make a silk purse of a sow's ear

make a silk purse of a sow's ear

To fashion something beautiful or valuable out of poor materials. Often used in the negative, such as "cannot make a silk purse of a sow's ear." What do you want me to do with this tacky dress? I can't make a silk purse of a sow's ear!
See also: ear, make, of, purse, silk