.