In Defense of the Dustah (and other shapeless garments)

Lottie Nevin is one of the most intriguing women I ever met. She was living in Jakarta with her husband, Irishman she called him, when our paths crossed. He was teaching at a university there but they were often at their vacation home in Bali. Lottie and I were instant friends. Then they moved to Spain. I miss her.

She was a sunny-side-up, can-do person and everything she said was hilarious. One comment in particular has stuck with me. She was talking about her garment of choice. “I hold comfort in the highest esteem,” she said. “Why would any woman want to be trussed up like a Christmas goose and totter around on pointy-toed, spikey-heeled chambers of torture?” Her look of baffled disdain spoke louder than words. Then she shrugged, shook her head, and groaned. “But Irishman hates my dustah.”

“What’s a dustah?” I asked. It sounded exotic and foreign. She looked at me aghast.

“You don’t know? It’s that shapeless thing that hangs off your shoulders and doesn’t come in contact with your body anywhere else…the most comfortable thing alive. You can go naked as a jay underneath – it’s heaven.”

A memory took shape in my mind’s eye of my mother’s floral pastel, snap-up-the-front housecoat. She’d called it a duster – dustER. Ah-ha!

So that’s what we were talking about. Lottie’s accent was decidedly not English in the Midwestern U.S. style. It had the delightful flavor of the British Isles that made ah’s out of r’s.

I remembered Mom wearing her gown in the morning. But after school lunches were packed and breakfast eaten, she exchanged comfort for clothing that fit her form. It sounded like Lottie missed that step and dear Irishman didn’t approve.

Mom had Dad to impress. Lottie has Irishman.

I don’t cater to anyone but myself. But Lottie’s words stick in my mind every time I slip into my most comfortable outfit. I’ll have walked a mile or more with intense tropical sun beating on my head. I’ll be dripping, my clothing drenched in sweat. As soon as my feet touch home turf, I beeline for the shower and peel off the soggy garments.

Showered and refreshed, I reach for the dress. As it slips over my head, pure joy floods my soul. Stress leaches out of my body. Invariably I inhale, deep and long, and release a blissful sigh. Nothing else even comes close to the relief of lounging the afternoon away in unbound ecstasy.

The pandemic has changed my apparel. Comfort is the ultimate driving factor and yesterday I came face-to-face with the consequences of that. For eighteen months I’ve worn nothing snug – nothing that requires me to suck in my stomach. I’ve sat way more than I’ve stood or walked. Now that I’m packing for a trip to see family in the States, I’m trying on ‘real’ clothes. To my horror, a fleshy spare tire seems to have settled around my waist and hips. I’m pear-shaped with toothpick legs and that is not okay.

There’s not much hope of remedying the situation in the eleven days before I leave. But once there…

Jessa and Dan have promised long hikes on the ridges along the California coastline overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

In Minnesota, I’ll stroll the path along Minnehaha Creek to Lake Nokomis and Lake Hiawatha with my twin grandsons.

Pennsylvania with Joy and Kellen and my very active, very precocious granddaughters will be anything but sedentary. By the time I return to Bali I’ll be whipped into shape.


Or…Maybe I’ll melt back into my ‘dustah,’ breathe that blissful sigh, and revert to my old, wicked ways.

Do any of you out there share Lottie’s love of the shapeless, unconfined comfort of the dustah?

Has the pandemic changed the way you dress?

Has anyone else gone pear-shaped?

14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Gail O
    Sep 23, 2021 @ 14:36:05

    Yes, the duster housecoat – wonderful! My mother used to call hers a Brunch coat… probably worn well into late morning. Covid has certainly put on the extra inches & need to be planning some long hikes like you are to have. Enjoy your time with your family!

    Liked by 1 person


  2. Lottie Nevin
    Sep 23, 2021 @ 14:45:21

    Sherry, how can I not LOVE your post?! You are so glamorous and elegant, you’d look beautiful even if you were donning a plastic refuse sack, such is the nature of your being and the way that you carry yourself. You did make me chuckle! You clearly forget to mention that I’m the size of a house when I met you and that ‘dustahs’ were about the only garment that faintly ‘floated’ over my corpulent torso… bless you dear friend. But, here’s the thing, seriously – there’s a bit of spooky old synchronity going on here because you’ve been in my thoughts A LOT recently! Yes, you have and you shared something with me- not a hot fashion tip , I grant but something much much more empowering that has served me ( and now several of my friends too) very well. Do you remember your tip about ‘no white foods’? Well, whenever I’m struggling with the jeans zipper or, there’s that moment when I know I need to take myself in hand, I think of you, your sage advice and I take myself in hand and get with the plan. It worked absolute wonders for me seven years ago and then during last years lockdown I succumbed to Irishman’s homemade bread and went wild with the chocolate and yes, the need to address this was plainly evident this summer when, heaven forbid! I found my duster getting a bit tight!!! ( can you imagine?) so, I took myself in hand and I’m back on track and that feels really good. So my friend, Thank you. Thank you for your delightful post that has brought back so many happy and funny memories and Thank you too for giving me the best ‘reduction’ advice ever. It works every time and is easy as pie … whoops!!! Xxx

    Liked by 1 person


    • writingforselfdiscovery
      Sep 23, 2021 @ 16:52:13

      No white food! Best weight-loss program ever! And if that most comfortable of all apparel, your dustah, is getting tight honey…ouch! However, I’ve known you to exaggerate just a bit so I’m not entirely convinced that your situation is that dire! You remain in my memory as a wonderful writer, brilliant artist, and special friend. I was crushed when I heard you were leaving Indonesia forever. But I’ve enjoyed your adventures – and what adventures they’ve been – as you made your new life in Spain. It’s interesting that you’ve been thinking of me, too. Although I’m not surprised. The Universe works that way – have you noticed? It’s rarely one-sided. That person you described as me, though? I don’t know her. She sounds like an absolute bore. Give me REAL – Velveteen Rabbit REAL – with the fur rubbed off and the button-eyes loose…that’s me now, Lottie. My sixties are in the rear-view mirror and glamour does not describe this crone! Best to you always, Lottie dear! And Irishman, too.

      Liked by 1 person


  3. Diane Struble
    Sep 23, 2021 @ 15:16:31

    I love dusters, caftans, muumuus, loungers, by any other name. I have always lived in them when I could. Whenever I am home, they are the garment of choice whether picking up my mail or newspaper, greeting repairmen, eating breakfast, etc. And during the pandemic with restricted access to the real world, my many “dusters” have been my clothes for entire days, sometimes two. And, yes, my middle expanded and I am now working on losing the extra inches. Lots of “new” clothes from the thrift stores this spring to accommodate the added curves until they are gone. It may be awhile. Looking forward to seeing you, pear shape and all. Love.

    Liked by 1 person


  4. stevecastley
    Sep 23, 2021 @ 18:40:05

    Thanks for sharing this fun piece. I hope you have a great catch up with family in America. Hugs. Steve

    Liked by 1 person


  5. writingforselfdiscovery
    Sep 23, 2021 @ 19:06:16

    I needed something lighthearted after the heavy, 9/11 post, and Lottie’s been on my mind. She’s a hoot! I’m very much looking forward to being with family after a long time apart. It feels surreal in many ways. Hugs to you, too.



  6. Rosemary
    Sep 23, 2021 @ 20:07:03

    Love this post! Yes, I’ve experienced the pandemic pounds syndrome. Yoga pants are my comfort clothes of choice. Too much sitting, too much snacking. So when I had to try on a pair of my “real pants,” no amount of sucking in my belly enabled me to zip up! For now, I’m still wearing yoga pants and leggings with pretty tops when I need to dress up. By the way, my mother always wore her “dustah” around the house. Thanks for the memory!

    Liked by 1 person


  7. Anne Young
    Sep 23, 2021 @ 20:44:36

    I’ve become a fan of leggings. Roomy overshirt to hide butt. Totally comfortable, not tight on waist.

    Liked by 1 person


  8. Anonymous
    Sep 23, 2021 @ 23:32:18

    Love my many dusters! Thanks for the memories. I wrote longer but it disappeared. No one will care about your pouch. Seems a good thing to bring home to be nurtured, SL

    Liked by 1 person


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