If something is tawdry it’s old and scrappy but worn as if it were elegant and beautiful. It’s the adjective use of the noun tawdry: a ‘tawdry’, until the late 17th century, was a woman’s necktie

The word has been shortened several times: St. Audrey’s lace, a ribbon or necktie sold at the annual St. Audrey’s Day fair, held in Ely on October 17th, was altered in the mid-16th century to tawdry lace (keeping the t from saint).

St. Audrey or Etheldreda was a 7th century East Anglian princess and the Abbess of Ely (Etheldreda is a Latinised form of an Old English name that means ‘noble strength’).
St. Audrey is commemorated with a lace necktie because of the throat problems she suffered, which she believed were punishment for her vanity in wearing necklaces when she was young.

St Etheldreda’s church can be found in Ely Place, London. It is the oldest Catholic church in England and one of two surviving buildings in London dating from the reign of Edward I (1272-1307).


(Image: from The Honiton Lace Book)