piece of goods, a

piece of goods, a

Spoken either humorously or disparagingly, a woman. Literally this phrase long meant a portion of cloth, but sometime before about 1750 it began to be applied to a human being. Thomas Gray put it negatively in a letter of 1751: “That agreeable creature . . . will visit you soon, with that dry piece of goods, his wife.” But Fanny Burney was more positive: “His daughter—as droll a piece of goods as one might wish to know” (Early Diary, 1776). See also piece of work.
See also: of, piece