Textile Idiom Series: “Threadbare”

October 30th, 2023

Much of our everyday language—in the form of idioms, clichés, or metaphors—makes reference to textiles. Using these phrases, we weave stories, spin tales, and thread narratives. But where do these expressions come from, and what do they mean? 

In a blog series posted on intermittent Mondays, we will be unpacking textile-related idioms. Stay tuned to learn their metaphorical and historical meanings.


Tomorrow is Halloween—costumers, partygoers, and parents everywhere rush to place the finishing touches on their costumes. Some of us will be dressed in immaculate pop culture references, others as favorite characters from movies or television. If you’re going the traditional route, you might be a tattered witch or bloody vampire—or perhaps a threadbare ghost. 

The term threadbare” refers to cloth that has had the nap worn off of the weave, leaving the fabric patchy, thin, and weak from overuse. As an idiom, it means much the same: for example, a threadbare argument is likewise overused and easily seen through. It is old, outdated, and has already been picked apart.

However, a threadbare argument can be bolstered with the introduction of new material. So, too, with textiles. An old costume can be repurposed, a beloved worn out item of clothing can be made into a costume. As you put the finishing touches on your costume this year, think about all the ways you can repurpose it during the year to come.