Gussy Up - Meaning, Origin and Usage

Are you looking at an old lady dressed up in her Sunday best at the casino, with makeup so thick you could chip it off with a chisel and hammer? You could say this woman decided to “Gussy up” before she visited the venue this evening.

To Gussy up means to overdress or overdo your presentation of yourself in a flashy and extravagant manner. When using the term, you can refer to people or objects, but it has limited use in modern language. Many people in the younger generation might not know what you’re talking about if you use this phrase.

This post unpacks everything you need to know about the idiom, “Gussy up.” We’ll unpack its origins, meaning, and use cases for conversation.

Gussy Up Meaning

“Gussy up” is an American or Australian idiom originating from the 19th century. The expression typically refers to someone that dresses up in an overbearing, garish manner with the overapplication of makeup. They make themselves appear cartoonish or comical, creating the opposite effect of what they want for the exercise of dressing up.

The person could be wearing flamboyant clothing that looks humorous. When someone refers to someone else or some venue being “gussied up,” they’re referring to it in a derogatory manner and an insult.

To gussy up can refer to people, such as a drag queen stripper overdressing for the stage or someone who overdoes their makeup or dress. It can also refer to buildings or venues that people over-decorate, such as a welcome home party with too many decorations making the venue look “loud.”

To gussy up can also refer to someone with poor features trying to make themselves appear better looking through the over-application of makeup.

Gussy Up Example Usage

Why did the owner gussy up that old run-down property?

She looks gussied up for a street hooker.

The restaurant looks gussied up for the holiday season.

They’re gussied up in their tuxedos, looking like they have that drip.

Even when all gussied up, the play is still a shocking experience to witness.

Gussy Up Origin

The first use of “gussy up” came from American culture in the 1930s. Some language experts think that the term may also have Australian origin since the word “gussy” was popular in slang in both countries at the time.

The term “gussy” refers to a weak-minded person and is an abbreviation of “Augustus,” the Roman Emperor. The Gussy up also seems to experience increased use in the 1940s, thanks to American tennis player “Gorgeous Gussie” Moran appearing at the Wimbledon tennis finals in frilled panties.

The phrase “Gussied up” gets a hyphen if it appears in a sentence as an adjective before a noun. The original use of the word appears as a derogatory statement directed to another person or venue, like a restaurant or hall.

Phrases Similar to Gussy Up

  • Dressed to the nines.
  • Looking like a million bucks.
  • Dressed to the hilt.
  • Drip.

Phrases Opposite to Gussy Up

  • Dress down.
  • Casual style.
  • Derelict

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Gussy up.
  • Gussied up.
  • Gussy it up.

Ways People May Say Gussy Up Incorrectly

Some people may use gussy up in the wrong context to describe someone not dressing up to the hilt. Using the phrase around younger generations may also cause confusion as they may not know what you’re referring to.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Gussy Up

You can say gussy up when you think someone is looking dressed up. Typically, this phrase works better with the Boomer generation, and millennials and zoomers might not understand the term or what you’re referring to.

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