Definition of dowdy in US English:



  • (of a person or their clothes) unfashionable and without style in appearance (typically used of a woman)

    ‘she could achieve the kind of casual chic that made every other woman around her look dowdy’
    • ‘Several dowdy ladies gravitated towards them, bringing cups plates and enquiring minds.’
    • ‘Only the dowdy daughter, Martha, treats him with kindness, teaching him to read and shielding him occasionally from her siblings' harshest jibes.’
    • ‘How else to explain her deglamorized look and dowdy outfit?’
    • ‘Gone is the willowy beauty, and in her place is a thin, pinched, dowdy lady, an eccentric Victorian who wears ugly hats.’
    • ‘Our living room does not have any character, unless that character is a dowdy matron who has a full-time gig as a toy tester.’
    • ‘By the end of Ann's episode, the formerly dowdy Jersey girl is certainly more stylish.’
    • ‘Television pundits lambasted her image as a frumpy housewife who delivered dull speeches while clad in dowdy grey or brown suits.’
    • ‘I found it hard to believe that I had ever located anything attractive in this dowdy woman with her bleached blonde hair, her nonexistent figure and her masculine voice.’
    • ‘In it, dowdy housewife types got a chance at an attitude overhaul complete with pole-dance lesson, learning the stripper strut and makeovers galore.’
    • ‘Only when we meet these paragons at a literary festival or a bookstore signing do we discover that they're blue-rinsed dwarfs, clownish geeks, dowdy grannies, troglodytic professors, extras from a Lord of the Rings movie.’
    • ‘On the cover of Time, in a spread in Life, the image of Romania's Iron Lady was stout and unsmiling, a monolith with a face of stone, dowdy clothes and unkempt hair.’
    • ‘After all those years of boring white coats for doctors and dowdy gowns for patients, finally the medical label is meeting the fashion label - and we're certainly diagnosing exciting things for the parade tonight.’
    • ‘Denise was last seen on our screens playing the dowdy mother of six, Edie McClure, in Born & Bred.’
    • ‘His hands, which he'd put lightly on his wife's shoulders to persuade her to go home, felt something very irregular underneath that sensible, dowdy dress.’
    • ‘In the first series, a recurring film sketch, ‘Drudge Squad’, followed the exploits of a special police unit run by dowdy housewives wearing scarves over their curlers and carrying shopping bags.’
    • ‘She writes a weekly series called The Beseleys for a nameless and dowdy woman's magazine of the sort Dewar helped to fill when she was a jobbing journalist.’
    • ‘There is the same comic contrast between the characters' unbridled enthusiasm and their dowdy clothing and heavy Eastern European accents.’
    • ‘Uncomfortable with her ‘frumpy’ appearance, she has replaced dowdy suits with bright blouses, employs a celebrity hairdresser and takes a makeup artist to rallies.’
    • ‘Now the road to the grave stretches ahead, enlivened only by daytime television and the holidays he will take with an equally dowdy wife he barely tolerates.’
    • ‘Far from being a dowdy matron, she was a strong-willed, independent-minded, intelligent woman, twice married, with a mischievous sense of humour.’
    unfashionable, frumpish, frumpy, drab, dull, old-fashioned, outmoded, out of style, not smart, inelegant, badly dressed, ill-dressed, shabby, scruffy, faded, untidy, dingy, frowzy
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Late 16th century (as a noun): from dowd.