Dhaka Muslin
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Basic Information

Dhaka Muslin, also known as Woven Air, is a type of high-end Muslin textile whose creation has sadly been lost to history. It was noteworthy for its extremely high thread-count, fine craftsmanship, and for being almost transparent. There were two secrets or components to Dhaka Muslin: there was a rare varietal of cotton used in its creation, and tricky 16-step processes of its manufacture. This rare strain grew only along the Mengha river in India. The painstakingly hand-manufactured cloth had complicated geometric shapes and tiny flowers woven into it, making some parts less see-through and more ornate.

Dhaka Muslin was a prized luxury material, exported far and wide for thousands of years and in most of the world affordable only by the very wealthy. In Ancient Greece, it was deemed worthy to clothe the statues of goddesses at major temples. Circa 1800 it took a scandalous run in the fashion of London and Paris, as nearly see-through chemises became all the rage with the upper class for a while.

Unfortunately, in an effort to corner the market, the Honourable East India Company interfered with the traditional processes and local businesses. There are even (possibly apocryphal) reports of the East India Company cutting off the thumbs of some of the local weavers to put them out of work - alternative sources suggest that the thumb cutting may have been self-inflicted by weavers forced into debt-indentured labour for the company, but unwilling to practice their trade in servitude1. The rare cotton variety went extinct early in the 19th Century, and the 16-step process was lost (this extinction may or may not have been the result of extensive cotton exports from the US).


1. BBC article unravels the history of the material, and recent efforts to weave it anew.

Game and Story Use

  • A great treasure item. A bolt of Dhaka Muslin is very valuable, if you realize what you've got on your hands.
    • It's also quite transportable, as it was famed for its lightness, durability, and ability to compress down multiple layers into a small space.
  • The risqué transparent thinness may suggest specific uses, such as in the attire of a character who flaunts conventional norms or behaves seductively. A noble who rules through commanding presence and intimidation may wear cloth of gold to reinforce their importance, but a character that wields softer power, or lures in their targets, might find dhaka muslin to be more their style.
  • Definitely qualifies as a "masterwork" textile for systems that give bonuses for such, or for systems which require the best craftsmanship as the starting point for a magic item.
  • The loss of a masterwork craft tradition to industrialisation makes for useful backstory for a campaign where the context is right - the most obvious additional application might be swordsmithing - as, for example, when the European sword-making trade became industrial, leading to modern perceptions of European swords as badly made crap compared to, say, certain Japanese designs.
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