make a silk purse out of a sow's ear

make a silk purse (out) 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

make a silk purse out of a sow's ear

turn something inferior into something of top quality.
The observation that you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear has been proverbial since the late 16th century; there was an earlier version which featured a goat's fleece instead of a sow's ear .
See also: ear, make, of, out, purse, silk

make a silk ˌpurse out of a sow’s ˈear

succeed in making something good out of material that does not seem very good at all: If you’re serious about taking up painting, invest in good quality brushes and canvas. After all, it’s no good trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
See also: ear, make, of, out, purse, silk
References in periodicals archive ?
[bar] YOU can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, as the old adage goes.
That will be as good as it can be for the people of Wales, but it won't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.
Remember that old adage "garbage in, garbage out," because, as in all cases it is tree, it is impossible to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.
YOU can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. The players that Rafa has at his disposal are simply not good enough.
But to create the clarity of the space, and allow its very complex interconnections, to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear of a site, and to relate structure and climate control in such an satisfactory way shows architectural and engineering skills of a very high order.
IN the 16th century William Shakespeare said: "You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear!"