Dressed to the nines is an idiomatic phrase, used to describe someone as dressing very extravagantly.
The phrase may refer to the decorations on the clothing, or the elaborate Matchy-Matchy outfits.
As it is with idioms, containing the number nine, like The Whole Nine Yards, the origin of “Dressed to the nines” is a mystery.
There are several existing theories concerning the numeral in the idiom, none of which is supported by written evidence.
One theory claims that “Dressed to the nines” comes from the idea that a tailor would used nine yards of fabric, to create a suit.
Another hypothesis links the expression to the 99th Lanarkshire Regiment of Foot, which was raised in 1824, around the time the phrase started emerging.
However, the most likely contender for the origin of “Dressed to the nines” is a likely predecessor, the phrase “To the nines” which was used to signify perfection or a high quality in things, at the end of the 18th century.
The origin of this expression is also debated, however it has two solid explanations: one claims that the “Nines” comes from the “Nine Worthies” comprised of nine historical and biblical figures, deemed as chivalrous, while the other theory suggests the “Nine Muses” of antiquity as the explanation.
Whatever the case, “Dressed to the nines” – and the number nine in most idioms as well – remains a mystery, due to a lack of evidence.
“Dressed to the nines” remained a popular expression in fashion in the 1800’s and had only seen growth in the 20th century as well.
It was and is mostly encountered in contexts, related to the clothing industry.
“Dressed to the nines” was first defined on Urban Dictionary on May 15th, 2006.