Sonia Ashmore Muslin


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Woven air','running water','woven wind': these are some of the names that have been given to muslin, a cotton textile of fabulous reputation, so fine as to be almost invisible.
For such an insubstantial fabric, muslin has carried surprising historical and political weight. It originated in India, where it was expensive and prized, but was exported to Ancient Rome, the Middle East, medieval China and other parts of South Asia. From the seventeenth century, muslin became a key commodity and vehicle of social and economic control for the British East India Company in Bengal. By the late eighteenth century, the skilled weavers of Paisley and the textile manufacturers of Glasgow and Manchester, astonished at the delicacy of the material made on hand-looms in India, strove to imitate it. Muslin was in such demand for fashionable dress in Europe that governments banned imports of it to protect their domestic textile industries.
This book charts the history of muslin from India to Europe to America while illustrating some of the finest examples from the V&A's relatively unexplored collection of more than 900 muslin objects, including male and female dress, dolls and ballet costumes. Many examples from Asia are dyed with vivid colours and embellished with embroidery, gold, silver, spangles and even propaganda, while in the West muslin was adapted to changing styles throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and has been used by designers such as Barbara Hulanicki.Vivienne Westwood and John Galliano.