Showy, worthless finery; a corruption of St. Audrey. At the annual fair of St. Audrey, in the isle of Ely, showy lace called St. Audrey's lace was sold, and gave foundation to our word tawdry, which means anything gaudy, in bad taste, and of little value. (See Tanthony.)
“Tawdry. `Astrigmenta, timbriae, sen fasciolae, emptae nundinis S. Ethelredae.' ” —Henshawe.
“Come, you promised me a tawdry lace and a pair of sweet gloves.” —Winter's Tale, iv. 4.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894