Clothes come and go from fashion, usually because the fashion creators need for you to buy something new, occasionally because the public gets bored with an item, and from time to time because a garment becomes obsolete. Such was the case with the automobile duster.
The duster was a coat, usually lightweight, that fully covered the wearer from the neck to the ankles. It was developed out of necessity. In the late 19th century the auto was new, and roads were rarely paved. Driving a car stirred up all kinds of dirt and dust, and to add to the problem, cars were open to the elements. By the time motorists arrived at their destinations – which were usually just a few miles in the early days of cars – they would be covered with the road. So the duster filled a real need.
As the 1920s approached, the problems associated with motoring were solved. Roads were paved, cars were enclosed, and the duster fell from favor. Women often threw on a lightweight coat over their frock when motoring, but the neck to foot protection was no longer needed.
From a 1910 Abercrombie & Fitch catalog.
A duster in my collection. Note the grease stains on the side.
By the 1920s, the duster was fading fast, but ladies still wore motoring coats. This linen coat looks pristine, but there are grease spots on the back.
And thanks to Kate Mathews at Folkwear patterns for reminding me that you can make your own motoring coat. This is their Model T Duster: