I love clothes. I have even been called a “clothes-horse” by a dear friend. I don’t really see a problem with it myself.
And I have realized this week how much I am enjoying putting together clothes for the first time since my accident. When I first went back to work, I was pretty happy if my clothes matched. Now I am rocking “outfits.”
So this week I thought I would explore clichés that sprang from clothing and fashion. We will start, of course, with:
clothes horse: dictionary definition:
1. a frame on which washed clothes are hung to air indoors.
2. a person, typically a woman, who is excessively concerned with wearing fashionable clothes (informal, derogatory)
Personally, I prefer Wikipedia’s definition, which is a person passionate about clothing. From the 1850s the slang term referred to a male fop or female quaintrelle, a person whose main function is to wear or show off clothes fashionably. The alternative meaning, from which the slang term came from, would be the clothes rack, or a drying horse, which wet clothes are put upon to dry.
gussied up:to be dressed up, particularly in a vivid or garish way. Not a very nice way to compliment anybody, especially considering its history. While Americans in the ’40s coined the phrase “gussied up,” the original “gussie” came from Australia:
Popular Dictionary of Australian Slang, 1941:
Gussie, an effeminate or affected man.
Gussie is thought to have come from Augustus, as many Roman Emperors were named, and were considered to be arrogant and lordly.
men in suits: men in suits/uniforms that follow the company line. This phrase didn’t originally mean men in business suits, as we immediately think of today. It was actually referring to athletic uniforms: the suits being the sporting gear.
It is expected that around 80 participants will take the field Friday afternoon. Ogden will probably lead the schools with close to 35 men in suits while Davis and Weber, will run between 20 and 25 men apiece.
The Ogden Standard-Examiner, April 1933*
These days we consider the uniform to be the suit each company man wears. We may think that in part to “John Lennon, who described the people who controlled The Beatles’ financial interests as ‘men in suits’.”*
power dressing: excessively stylish clothing, worn particularly by women, to convey assertiveness and competence. When I hear this phrase, I think of 1980s, Dynasty, shoulder pads and mannish suit coats. The phrase did start a few years earlier, in the ’70s, but did mean power dressing that was used by women entering the business field. A masculine style was used by women throughout US and the UK, particularly PM Margaret Thatcher and the Princess of Wales. High cost was also a factor in power dressing, as the expense emphasized the elite status of the women wearing them.
mutton dressed as lamb: women dressed to look much younger than they actually are, usually to no avail. In modern times women may dress to look like their teenage daughters, usually because they feel young or need the self-esteem. The phrase came out of the 1800s in Britain, where women dressed younger to attempt to fool suitors that they were in fact younger:
The ‘dressing’ of food was previously the term for the preparation of the item for cooking. The implication in ‘dressed as lamb’ is that the woman had prepared herself for a romantic encounter. ‘Mutton dressed as lamb’ was originally a disparaging description of a woman aiming to deceive men into believing she was younger than she really was – it being an economic necessity for a woman to marry while still of childbearing age.*
*meanings of phrases