1580s (n.), "an aukward, ill-dressed, inelegant woman" [Johnson]; 1670s (adj.), perhaps a diminutive of doue "poorly dressed woman" (early 14c.), which is of uncertain origin. The modern use of dowd (n.) is most likely a back-formation from dowdy. "If plaine or homely, wee saie she is a doudie or a slut" [Barnabe Riche, "Riche his Farewell to Militarie profession," 1581].
You don't have to be dowdy to be a Christian. [Tammy Faye Bakker, "Newsweek," June 8, 1987]
Related: Dowdily; dowdiness.
1. She looked very plain and dowdy.
2. Her clothes were clean but dowdy.
3. She makes me feel dowdy and ugly.
4. She made the other women look dowdy and careless.