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

Idioms & Phrases

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 sloppyyou can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. This expression was already a proverb in the mid-1500s.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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