can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear


Be unable to turn something ugly or inferior into something attractive or of value, as in No matter how expensive his clothes, he still looks sloppy—you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. This expression was already a proverb in the mid-1500s.

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.