(From A Terrible Kindness by Jo Browning Wroe)

'Swanky' is how Robert described the event to William, and he wasn't exaggerating. The bright, trussed figures of the women, with sparkling necks, wrists and fingers, are vivid against the men's solid black and white - though Howard's cuff-links are sparkly too.

This is a description of a dinner party in Nottingham. I don't know the meaning of 'trussed figures' in this context. I know the common meanings of 'truss'. My guess, maybe the author means the women a wearing stomachers or corsets. Is there a synonym? Maybe it means something like 'tarted up' in this context.

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    This isn't common or modern English, but based on the next part of the sentence, I would assume the word trussed is talking about the amount of jewelry and finery they are wearing. That could make logical sense in that heavy, fine jewelry is restrictive to movement Mar 27 at 14:29
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    It could refer to tight and restrictive clothing, like tight dresses and maybe strappy high-heeled shoes that restrict movement. One meaning of truss is to tie up, often so tightly that someone can't move, but it's also possible to exaggerate. The OED has: "To confine or enclose (the body, or some part of it) by something fastened closely round; to bind or tie up; to gird; to fasten up (the hair) with ribbon, pins, combs, etc.; to adjust and draw close the garments of (a person); hence contemptuously in reference to dress."
    – Stuart F
    Mar 27 at 15:01
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    Chickens are trussed, so the idea is that these women were wearing close-fitting or tight apparel. Not loose flowing garmets. At least, that's my reading. This is modern English, it's just *literature" or literary English. It's funny.
    – Lambie
    Mar 27 at 15:14
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    @Lambie: I've never heard "trussed" used like this - it has no currency, and is effectively a one-off literary usage that shouldn't really concern learners. But there will be many written instances of my "coarse" alternative - defined by Partridge, and familiar to me for well over half a century. Plus obviously mine is far more likely to occur in real-world conversational contexts, irrespective of how you feel about it. Mar 27 at 15:20
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    @FumbleFingers That is exactly what makes it brilliant and creative and makes your instances crude. What's your point anyway? It is irrelevant to this story. No currency, hah. Novels are not supposed to sound this or that way. The point is to avoid cliché, which the word truss applied to women's apparel certainly does. Imagine: The bright figures of women wearing tight fitting clothes. Not great.
    – Lambie
    Mar 27 at 15:28

2 Answers 2


"Truss" means to tie, and historically it was used to describe the tieing up of clothing, particularly formal women's clothing that would have many tying parts.

to adjust and fasten the clothing of; especially, to draw tight and tie the laces of garments.

"All trussed up" was once a common term to mean "dressed up".

So, the reference in your book to "trussed figures" suggested well-dressed people.


There is a contrast, I think, between the "solid" clothing in which the men are dressed and the women's dresses that expose bare backs, bare shoulders, other areas of bare flesh, such that the women appear tied up in their dresses, which are wrapped around them like criss-crossing bands.

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