Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Lacking stylishness or neatness; shabby: a dowdy gray outfit.
  • adj. Old-fashioned; antiquated.
  • n. A dowdy person; a frump.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Plain and unfashionable in style or dress.
  • adj. Lacking stylishness or neatness; shabby.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Showing a vulgar taste in dress; awkward and slovenly in dress; vulgar-looking.
  • n. An awkward, vulgarly dressed, inelegant woman.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A slatternly, slovenly, ill-dressed woman; a slattern, especially one who affects finery.
  • Slovenly; ill-dressed; slatternly: applied to women.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. deep-dish apple dessert covered with a rich crust
  • adj. primly out of date
  • adj. lacking in smartness or taste
  • n. British marshal of the RAF who commanded the British air defense forces that defeated the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain (1882-1970)

Etymologies

From Middle English doude, immoral, unattractive, or shabbily dressed woman.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Late 16th century. Origin uncertain: probably literally “little poorly dressed woman,” formed from doue “poorly dressed woman.” (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Her Aunt Mimi isn't beautiful, at least on the outside: she buries her features beneath thick powder, marches around in dowdy clothes and looks old beyond her years.

    A Grownup Look at Lennon as a 'Boy'

  • They had been out at General Headquarters, living in dowdy little hotels in Arras ever since October, most of them.

    The Blitzkrieg In Flanders

  • The galaxy of handsome women that formed the court of the Emperor had perhaps sent beauty somewhat out of fashion; for the high-born ladies who took their place were what we should call dowdy, and had nothing distinguished in their appearance.

    Reminiscences of Captain Gronow

  • While girlie, they weren't prim or dowdy, which is surely important to Stuart's typically young customer - someone like Emma Roberts, who sat in the front row.

    ABC News: Top Stories

  • Have a look at this for a brilliant exposé of how the real flesh, blood, mousy hair and freckles of a 'dowdy' girl next door can be transformed into an unattainable goddess.

    Supermodel Erin O'Connor slams fashion world for lying to women

  • Also, women are so worried about appearing "dowdy," but these paintings do not show magnificent clothing, just feminine clothing -- skirts and dresses.

    Archive 2009-07-01

  • What a nice way to show that dressing modestly doesn't have to mean "dowdy" or "drab"!

    The Value of Clothing in Creating a Mood

  • I admit to initially noticing her because she was kind of dowdy I was in a Starbucks of upscale clientele.

    The Adventure of TechieGirl

  • One is 'like an édition de luxe of a wicked French novel, meant specially for the English market', another as 'dowdy' as a 'badly bound hymn-book'.

    'Built of Books'

  • I just looked at the 4-Yard-Line collection again at the wiki, and the patterns aren't specifically "dowdy".

    Linktastic Thursday! - A Dress A Day

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