I'm reading Alcott's An Old Fashioned Girl, and noticing connections to the Jo-Topsy article as well as a general use of costume. These are notes toward a paper on Costume and Transgressive Dressing in An Old Fashioned Girl.
Chpt V: Scrapes features Tom cross-dressing and thereby turning into a monster, injuring poor Polly. Check out the language, here framing cross-dressing as so transgressive as to be beyond words.
"It [Fan's bureau] was covered with all sorts of finery, for she
had dressed in a hurry, and left everything topsy-turvy.
A well-conducted boy would have let things alone, or a moral brother
would have put things to rights; being neither, Tom rummaged to
his hearts content, till Fan's drawers looked as if some one had
been making hay in them. He tried the effect of ear-rings, ribbons,
and collars; wound up the watch, though it was n't time; burnt his
inquisitive nose with smelling-salts; deluged his grimy
handkerchief with Fan's best cologne; anointed his curly crop with
her hair-oil; powdered his face with her violet-powder; and
finished off by pinning on a bunch of false ringlets, which Fanny
tried, to keep a profound secret. The ravages committed by this
bad boy are beyond the power of language to describe, as he
revelled in the interesting drawers, boxes, and cases, which held
his sister's treasures."
Then in Chpt VI: Grandma, there's an actual reference to topsy, again made to a girl who is acting out beyond belief. This is from Grandma's girlhood story about a child Sallly who snuck out from boarding school in the evening to buy treats for all the girls. First she dresses up to celebrate her exploits:
"Sally was in high feather at the success of her exploit, and danced
about like an elf, as she put her night-gown on over her frock,
braided her hair in funny little tails all over her head, and fastened
the great red pin-cushion on her bosom for a breastpin in honor of
Then she is caught by the headmistress:
"With sudden energy the old lady plucked off the cover, and there
lay Sally with her hair dressed . la Topsy, her absurd breast-pin
and her dusty boots, among papers of candy, bits of pie and cake,
oranges and apples, and a candle upside down burning a hole in
But really, the whole book is about costumed city girls dressing up as women, with boys dressed as men, and going to the theater where Polly is shocked by the revealing French dress and another instance of cross-dressing, women in men's clothing. This is from Chpt 1: Polly Arrives, when she is taken to the theater.
"When four-and-twenty girls,
dressed as jockeys, came prancing on to the stage, cracking their
whips, stamping the heels of their topboots, and winking at the
audience, Polly did not think it at all funny, but looked disgusted,
and was glad when they were gone; but when another set appeared
in a costume consisting of gauze wings, and a bit of gold fringe
round the waist, poor unfashionable Polly did n't know what to do;
for she felt both frightened and indignant, and sat with her eyes on
her play-bill, and her cheeks getting hotter and hotter every
And, of course, Chapter II is called New Fashions, and features Polly confusion over Fanny's being so fancy just to go to school. And Chapter III is Polly's Troubles, which is again all about dress.
More on this after I finish reading the book! I'm only on chpt VII or so (keywords to find my place "rumple, sherry").
(I'm working from ProjGutenberg, so I don't have page #s yet. Might be nice to get a vintage edition from the Rare Books Room to get original pagination)