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1. To dress formally, perhaps more formally than usual. You need to dress up for this event tonight—a suit and tie would be appropriate. I dressed up for the birthday party and was embarrassed to find all of the other guests in shorts and T-shirts.
2. To wear attire that is appropriate for a specific occasion. It takes the kids forever to get dressed up for hockey practice, what with all the pads and layers of clothes they need to put on.
3. To improve or attempt to improve the appearance of something by decorating or embellishing it. In this usage, a noun or pronoun can be used between "dress" and "up." Don't worry, a fresh coat of paint will dress this room up. Don't try to dress it up, Mom—my crush completely rejected me.
4. To wear a costume. My daughter plans to dress up as Cinderella for Halloween.
5. To dress someone or something in a costume. In this usage, a noun or pronoun can be used between "dress" and "up." I have a friend who really enjoys dressing up her dachshund as different historical figures.
6. noun A children's activity that involves dressing up in costumes. In this usage, the phrase is typically hyphenated. Because my girls love to play dress-up, they regularly emerge from the playroom in feather boas and tiaras.
7. adjective Describing an occasion that requires one to dress in formal or fanciful attire. In this usage, the phrase is typically hyphenated. Tonight's dinner is a dress-up event, so be sure to wear a suit and tie. What costume do you think you'll wear to tonight's dress-up party?
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2022 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
dress ( oneself ) up
to dress in fancy dress. They dressed themselves up in their finest. Please dress up for the dance.
dress someone or something up (in something)
to clothe, decorate, or ornament someone or something in something. She dressed her dolls up in special clothing. She dressed up her dolls in tiny outfits.
dress someone or something up
to make someone or something appear fancier than is actually so. The publicity specialist dressed the actress up a lot. They dressed up the hall so it looked like a ballroom.
dress someone up (as someone or something )
to dress someone to look like or impersonate someone or something. She dressed her little girl up as a witch for Halloween. She dressed up her little girl as a fairy.
*(all) dressed up
dressed in one's best clothes; dressed formally. (*Typically: be ~; get ~; get someone ~.) I really hate to get all dressed up just to go somewhere to eat.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
1. Wear formal or elaborate clothes, as in I love to dress up for a party. [Late 1600s] For the antonym, see dress down, def. 2.
2. Put on a costume of some kind, as in The children love dressing up as witches and goblins. [Late 1800s]
3. Adorn or disguise something in order to make it more interesting or appealing. For example, She has a way of dressing up her account with fanciful details. [Late 1600s]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
1. To clothe someone or something: They dressed their dolls up in outfits they made themselves. The store owner dressed up the mannequin and put it in the window of the store.
2. To wear formal or fancy clothes: The students dressed up and went to the prom.
3. To dress someone in clothes suited for some particular occasion or situation: We dressed up the children for the cold weather. We'll need to dress ourselves up for wet weather. I can see you're dressed up to go hiking.
4. To wear clothes suited for some particular occasion or situation: People usually dress up in white to play tennis.
5. To make something appear more interesting or attractive than it actually is: The real estate agent dressed up the truth about the old house. The story of my trip was pretty boring, so I dressed it up with colorful exaggerations.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs. Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.