Want an amazing accessory that will go from noon to night and season to season without missing a beat? Try a duster jacket—a wardrobe staple that will never go out of style and it's always in fashion. Dusters have been around longer than any other fashion item and they’ve continued to play a starring role in the discriminating woman’s wardrobe since they first debuted.
From Humble Beginnings Dusters Soon Became a Wardrobe Staple
Originally created in the 1800s to help cowboys keep their clothes free from trail dust, dusters were long sleeved, full length coats made from coarse canvas. A slit up the back enabled cowboys to wear dusters while riding horseback. Fast forward to the late 1900s and the invention of the first automobile. Those same dusters soon became a staple for men and women driving dusty country roads in their horseless carriages. Those who could afford automobiles made quite a scene robed in dusters, goggles, caps and kerchiefs to keep their clothing looking presentable while viewing the countryside.
From Movie Stars and Presidents' Wives, to Secretaries and Stay-at-Home Moms: They All Adored Dusters
In the 1950s and 60s, duster jackets became all the rage when movie stars like Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe and Debbie Reynolds donned the loosely fitted garment as an elegant covering over form fitting evening gowns. The look of a free flowing full length duster over a revealing, skin-tight formal gown was both breathtaking and intriguing and heightened the drama of walking down the Red Carpet on Oscar night.
The late Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, wife of 35th President John F. Kennedy, made the duster jacket a venerated symbol of feminine charm and stately elegance while serving as America’s First Lady from 1961 to her husband’s tragic assassination in 1963. Many of her regal outfits included a duster jacket over knee length or formal sheaths, capris, or straight skirts. Jackie often paired a duster jacket suit with a pillbox hat, long gloves, and designer pumps. Soon, every woman in America was wearing a duster jacket to emulate the First Lady.
What Makes the Duster An Enduring Fashion Accessory?
Quite simply, it's the simple cut. Falling gracefully from the shoulders with three-quarter or full length sleeves, a duster is a perfect outer garment for almost any figure type. Its body skimming silhouette not only hides a less than perfect shape, but also makes any outfit look pulled together and elegant. Three quarter or seven-eighths length sleeves are also adept at hiding the upper arm. It’s a perfect cover up that can go from casual to formal depending on the fabric. Ladies love wearing duster jackets over jeans, dress slacks, skirts or dresses.
The silhouette of a duster jacket can be designed with subtle changes to its neckline—from a classic Peter Pan or cowl to the more modern funnel or Nehru style. The overall appearance of a duster can also be changed with the addition of buttons—large or small, glitzy or plain. More formal styles exclude buttons and can be worn open to reveal a stunning garment underneath.
What Makes Dusters So Versatile?
A duster jacket’s versatility is in the fabric. Its signature T shape goes with nearly any fashion design; but the fabric makes it malleable. A formal cover up can be designed in luxurious silks, shimmering brocades, and sumptuous satin. Trendy fabrics like faux leather, faded or distressed denim, sheer voile, or gold or silver lame bring the duster into the twenty-first century and beyond.
Looking for a less formal look? Choose textured cotton pique, polished cotton sateen, or a lightweight seersucker for hot summer days. Animal prints, patchwork designs, French boucle and Italian knits are also popular. You can even turn a duster jacket into a bright and breezy raincoat constructed from polka dotted vinyl or oil cloth. The design possibilities are unlimited.
How to Wear a Duster Jacket
Since today’s duster jackets have a straight or flared silhouette, it’s best to pair them with a more streamlined pant or skirt. Pencil skirts are a perfect complement to the larger shape of a duster. Choose a long or short form fitting skirt with straight lines for a dramatic and sophisticated style. Pants should also be straight legged and tailored to offset the sometimes dramatic flair of a duster jacket. Leggings are a good choice, but make sure the jacket discreetly covers the rear. Never pair a duster with wide legged or bell bottomed pants or full skirts; too much of a flare on the top and bottom tend to add extra pounds.
Where to Find Duster Jackets
Shop online for duster jackets in your favorite color, fabric or pattern. If you plan to wear the jacket as an outer garment, select a larger size to fit over a blouse or sweater. Handy with a sewing machine? Save money and customize your jacket by making it yourself. Look for an easy-to-sew duster jacket pattern and choose fabric and notions that will make your outfit one that’s versatile, timeless and always in style.