The Item I Wear to Death: My Vintage Calvin Klein Duster Coat

I have worn this jacket within a thread of its life.

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(Image credit: Kathryn Wirsing)

In our biweekly series, editors share "the item they wear to death," whether it be a basic white tee or a super-trendy jumpsuit. Prepare yourself (and your credit card) for some guilt-free shopping.

I have been an eBay shopper for years. Apparently, I enjoy the the gamble of buying things sight-unseen and then selling most of it back to Beacon's Closet, a resale boutique in New York City. The rare success of finding a vintage item that fits well, flatters, and is unique, however, is worth all the trouble.


Me and my pixie cut wearing the duster in 2013.

(Image credit: Genevieve Fraser)

One of my favorite purchases from eBay is a beige vintage Calvin Klein raincoat that was described as a "duster" jacket. I don't look good in traditional khaki, of the greyish-greenish-tan variety. It brings out the pink in my ruddy complexion. Still, I loved the idea of a duster. I wanted something long and simple, without epaulettes and strange flaps or a double breast closure, which looked busy to me.

The previous owner had apparently loved it as much as I do, wearing this raincoat within a thread of its life. The tag was dangling off the neck (still is), but the lining had been stitched and restitched by hand.

After seven years, I still adore the jacket, and wear it when the temperatures get over 60 degrees. It's loose fitting and there is a crinkly texture to the lightweight cotton blend that gives it that purposefully rumpled look. The collar is generous and the wood buttons are cute. I've rolled over it many times with my office chair and have then had to hand wash it a few times, being careful to preserve its lifespan. People compliment me on it a fair amount too. (Is that just because I wear it so much?)

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If I had to partake in a street style photoshoot, I'd chose this jacket always.

(Image credit: Kathryn Wirsing)

No matter how sloppy I look—and that is often my vibe—the duster makes me feel a little bit put together. The jacket keeps the air conditioning breeze off my bare skin when it's sweltering outdoors, but offices and subway cars are over-cooled. It's become almost a security blanket: If I feel exposed in something that is for the hottest of weather, I can put this on and feel cocooned. But I'll never feel over-dressed, because it's less structured and doesn't look quite as preppy as a traditional, belted trench does. And despite my previous hesitations about beige, the straw color seems to flatter my skin tone as well.

I actually hunted for another one of these raincoats—and still do on occasion. I took a chance on a checked blue version also by Calvin Klein on eBay, but the buttons were concealed under a placket and the shoulders were too big. Off it went to Beacon's Closet.

If you don't like to gamble, check out these unfussy trenches/dusters/what have you, available at retailers besides eBay.

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(Image credit: Photo by Bridget Burns)

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