Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
published 1868 chapter 3
[Meg March comes rushing to see her sister Jo, with an invitation in her hand]
"...'‘Mrs Gardiner would be happy to see Miss March and Miss Josephine at a little party on New Year’s Eve’ - Marmee is willing we should go; now what shall we wear?'
‘What’s the use of asking that, when you know we shall wear our poplins because we haven’t got anything else?’ answered Jo with her mouth full.
‘If I only had a silk!’ sighed Meg. 'Mother says I may when I’m eighteen, perhaps; but two years is an everlasting time to wait.’
‘I’m sure our pops look like silk, and they are nice enough for us. Yours is as good as new, but I forgot the burn and the tear in mine. Whatever shall I do? The burn shows badly and I can’t take any out.’
‘You must sit still all you can, and keep your back out of sight; the front is all right. I shall have a new ribbon for my hair, and Marmee will lend me her little pearl pin, and my new slippers are lovely, and my gloves will do, though they aren’t as nice as I’d like.’
‘Mine are spoilt with lemonade, and I can’t get any new ones, so I shall have to go without,’ said Jo, who never troubled herself much about dress.
‘You must have gloves, or I won’t go’ cried Meg decidedly. ‘Gloves are more important than anything else. I should be so mortified if you didn’t have them…Can’t you make them do?’
‘I can hold them crumpled up in my hand, so no-one will know how stained they are; that’s all I can do. No, I’ll tell you how we can manage – each wear one good one and carry a bad one; don’t you see?’..."observations:
Jo will hide in a recess at the party because of her inadequate gloving and dress arrangements, but this will lead directly to her meeting Lawrie for the first time. The girls’ friend Sallie (whose mother is giving the party) says later in the book that the things she likes best are dancing and French gloves: she is meant to be comparatively frivolous, but the Marches - noble, striving, wonderful people, ready to give their breakfast away to the little Hummels - get pretty tied up in accessories themselves. The gloves will loom large: Little Women is another absolute favourite children’s book where managing for clothes is a major feature - see also Ballet Shoes. We shall visit the March sisters again.
Shortly after this episode, Meg goes to do up ‘her one real lace frill’ for the party, while Jo is described as having ‘a game of romps with Scrabble.’ But this is not an early appearance of a more rambunctious version of the board game: Scrabble is her pet rat. Marmee is, regrettably, what the girls call their mother.
There is a website called Little Women selling bras to women with small-sized chests.