Duster has several definitions. People may refer to feather household cleaning devices as dusters, meant to remove dust easily from objects. The other definition of the term refers to special types of clothing worn to minimize presence of dust or dirt on other clothes. These have had many uses over time.
When people rode horses as a means of transportation, they might have worn very long coats that helped reduce the amount of dust and dirt that got on clothing. Horseback riding can be an enjoyable but fairly dirty business. You’ll see examples of this type of duster in many spaghetti-Western films. Such coats could be made of leather, hide, or cloth and did make for somewhat cleaner clothing at the end of a person’s horseback journey.
When the first cars were introduced, they were frequently open and driving on unpaved roads could soil clothing tremendously. Men and women might wear dusters to avoid the amount of dirt that would accumulate on clothes. Today, this form of duster isn’t particularly common and the long coat worn over clothes has taken a turn in use.
You may hear a duster described by its synonym “housecoat.” When women were cleaning and preparing their homes, they often wanted some form of protective clothing to place over what they were wearing for the day. Housecoats, which were long buttoned robes of usually light fabric like cotton or cotton/poly blends became a popular choice since they covered more of clothing than did most aprons and pinafores.
A duster or housecoat was usually roomy for ease of movement, and might button or zip in front. Some were knee length, and others longer. Today you can still find this type of housecoat, which can easily double as a robe if you don’t want to wear it as a duster. Women may wear a duster not so much over the clothes they plan to wear, but instead over things like underwear. They’re useful to slip into when you’re preparing to go out and need to do hair or put on makeup.
You can find this type of duster in a variety of stores, usually in lingerie departments. It may be sometimes be sold as leisure or lounge wear. They are not as popular as they were in the mid 20th century, and it may take a bit of searching to find the perfect housecoat. Many object to the bright colors and often floral patterns on a duster, but others find them cheery wear, and useful for times when they need to take a few moments to get prepared to go out, but don’t want to dress in their “going out” clothes immediately.