Green’s Dictionary of Slang

dress v.

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

1. [late 18C–mid-19C] to beat, to thrash.

2. [mid-19C] (UK Und.) to subject to robbery; thus dressing n.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

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

[1920s–30s] (US black) a very lazy woman.

dress-up (n.)

[1930s] (US Und.) an outfit of one’s best clothes.

In phrases

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)]

[mid-19C] 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.

dress and res (v.)

[1990s+] (US black) to dress smartly, fashionably.