“Find out who you are and do it on purpose.”
So said Dolly Parton – as in, yes, the country music legend, actor, and philanthropist – and there’s no denying that she’s lived by her own wise words ever since she first performed before the public at the tender age of 10.
Parton, though, has also said that she’d “never stoop so low as to be fashionable,” and here’s where we disagree with her.
Why? Because fashion, at its heart, is an artform in being true to oneself. It’s an opportunity to play dress-up, to express yourself through the clothes you put on your body, to experiment, and to have fun.
In this writer’s humble opinion, Parton’s penchant for glorious, glamorous, over-the-top outfits ticks every single one of those boxes. There is, after all, a very good reason she’s been described as a “walking exclamation point”.
And so, with this in mind, we’ve decided to take a whirlwind tour through some of her best and most fabulous looks to date.
Prepared to be dazzled. Big time.
Parton’s earlier looks were reflective of the feminine beauty ideal: think soft pinks, delicate materials, and romantic ruffles (as you can see from the cover of her 1978 album, Heartbreaker).
Sparkle and shine
Working 9 To 5
Parton made a splash in pink lace and faux fur at the premiere for her movie, 9 To 5, posing on the red carpet alongside co-stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin.
A ray of sunshine
Parton opted for head-to-toe yellow during the cover session for her album Heartbreaker back in 1978.
Channeling her inner cowgirl, Parton made a point of donning beehives and bellbottoms as big as her stage presence.
All that glitters
It’s easy being green
Parton won big at the 1978 American Music Awards, and she did so in a bright green jumpsuit with flowing cape-like sleeves adorned with clusters of colourful fabric flowers.
A rhinestone cowgirl
Parton attended the premiere for her award-winning movie, Steel Magnolias, dressed in a floor-length gown completely covered in rhinestones.
Lady in red
Parton donned a shimmering red sequin gown (with gold embellishments, naturally) for her 1990 performance on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson.
As reported by Grand Ole Opry, Parton grew up in a one-room cabin that she called home alongside her parents and 10 of her siblings.
“Money was tight, so her mother sewed a coat for Dolly using scraps of fabric, which inspired one of Dolly’s best-known and most personal songs, Coat of Many Colours.”
It makes sense, then, that she donned a sequin blazer of many colours later on, doesn’t it?
The queen of NBC
In 2015, NBC released Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors, an American made-for-television drama film based on the singer’s childhood. And you better believe she turned up in style to the photocall, oozing glamour in red and gold.
Back to pink
Parton was a stunner in a pink chiffon Robert Behar dress at the 78th Annual Academy Awards.
Magnificent in monochrome
Parton turned heads in a black and white gown at the at the 53rd annual CMA Awards
Never leave a rhinestone unturned
Parton stayed true to her own style when she appeared in Heavens To Betsy, an unaired CBS television comedy, back in 1994.
Have a holly Dolly Christmas
You better believe there was a sequel to that NBC special we mentioned earlier, and it was called Dolly Parton’s Christmas Of Many Colours: Circle Of Love. To celebrate the release of season one, Parton donned a form-fitting red gown (with a fringed skirt and added sparkle, obviously) and a Santa hat.
Shimmer and sheer