This Week I Love …

… dusters.

OK, OK, I know that this is yet another fashion term I’m using loosely. From what I can gather, an actual “duster” is an ankle-length canvas coat worn by equestrians to protect their clothing from trail dust. I don’t own any of those. Or any horses. But what I do own – and adore – are long coats and sweaters worn as toppers that create dramatic, long lines. Like these:

Vintage Betsey Johnson Duster Cardigan – $109

Gap Long Open Front Cardigan – $49.95

White + Warren Long Cashmere Duster – $195

Bobeau Plus-sized Shadow Stripe Long Cardiganicon – $28.90 (Nordstrom)

Moon Duster Maxi – $88

Jones New York Cardigan Coat – $239

Sheer silk duster – $47.40

Clearly, dusters run the gamut in terms of styles, fibers, and prices. They can definitely recall the 90s, but can also be styled in more classic and contemporary ways.

Do you wear dusters? Cardigans, coats, or both? How do you style yours?

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33 Responses to “This Week I Love …”

  1. Lynn

    I love them too, but how do short women wear them, especially if they have curves? Does anyone have any suggestions?

    • Sal

      Lynn, remember that you get to set your own figure flattery priorities! A duster cardigan will visually shorten a petite woman, but some days you might not care.

      On the days that you do, here are some ideas: Avoid true dusters and instead pick long cardigans that hit just above your knees. Make sure to elongate your legs – so dark pants and heels or wedges (as opposed to other long layers, like tunics). Also draw the eye upward with a detailed top, necklace, or scarf.

      • Katharine

        This may not work for you, but the most flattering way for me (at five feet not-quite-four and of exaggerated hourglass shape) to wear them, generally, is over a long and flowing lower half piece, rather than (as the style is now) tights/leggings. Wide-legged pants or jeans, or a maxi skirt. That gives an overall flow (and a kind of Edwardian silhouette).

        I also prefer mine fitted, as in Sal’s outfit, the Betsey and the JNY examples. The straight-up-and-down long coat/cardigan/tunic on me is a good way to look like a brick (mostly because my shoulders are the widest part of my body). Not that I don’t still wear things like that sometimes, but I do so knowing that it’s not my best look.

        • Lynn

          Thank you both. I love the elongated leg idea and the suggestion of a fitted duster is perfect. I almost bought a straight one on e-bay today and am glad I didn’t because I would have looked just like a brick.

  2. TinaPete

    Love this outfit, so sleek and chic! I’m new to your blog and have a question because I don’t think I could wear those great shoes w/o some kind of hose. Actually have a similar pair & don’t know how to wear them in winter with pants. Thanks in advance!

  3. Patti @ NotDeadYet Style

    You look terrific, Sal – so business-ready but with your own style. I *adore* the Betsey duster and the red cashmere. The last one is a bit “Maude” for my tastes, but I’d like it on a young woman with a flair for vintage.

  4. Herbee

    I love this look and I’ve bought two dusters this winter (they both stop just above my knee), but I’m having a hard time figuring out how to wear them with dresses. If the dress is 2 or 3 inches longer than the duster, does that work? It looks sort of odd to me, but I think at age 50, I may be too “old” to wear a dress a few inches above my knees, even if I have a long sweater on top!

    • Sal

      I wrestle with that one, too, Herbee. I’ve taken to wearing my really long dusters with pant/shirt combos because the proportions look better. For ones that hit above the knee, though, a couple of inches in discrepancy either way usually works. I’ve got a post on the “long over lean” silhouette coming up soon that should help!

  5. Elizabeth

    Whatever the formal definition, I like this look, when done right. All these examples are great. Your look and the Gap look are my favorites.

    • Kaffesoester

      This summer I bought a duster. It’s been fine with jeans, but untill this New Years Eve I haven’t tried it with a dress. However I attended a party with half the guests in jeans so I wore a very sparkly long dress that I dressed down with the knitted duster. The combination of the two different lengts worked very well.

  6. K-Line

    I don’t have any – they’re really not my thing because they tend hide a hip to waist ratio, which is what I’ve got going for me – and the can be a bit frumpy with large breasts.

  7. Iris

    I’ve got a “duster” cardigan that I absolutely adore. It’s long-sleeved, mustard yellow and far too big for me – you could probably fit two arms in each sleeve. But it’s really comfortable and about the same length as a lot of my dresses, so I love the long line it creates and how it cooperates with my skirt length. My only problem with it is that most of my coats are shorter than it, meaning that when I’m outside it can look a bit odd because it pokes out underneath. I usually button it up at the bottom to make it look slightly better and decide not to be bothered.

  8. DeeDee V.

    The Kenny Rogers tee on the first model is cracking me up. Another way to deploy a graphic tee!

  9. Ann V

    I love long sweaters. However, I’ve felt that I could never really get mine to work like yours do. They’re okay, but they’re just not as cozy and dramatic. Then I saw this post ( with the camel sweater and it all made sense. I have that same sweater, or one nearly identical, but my sweater hits above the knees and sleeves are, let’s say, “bracelet length.” Because I’m super tall, duh! So I’ve been on the lookout for some nice sweater knit to make myself a properly long sweater duster. It seems like stores never offer them in tall sizes.

  10. Aziraphale

    I bought a black leather duster ten years ago in an effort to look like Buffy (or possibly Spike). I still really like it, although it doesn’t get a lot of wear because it’s a bit dramatic for everyday life, and also I live in the Pacific Northwest where it rains too much to wear a nice leather coat every day. đŸ™‚

    The coat works best when I wear it with bootcut jeans and short boots that have a reasonably high, chunky heel. I leave it open so it billows when I walk. Interestingly, men often comment on it. One time when I was wearing it, a guy walked up to me at an intersection and asked if I was from Montreal (I’m not), which I thought was interesting. To the Quebecois wear a lot of black leather?

  11. Dee

    I love dusters, I have both the jacket type and sweater type. I do think its easier for some figure types to wear them and look good, than others. (Sal you look great in them, BTW). I don’t have much of a waist, am average to tall for a woman and have broad shoulders. I think they look pretty good on my figure type, giving a long/lean (leaner ? look, I am by far NOT lean). I do think the length makes a BIG difference. If they are too long on me they are just not flattering, cutting of my leg length I guess. Also I just dont like the look of the drapey ones that are longer in the front than back, on me. Again they make me look stumpy or something. My guess is that the taller you are, the easier it is for you to wear dusters, and I think having decent shoulders to help it “hang” nicely helps too.

  12. Cynthia

    I wear long drapey cardigans all the time, along with sweatercoats and various other garments of this ilk. The several that I have get the most use out of anything in my wardrobe, and I can generally be confident when buying another one that it’s not a mistake.

  13. Anne

    As soon as I saw the subject of this post I went to the back bedroom and pulled mine out of storage. I’ve been calling mine a sweater coat. What ever they are, I really like them and I have been wanting to try these kinds of looks. They are a bit tricky to pull off where I live in that it stays pretty warm here until December then the rain starts and doesn’t let up until May, by which time it is getting hot again. (usually, this year we are just now finally getting some rain)

    For years it seems, I have been locked in the boot-cut jeans, cardi and tee-shirt rut. A longer leaner silhouette with sweater coats, leggings and tunics would be a step towards breaking out of my rut, while still keeping the familiar coziness of sweaters. Something to look forward to when my remix and shopping diet are over!

  14. The Waves

    I wear long-ish cardigans, but anything longer than just-above-the-knee makes me look like a warlock. In theory, I’d love to wear ankle-length cardigans, but I can’t seem to be able to make them work.

  15. Bubu

    I love these too! So funny because I only really own around 2 and find myself reaching for them all the time – including today. A long ruffle-front cardigan in a light beige over all black jeans and T, and threw on a long necklace for kicks. I too am short, but find wearing with heels and monochromatic underneath (like today) or over a simple shift dress of similar length works well. Also, they need to be long but fitted or you just drown. I also love that they are dressy enough for work but as comfy as a bathrobe – I wear them work, home, with kids, to the museum, a restaurant, a bar, everywhere.

  16. Anne

    I generally don’t like dusters over pants (it is similar to the dress-over-jeans thing, another look I really dislike). I think it tends to make people look wider, mask curves, and divide the body into sections in a weird way that makes a lot of people look short and/or disproportionate. That being said, wearing a fitted one (as you did) can eliminate some of those problems (same as wearing a belt over the duster), shorter ones (such as the one by Gap) can be a really cute look over leggings or skinny jeans, and that one by Betsey Johnson is just DIVINE- I can picture myself wearing it over a full skirt or dress!
    I think the colors and materials can also make the difference between looking stylish and looking like you left the house wearing an old bathrobe, a backwards Snuggie, or your grandpa’s house sweater. More tailored pieces (again, using that Betsey Johnson one as an example- can you tell I like it?) make the look more deliberate.

  17. Megan Mae

    I love long coats and jackets. I do have a few long cardigans, but I tend to shy away from them. I don’t have a very defined waist and tend to feel like a column in sweaters that hit past my hips. I do still wear them since they are warm and I love feeling like having a pseudo-cape floating around.

  18. Krysta

    So. . . your last sentence (“They can definitely recall the 90s, but can also be styled in more classic and contemporary ways”) brought a question to mind. I’d love to see a feature where you give suggestions on how a “dated” item–a sweater duster, a superfringey bag/jacket, etc–could be styled/worn so that it reads less “dated” and more “updated”. Or something. We all have items we love that look like their year of provenance, and minimizing that look would be useful and interesting. . .

  19. Susan

    The funny thing to me is that the term “duster” was also used to describe a robe or housecoat when I was growing up. I bought a dress once from Chicos and the blurb online said that it could also be worn as a duster. I KNEW what a current fashion duster is, but, for some reason, I thought housecoat and keep looking at my new dress in puzzlement.

    I do have several long duster like sweaters and sometimes they are just the thing to make me feel elegant and well dressed.

    Sally you look great in this photo. I think the long lines are very flattering on you and I also like the colors on you.

    • Moni/Mae

      Honestly, I have ONLY heard of a duster being synonymous to a housecoat (that’s what my southern grandma calls them), so I really appreciate learning that a duster can also be a sweatercoat.

  20. Audi

    I had no idea that’s where the word ‘duster’ came from. The stuff I learn from reading your blog, Sal!

  21. @R

    Ooh! I thrifted a black pinstriped duster a couple weeks ago. Maybe this will give me the inspiration to wear it! Being conservative, maybe I’ll try it over a black turtleneck and black jeans.

  22. sophe

    I love dusters, rarely wear them, I own Rikel dark charcoal dusters I’m 5″5 105 I wore it and people kept complimenting me on the coat,. . The second duster I own wore when we attended a sunrise reception it is a dressy Tahari duster with subtle sheen with invisible disappearing zipper side pocket the compliments just kept coming ..why? , I decided people like something that reminds them of when times were good and when people dressed up, with dignity ..