Gathers

(g hard). Out of gathers. In distress; in a very impoverished condition. The allusion is to a woman's gown, which certainly looks very seedy when “out of gathers” —i.e. when the cotton that kept the “pleats” together has given way. (Anglo-Saxon, gader-ian, to gather, or pleat.)

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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