Thank you to Baguette Iselen for this piece, part “Pocket Profile” and part “Designer Diary”. Enjoy the story of the very modern and fearless Infanta Eulalia (and her glass dress)!
Infanta Eulalia of Bourbon was the youngest and last surviving child of Queen Isabella II of Spain and Francisco, Duke of Cádiz, and the youngest sister of King Alfonso XII. She was quite a character, very independent. In Spain she’s called “Eulalia the Wayward” but she was popular at the same time, people liked her non-conformism. She was witty and friendly, never snobbish.
She married her first cousin, Infante Antonio of Orléans y Borbón, Duke of Galliera, son of Antoine, Duke of Montpensier, and his wife, Infanta Luisa Fernanda of Spain. Eulalia and Antonio hated each other. They had two children and decided to live apart.
In May 1893, Eulalia visited the United States: Puerto Rico, NY, Washington, where she was received by President Grover Cleveland at the White House, and the World’s Columbian Exposition (also known as the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, or at times, the “White City”).
There she got a gift, a very special one that sounds quite modern to us, but apparently, it was available in the late 19th century: a gala dress made of glass fiber. The garment was donated in 1924 to the Deutsches Museum by her sister, Infanta Paz of Bourbon, who was married to prince Ludwig Ferdinand of Bavaria. It was damaged during the WWII but was restored recently and they’ve posted good pics. Apparently, it glows beautifully under the light but it’s very fragile and Eulalia was unable to sit down while wearing it because the fibers could break. It was lined with silk and was made by the Libbey Glass Company of Toledo, Ohio.
You’ll find a full photo gallery and a blog entry with more information on the dress here.
There’s another dress, very similar, that was made by French seamstress Madame Victorine Carmody in New York City during the early 1890s for well-known stage actress and comedian Georgia Cayvan. The same company provided the glass fibers.
Infanta Eulalia lived a life of controversy. She published several books dealing candidly with modern topics like the status of women, politics, and societal issues. Her writing raised eyebrows in polite society and caused tumult within her family – her nephew, King Alfonso XIII, tried to stop the publication of one of her books and reportedly she “ignored” him. The Infanta had the last laugh. She lived to the age of 94, and was the last surviving grandchild of Ferdinand VII.