Mother and Matilda have received an invitation to afternoon tea from Mrs. Pernilla Ogilvie, a wealthy resident of Philadelphia. Mother is delighted to be asked to come, calling the invitation "the best news in weeks." She is interested in fostering ties with the Oglivie family because she thinks that their son Edward will be a good match for Matilda.
In order to be able to go to the tea, Mother and Matilda have several things to tend to. First of all, they must find someone to run the coffee shop for the afternoon, or else turn away customers, which is undesirable. Grandpa solves that problem when he volunteers to "direct the replacement troops" at the shop while they are gone.
Secondly, Mother and Matilda must dress up to go the the tea; it is important to Mother that they look nice and leave a good impression when they go to the Oglivies' residence. Once the decision to attend is made, Mother concentrates on finding appropriate "tea-drinking clothes" for herself and her daughter. Mother discovers an unfashionable but suitable dress for herself in the bottom of an old trunk. The gown is ivory-colored, has only "a few stains," and fits her well. Finding proper attire for Mattie is a more difficult situation. Her one fancy short gown is too small, and she hasn't yet "filled out enough to wear any of Mother's castoffs." Mother decides that there is no other option but for Mattie to wear her old gown even if she has outgrown it; she will just have to let the seams out as far as they will go. Mattie must wear suffocating stays under her dress, according to the fashion of the time. Eliza binds her in and ties the laces tightly, and combs Mattie's tangled hair, tying it securely with a green and gold ribbon (Chapter 6).