1) The verb ‘to dress’ formerly occurred in a wide range of contexts, but had the general meaning of ‘clean’, ‘make ready’ or ‘put in order’.
1554 Causse the gutters a boute the Cherche walles to be drest, Wakefield
1672 resolued to come to his own house ... drest a room, Hipperholme
1687 her dame had been dressing of some woole, Lockwood. It was used in many other trades, as in the preparation of leather: 1596 ‘If any stranger come to the town or liberties and cutt any gloves purses or poyntes and dress any kind of lether pertaining to the occupacion of a glover', Beverley. In 1602, a mason called Thomas Wallimsley was to gett, work, dresse and make ready all the stones for building Apperley Bridge. In this case ‘dressing’ was probably the final squaring and facing of the stone. The first accounts of the Cutlers’ Company record a payment in 1625 of 2s 6d to George Simonett for dressing of kniues. In relation to a cutler’s products it often meant ‘make ready for sale’, ensuring that the necessary finishing processes had been completed: in 1709, the inventory of Joseph Webster listed wares gott up mercantably and a certain amount of undrest ware which needed attention before it could be sold. Joseph Leech was a substantial scissorsmith, and when he died in 1717 he had Sizers [scissors] dressed and undressed, Ł4 6s 0d. The word occurs commonly also in coal-mining accounts: 1754 dressing the sump hole, Beeston
1767 pd Jno Illingworth Jos. Binns and Jos. Cowburn and a Lad for dresing new pit out and a puller 5s 3d, Tong. A few examples have links with modern usages, such as ‘dressing’ a wound’: 1647 came to dresse my horse mouth, Thurlstone, and ‘dressing a well’: 1605 we lay in paine that William Farrand do dresse the well ... and take away his lyme, Kirkheaton. Well-dressing, in the sense of decorating a well, has a long history in Derbyshire, first noted in Tissington in 1748, but the origins of the custom are obscure and it may be that it started in the Middle Ages as a traditional cleansing of the well itself.