Muslin is a light cotton fabric, finely woven and typically white, that was first imported from the Middle East to Europe in the 17th century. It is named after Mosul in modern-day Iraq, the city through which it made its way to Europe, but Dhaka in modern-day Bangladesh is the fabric's true place of origin. Muslin is a popular choice for clothing and curtains, particularly in hot, dry climates. It may also be used as padding for furniture.
There are many other uses for muslin. Because it is a relatively cheap fabric, it is not always used for clothing or upholstery, as more expensive fabrics often are. In sewing, it is often used to make a test garment before expensive fabric is used. This practice is so widespread that a test garment made with synthetic fabric is also referred to as "a muslin."
Muslin can be used to filter wine of impurities during the decanting process. A funnel with fabric stretched over the narrow end may be used to transfer wine or port into a decanter, keeping any sediment out.
Due to its versatility, muslin is used widely in the theater. Myriad staging effects can be created with it, as it can be painted with any scene that can be imagined, hung straight or draped, and even treated to appear semi-translucent, similar to a scrim. Being lightweight and inexpensive are significant assets for a fabric used in set design.
In addition to the stage, muslin is useful in television and film. When painted in a uniform color, the fabric can be used as an inexpensive greenscreen. It may be bought pre-colored for this purpose, but it is also relatively easy to make with diluted latex paint.
The word muslin may not always refer to the cotton fabric described above. In Britain, any gauzy cotton fabric may go by the name, while in the United States, it may be used for any firm, sturdy, inexpensive cloth. In nautical slang, a ship's sails are referred to as muslin.