Green’s Dictionary of Slang

dress v.

[ironic use of SE dress, to treat a person properly]

1. to beat, to thrash, thus n. dressing.

[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]‘Alfred Crowquill’ Seymour’s Humourous Sketches (1866) 41: I tell you what, my lads, if I knew your master, I’d pull you up, and have you well dressed.
[UK]Peeping Tom (London) 52 107/2: Harvey threatening to give a poor cabman a ‘good dressing’ the man replied [etc].
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 25 Sept. 3/2: The trio tore her bonnet and clothes, giving her what is known in eating house parlance as ‘a good dressing’.
[Aus]Coburg Leader (Vic.) 3 Aug. 1/6: Bullm E. got a terrible doing in the Glen Sunday night. Puds gave Bulm such a dressing that his people hardly knew him.

2. (UK Und.) to subject to robbery; thus dressing n.

[US]Calif. Police Gazette 30 Jan. 2/4: One night last week she ‘dressed’ two men, one to the amount of ten dollars, the other seventeen.
[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 5/2: It being market day, we concluded to give hull a ‘dressing’ but we had not ‘worked’ it long before the ‘fly-cops’ were out in quest of us.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

dress-and-breath (n.) [the most effort she makes is to get dressed and breathe]

(US black) a very lazy woman.

in Z.N. Hurston ‘The Guilded Six-Bits’ in Major Calling the Wind (1993).

In phrases

dress a front (v.)

(UK police/und.) to use treacle as a ‘glue’ when placing brown paper over a window prior to breaking it; the effect is to muffle the sound of breaking glass.

[UK]P. Hoskins No Hiding Place! 190/1: Dressing the Front. Plastering a window with treacle on brown paper to deaden the sound of smashing it.
dress a hat (v.) [‘Most likely from the fact that a hat receives the attention of three or four people before it is properly fit for wear’ (Slang Dict., 1873)]

to carry out various methods of robbery contrived by two or more servants or shopmen, either exchanging their master’s goods (e.g. shoes for a hat) or pooling them (the butcher’s boy steals steaks, the potboy steals beer etc) and all is sold to a third party.

[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict.
[UK]Sl. Dict.
[Aus]Sydney Sl. Dict. (2 edn) 3: Dress a Hat - Exchanging stolen property by servants and shopmen to avoid detection.
dress and res (v.)

(US black) to dress smartly, fashionably.

[US]‘Master Pimp’ Pimp’s Rap 161: Nigger, I was dressing and ressing when you were wearing shitty diapers.