a fairy tale (=old children's story) by Hans Christian Andersen about an emperor who pays a lot of money for some new magic clothes which can only be seen by wise people. The clothes do not really exist, but the emperor does not admit he cannot see them, because he does not want to seem stupid. Everyone else pretends to see the clothes too, until a child shouts, "The Emperor has no clothes on!" The title is often used to describe a situation in which people are afraid to criticize something because everyone else seems to think it is good or important.
Definition from the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English Advanced Learner's Dictionary.
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