The verb is inherited from Middle Englishdressen, dresse(“to lay, place, put; to adjust, arrange, put in order; to adorn, ornament; to position; to stand up; to arrange (a dish) for serving; to serve (a dish); to dress; to arm; to mend, redress, repair; to get ready, prepare; to build, form, make; to bring about, cause; to turn; to direct, guide, steer; to use; to devote (oneself to something); to control, subdue; to teach; to bring up (a child); to send; to address; to give, offer; to go, move; to get out of bed; to advance, proceed; to approach; to deal with, treat”)[and other forms], from Anglo-Normandresser, drescer, drescier[and other forms], and Middle French, Old Frenchdresser, drecier, drescer, drescier(“to erect; to lift, raise; to stand up; to direct, guide; to travel; to draw up (a document, etc.); to arrange, prepare; to correct, put right”) (modern Frenchdresser), from Late Latin*directiare, from Latindīrēctus(“arranged in lines, laid straight; direct, straight; upright; directed, steered; distributed, scattered”), the perfectpassiveparticiple of dīrigō(“to arrange in lines, lay straight; to direct, steer; to distribute, scatter”), from dis-(prefix meaning ‘apart; asunder; in two’) + regō(“to direct, govern, rule; to guide, steer; to manage, oversee”) (ultimately from Proto-Indo-European*h₃reǵ-(“to right oneself, straighten; just; right”)). Doublet of direct.
O rich! rich! vvhere ſhould I get clothes to dreſſe her in?
1640 (date written), H[enry] M[ore], “ΨΥΧΟΖΩΙΑ[Psychozōia], or A Christiano-platonicall Display of Life,[…]”, in ΨΥΧΩΔΙΑ[Psychōdia] Platonica: Or A Platonicall Song of the Soul,[…], Cambridge, Cambridgeshire: […] Roger Daniel, printer to the Universitie, published 1642, OCLC1049141463, book 3, stanza 56, page 51:
Their face with love and vigour vvas ydreſt, / VVith modeſty and joy, their tongue with juſt beheſt.
Sunning himself on the board steps, I saw for the first time Mr. Farquhar Fenelon Cooke. He was dressed out in broad gaiters and bright tweeds, like an English tourist, and his face might have belonged to Dagon, idol of the Philistines.
I remember a lady coming to inspect St. Mary's Home where I was brought up and seeing us all in our lovely Elizabethan uniforms we were so proud of, and bursting into tears all over us because "it was wicked to dress us like charity children". We nearly crowned her we were so offended.
[A]ll the men there shoulde dresse themselves like the poorest sorte of the people in Arcadia, having no banners, but bloudie shirtes hanged upon long staves, […]
1624, Democritus Junior [pseudonym; Robert Burton], “Artificiall Allurements of Loue, Causes and Provocations to Lust. Gestures, Cloathes, Dowre &c.”, in The Anatomy of Melancholy:[…], 2nd edition, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Printed by John Lichfield and James Short, for Henry Cripps, OCLC54573970, partition 3, section 2, member 2, subsection 3, page 376:
[…]Anthony [i.e., Mark Antony] himſelfe was quite beſotted with Cleopatra’s ſweete ſpeeches, philters, beauty, pleaſing tires: for when ſhe ſailed along the riuer Cydnus, with ſuch incredible pompe in a guilded ſhip, her ſelfe dreſſed like Venus, her maides like the Graces, her Pages like ſo many Cupids, Anthony was amazed, & rapt beyond himſelfe.
[B]eing ill-used by the above-mentioned widow, he was very serious for a year and a half; and though, his temper being naturally jovial, he at last got over it, he grew careless of himself, and never dressed afterwards.
[T]he Hour appointed by Mr. Weſtern now drew ſo near, that he had barely Time left to dreſs himſelf.
1760, Oliver Goldsmith, “Letter XIV. From the Same [From Lien Chi Altangi, to Fum Hoam, First President of the Ceremonial Academy at Pekin, in China].”, in The Citizen of the World: Or, Letters from a Chinese Philosopher,[…] (Parsons’s Select British Classics; XXVIII), volume I, London: […] J[ohn] Parsons,[…], published 1794, OCLC644274624, page 39:
As I was dreſſed after the faſhion of Europe, ſhe had taken me for an Engliſhman, and conſequently ſaluted me in her ordinary manner: but when the footman informed her Grace that I was the gentleman from China, ſhe inſtantly lifted herself from the couch, while her eyes ſparkled with unuſual vivacity.
1610, William Camden, “Romans in Britaine”, in Philémon Holland, transl., Britain, or A Chorographicall Description of the Most Flourishing Kingdomes, England, Scotland, and Ireland,[…], London: […] [Eliot’s Court Press for] Georgii Bishop & Ioannis Norton, OCLC1166778000, page 61:
[Domitian] after his manner, with a cheerfull countenance and grieved heart, received the newes: being inwardly pricked, to think that his later counterfet triumph of Germany, wherin certain ſlaves bought for mony were attired and their haire dreſſed as captives of that country, was had in deriſion and iuſtly skorned abroad: […]
By and by the King and Queen, who looked in this dress (a white laced waistcoat and a crimson short pettycoat, and her hair dressedà la negligence) mighty pretty; and the King rode hand in hand with her.
The ſkinnes of Dogges are dreſſed for gloues, and cloſe Bootes, the vvhich are vſed by ſuch as haue vicerous and ſvvelling Legges or Limbes, for by them the aflicted place receiueth a double reliefe; firſt, it reſiſteth the influent humors, and ſecondly, it is not exaſperated with VVoollen.
Very little buſineſs appeared to be going forward in Lichfield. I found however two ſtrange manufactures for ſo inland a place, ſail-cloth and ſtreamers for ſhips; and I obſerved them making ſome ſaddle-cloths, and dreſſing ſheepſkins; but upon the whole, the buſy hand of induſtry ſeemed to be quite ſlackened.
He skinned the rabbits, and gave the dogs the one they had quarreled over, and the skin of this he dressed and hung up to dry, feeling that he would like to keep it. It was a particularly rich, furry pelt with a beautiful white tail.
Gard[ener]. Oh what pitie is it that he had not ſo trimde, / And dreſt his land as vve this garden at time of yeare / Do vvound the barke, the skinne of our fruit trees, […]Queene. Oh I am preſt to death through vvant of ſpeaking / Thou old Adams likeneſſe ſet to dreſſe this garden, / How dares thy harſh rude tong ſound this vnpleaſing nevvs?
2012, Marvin Silbersher, chapter 22, in A Fistful of Stars, [Bloomington, Ind.]: Xlibris, →ISBN, page 106:
Mallory, all night long, single-handedly painted and dressed the set so that at eight o'clock Sunday morning when we arrived to make breakfast in the kitchen, there she was sound asleep on the davenport in the set, every prop in place.
Oh how it ernd my hart when I beheld, / In London ſtreetes, that Coronation day, / VVhen Bullingbroke rode on Roane Barbarie. / That horſe, that thou ſo often haſt beſtride. / That horſe, that I ſo carefully haue dreſt.
[S]yr Gawayns ſpere brak ⸝ but ſir marhaus ſpere helde ⸝ And therwith ſyre Gawayne and his hors ruſſhed doune to the erthe ⸝ And lyghtly ſyre Gawayne roſe on his feet ⸝ and pulled out his ſwerd ⸝ and dreſſyd hym toward syr Marhaus on foote ⸝ […]
Sir Gawain's spear broke, but Sir Marhaus's [i.e., Morholt of Ireland's] spear held; and therewith Sir Gawain and his horse rushed down to the earth, and lightly Sir Gawain rose on his feet, and pulled out his sword, and dressed [prepared] himself toward Sir Marhaus on foot,[…]]
"We'd better get ready for dinner now. I always dress, because papa likes to see it." This she said as a hint to her cousin that he would be expected to change his coat, for her father would have been annoyed had his guest sat down to dinner without such ceremony.
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I have been thinking, George, of changing our travelling dreſſes in the morning. I am grown confoundedly aſhamed of mine.
1857, John Ruskin, “Lecture I”, in The Political Economy of Art: Being the Substance (with Additions) of Two Lectures Delivered at Manchester, July 10th and 13th, 1857, London: Smith, Elder and Co.,[…], OCLC82980182, section II (Application), page 74:
No good historical painting ever yet existed, or ever can exist, where the dresses of the people of the time are not beautiful: […]
[I]t is a kind of acting to go into masquerade, and a man should be able to say or do things proper for the dress in which he appears. We have now and then rakes in the habit of Roman senators, and grave politicians in the dress of rakes.
Even in an era when individuality in dress is a cult, his clothes were noticeable. He was wearing a hard hat of the low round kind favoured by hunting men, and with it a black duffle-coat lined with white.
When the adults [i.e., birds] of both sexes have a distinct winter and summer plumage, whether or not the male differs from the female, the young resemble the adults of both sexes in their winter dress or much more rarely in their summer dress, or they resemble the females alone; or the young may have an intermediate character; or again they may differ greatly from the adults in both their seasonal plumages.
He has indeed reſcued it [i.e., learning] out of the hands of Pedants and Fools, and diſcover'd the true method of making it amiable and lovely to all mankind: In the dreſs he gives it, 'tis a moſt welcome gueſt at Tea-tables and Aſſemblies, and is reliſh'd and careſſed by the Merchants on the Change; […]