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the emperor's new clothes

Something widely accepted as true or professed as being praiseworthy due to an unwillingness of the general population to criticize it or be seen as going against popular opinion. Taken from the Hans Christian Andersen fable of the same name, in which a vain king is sold imaginary clothing by two weavers who promise him that it can only be seen by those who are ignorant, incompetent, or unfit for their position. The company's newest device is, in fact, a complete waste of money, but so many people are invested in their brand loyalty that they will continue to buy and adore it like the emperor's new clothes.
See also: clothes, new

clothes don't make the man

You cannot judge a man's character based on his clothing and appearance. A: "I can't believe John embezzled all that money. I always thought he seemed so professional." B: "Well you know what they say— the clothes don't make the man." I really need to get some better work clothes, but I just don't have the money right now. At least the clothes don't make the man!
See also: clothes, make, man

swaddling clothes

1. The pieces of cloth that infants were once wrapped in, so as to limit their movement. The phrase is perhaps most commonly associated with the story of Jesus' birth: "And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes." Mama wrapped your babe in swaddling clothes and took him to the wet nurse so you could rest.
2. Strict limitations imposed upon the young and immature. Teenagers need swaddling clothes too, in the form of curfews and chores.
3. A period at the start of something. It can refer to a person's youth or to the early stages of an idea or project. In my mind, my son is still in his swaddling clothes—I can't believe he's about to start middle school. This idea is still in its swaddling clothes, so it might sound a little rough right now.
See also: clothes

clothe (someone/oneself) in (something)

To dress someone or oneself in something She clothes her newborn in the cutest outfits. I clothed myself in a beautiful gown for the gala.
See also: clothe

clothes make the man

You can judge a man's character based on his clothing and appearance. I'm not surprised John was fired for cause—he never dressed professionally, and the clothes make the man. You really need to get some better work clothes before starting this new job. The clothes make the man, you know
See also: clothes, make, man

steal (someone's) clothes

To advance or appropriate someone else's ideas, policies, or agendas as one's own. Many believe the challenger is really trying to steal the incumbent's clothes and beat him at his own game.
See also: clothes, steal

put (something) in mothballs

1. Literally, to put cloths into storage, as in a closet or attic, often packed with mothballs to keep moths from eating the material. I'm so glad that I can finally get my summer clothes out and put my winter clothes back in mothballs. I'm putting my maternity clothes in mothballs, because we might try to have another baby in a few years.
2. To store something, especially a vehicle of some kind, in reserve for future use. We put the plane in mothballs while we wait for a new shipment of parts. The famed warship has been put in mothballs after over 40 years of navy service.
3. To put something on hold; to defer, delay, or postpone something until a future. I did like your idea, Tom, but we have to put it in mothballs for now while we finish our other projects. The city council has put the refurbishment project in mothballs due to a budgetary conflict.
See also: mothball, put

put (something) in order

1. To clean or tidy something. Help me put the house in order before mom and dad get back! I have to put my classroom in order before the students return to school next week.
2. To put something into the proper sequence. This order is sometimes specified with a modifier. I've spent all morning putting all these books in order, so don't go messing them up! Students, please line up in alphabetical order.
3. To arrange or resolve something so that it is in the most proper, efficient state possible. They brought in a consultant to help put the project in order. I'm trying to put my affairs in order before the illness gets too debilitating.
See also: order, put

put (something) into words

To express a thought or idea through written or especially spoken words. I find that I can put my ideas into words much better when I write them down, rather than trying to explain them to someone out loud. He struggled to put his feelings for Jane into words.
See also: put, word

put (something) on the block

To put something up for sale, especially at an auction. After years of collecting, she had to put all her records on the block to cover the cost of her husband's debt.
See also: block, on, put

(one's) Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes

One's very best clothes, as one might wear to a Sunday church service. Instead of some big party, let's all get dressed up in our Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes and go for lunch at a fancy restaurant for my birthday! This is going to be a formal event, so please come dressed in your Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes. The only time we got dressed up in Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes and went to mass was for Christmas and Easter.
See also: clothes

Clothes make the man.

Prov. People will judge you according to the way you dress. Jim was always careful about how he dressed. He believed that clothes make the man.
See also: clothes, make, man

not have a stitch of clothes (on)

Fig. naked. He walked through the house and didn't have a stitch of clothes on.
See also: clothes, have, not, of, stitch

Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes

Rur. one's best clothes. (See also Sunday best.) John was all dressed up in his Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes. I hate to be wearing my Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes when everyone else is casually dressed.
See also: clothes

clothes make the man

People say clothes make the man to mean that dressing well helps people to be successful. The lawyer was wearing a stylish blue suit. Clothes make the man, Wade thought.
See also: clothes, make, man

steal someone's clothes

If a politician or political party steals another's clothes, they take their ideas or policies and pretend that these are their own. Instead, Labour has been allowed to steal the Conservatives' clothes by promising to involve the private-health sector. It would be stealing their political clothes — and few politicians can resist this opportunity.
See also: clothes, steal

steal someone's clothes

appropriate someone's ideas or policies. British informal
See also: clothes, steal

the ˌemperor’s new ˈclothes


the ˌemperor has no ˈclothes

used to describe a situation in which everybody suddenly realises that they were mistaken in believing that somebody/something was very good, important, etc: Soon, investors will realize that the emperor has no clothes and there will be a big sell-off in stocks.This comes from a story by Hans Christian Andersen. Two men offer to make an emperor a new suit from a very light material which they say stupid people cannot see. When the emperor puts on the suit, nobody wants to appear stupid so they all praise his new clothes. However, when a little boy asks why the emperor has no clothes on, everybody admits that they can see no clothes and that the emperor is naked.
See also: clothes, new

Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes

Best finery. Churchgoers never wore their everyday clothing to worship service. Instead, they wore their Sunday best, their Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes.
See also: clothes
References in classic literature ?
Spun clothes are so comfortable that one would imagine one had nothing on at all; but that is the beauty of it
Will it please your Majesty graciously to take off your clothes,' said the impostors, 'then we will put on the new clothes, here before the mirror.
When it was time for them to start home, and they were folding the clothes and putting them into the waggon, Minerva began to consider how Ulysses should wake up and see the handsome girl who was to conduct him to the city of the Phaeacians.
She stood right in front of Ulysses, and he doubted whether he should go up to her, throw himself at her feet, and embrace her knees as a suppliant, or stay where he was and entreat her to give him some clothes and show him the way to the town.
For she had run as quickly as she could through the pigeon-house and on to the hazel-tree, and had there taken off her beautiful clothes, and put them beneath the tree, that the bird might carry them away, and had lain down again amid the ashes in her little grey frock.
And when they came back into the kitchen, there lay Ashputtel among the ashes; for she had slipped down on the other side of the tree, and carried her beautiful clothes back to the bird at the hazel-tree, and then put on her little grey frock.
The fuller looked sadly and gravely at him; but finding that he still laughed, he bowed with much mock politeness and stalked onwards in his borrowed clothes.
When he came to the room where he was to sleep he held the light over Robin and looked at him from top to toe; then he felt better pleased, for, instead, of a rough, dirty-bearded fellow, he beheld as fresh and clean a lad as one could find in a week of Sundays; so, slipping off his clothes, he also huddled into the bed, where Robin, grunting and grumbling in his sleep, made room for him.
So saying, he arose softly, so as not to waken the other, and looking about the room he espied the friar's clothes lying upon a bench near the wall.
To save your 'spectability, it's worth your while to pawn every article of clothes you've got, sell every stick in your house, and beg and borrow every penny you can get trusted with.
I was so harrowed up in my mind last night that I didn't think about my clothes at all," said Anne.
When Harris and Philip went back to their bed-room they found a tall man changing his clothes and a boy of sixteen whistling as loud as he could while he brushed his hair.
Dunster, in his night clothes, was sitting on the side of the bed.
I will tell you," said the Thief, "but first let me ask you to hold my clothes, or I shall tear them to pieces.
The lad's clothes lay across a chair beside the bed.