Washington Post (May 22) reported the victory of the 35-year-old Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky Democratic primary to position her as the challenger to 72-year-old Senate’s GOP leader, Mitch McConnell in November election.

It says;

Alison Lundergan Grimes says it everywhere she goes. She said it at dozens of stops in Kentucky over the past week. She said it at her victory speech here Tuesday night after securing the Democratic nomination for Senate. And she plans to say it again all the way to November. She’s not an “empty dress.”

I am not an empty dress, I am not a rubber stamp, and I am not a cheerleader,” she said in a speech Tuesday night after she and McConnell each easily defeated primary opponents and officially began what is shaping up to be one of the year’s most heated political battles. - Source

None of OED, CED, Merriam-Webster carries “empty dress.” Google Ngram shows existence of the word since mid 19 century, but at a very low incidence ratio (0.0000002% in 2008)

Urban dictionary defines it as “Usually used in regards a woman. After you get past all the glamour and glitz, there is nothing worth staying for.”

Does it mean ‘outdated and unattractive woman without substance’? What is an alternative short word to “empty dress” used in the context of Alison Grimes’ victory speech? What is the men’s version of “empty dress”?

  • 11
    It's just a female version of an "empty suit". For a politican it just means someone who is all about presentation with no underlying substance.
    – user24964
    Commented May 25, 2014 at 0:09
  • 1
    Also, "outdated and unattractive" are not implied or associated at all.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jul 7, 2014 at 15:51

3 Answers 3


Yoichi, I swear, there should be a term (perhaps "Yoichi-question-ism!") for (A) when in English we further play on a common figure of speech.

But then, more critically, there should be a term (B) (perhaps "faux-yoichi-question-ism!") for when writers incorrectly mess-up a common figure of speech, and or pathetically accidentally mix one or more together in a meaningless way.

{Aside: For me, these "B" cases are an extremely important and noteworthy social phenomenon in current English-speaking countries: for me it's an absolutely critical pointer to the a hugely significant socio-historic phenomenon playing out currently: a combination of (i) staggering decrease in learned literacy {due to decades of a certain overarching political situation} and amazing decrease in physical native intelligence {due to carbohydrate poisoning}, coupled with (ii) a (rather terrifying) desire to be seen as humorously-pseudo-intellectual. In short, illiteracy + risible peurile pretentiousness == phenomenon "B".}

(A) and (B) are quite distinct, and you in particular very often bring to the fore examples of these. Many of your questions prove to be about (A) (harmless and happy incidents in English) and many are about (B) (which for me are socially disturbing and point to imminent Lord-of-the-Flies -esque societal collapse, on the Jaynesian scale). (!)

In this particular case, it is very much (A). ("Phew!")

A critical point for me is that in the case of yoichi-isms, and more critically, faux-yoichi-isms, answers sometimes confusingly "explain" the phrase without pointing out the overwhelming factor, that it is an (A) {or even (B)} situation.

(So for example, IMO, GMB's answer above is unclear: it relates the situation as if it is a figure-of-speech as such, rather than an "A".)

  • 2
    I cannot see an answer for the words. Commented Jun 10, 2014 at 14:07
  • @MattЭллен: This subject is interpolated into a textual libertarianism that includes narrativity as a totality. Obviously.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jul 7, 2014 at 15:57

The meaning is to be of no substance. She gave the meaning fairly well when she amplified it by saying she was not a rubber stamp or a cheerleader. Sometimes a man is demeaned in a similar way by saying he is an empty suit, or "all hat and no cattle."


The following quote from MSNBC should give you some context:

“Alison Lundergan Grimes seems incapable of articulating her own thoughts, and faced with questions, either directly parrots the talking points handed to her by [Sen.] Chuck Schumer or she babbles incoherently and stares blankly into the camera as though she’s a freshman in high school struggling to remember the CliffsNotes after forgetting to read her homework assignment,” NRSC Communications Director Brad Dayspring said in an email to The Hill. “They say you can’t be something with nothing, but Alison Lundergan Grimes seems determined to test that theory. She’s an empty dress.”

Brad Dayspring is essentially stating that Alison Lundergan has no substance, hence the empty dress.

  • Who used the term first? Is this quote before or after Grimes's quote? Is Grimes responding to this quote or is Dayspring contradicting Grimes's usage?
    – Mitch
    Commented Jul 7, 2014 at 15:53

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