7 of dolly parton's most iconic outfits
'It takes a lot of money to look this cheap,' she famously joked.
From her widely-covered track “Jolene,” to penning the original “I Will Always Love You,” to capturing work week sentiments in her feminist anthem “9 to 5,” Dolly Parton has been a musical powerhouse for over five decades. But her sound is not the only thing that has been incredibly influential — her signature look consisting of big hair, giant hoops, and sequined outfits, has given her style icon status from the get-go. And even 50 years after her debut album, Parton is still inspiring younger generations in music, fashion, and beyond (just look at her Goddaughter Miley Cyrus).
Whether it is sequined jumpsuits or floor-grazing rhinestones gowns, Parton has worn hundreds and hundreds of unique ensembles that have been just as impactful as her music. i-D takes a look at just some of her very many iconic style moments that she has had throughout the years:
American Music Awards, 1978
For the 1978 American Music Awards red carpet Parton arrived in a bright green jumpsuit with flowing cape-like sleeves adorned with clusters of colorful fabric flowers. It was this same night that the singer was awarded Favorite Country Album for New Harvest...First Gathering, her first self-produced studio album that Billboard magazine had hailed as one of her most progressive LPs yet.
Polaroid by Andy Warhol
In the mid-80s Parton was the subject of one of multimedia artist Andy Warhol’s famous Polaroid pictures. Donning her signature look — larger-than-life hair complete with bright makeup, Warhol captured Parton’s iconic style. He later went on to interview her for his publication, Interview Magazine, where he famously referred to her as “the glittery country goddess from Tennessee.”
Steel Magnolias Premiere, 1989
Thirty years ago, Parton hit the red carpet of New York City’s Ziegfeld Theater with co-stars Julia Roberts and Sally Fields for one of the biggest film premieres of the season — Steel Magnolias. Parton, who played the character of kind-hearted hair salon owner Truvy Jones, arrived to the fete dressed in a floor-length gown completely covered in rhinestones. The film later went on to win both a Golden Globe Award and People’s Choice Award the following year.
Pink Sequined Gown
Many of Parton’s outfit choices, most of which were designed just for her, featured body-hugging silhouettes and intricate sequin detailing such as this one. But even though Parton has been synonymous with glitz and glamour throughout her extensive career, the songstress actually came from very humble beginnings. Born in a one-room cabin in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, Parton was the fourth of 12 children born to a poor Southern family and got her show business start performing in church.
Heartbreaker Album Cover, 1978
For the cover of her 1978 album, Heartbreaker, Parton dressed head to toe in her favorite color — pink. The cover was shot and designed by California-based photographer, Ed Caraeff, who also famously worked on hundreds of musicians’ album covers, including those belonging to musical legends such as Jimi Hendrix, Marvin Gaye, Tom Petty, Carly Simon, and more. Heartbreaker turned out to be a great success and went on to perform well on the Billboard charts, peaking at #1 on the Country charts and #25 on the pop charts.
In 1980, Parton starred alongside actresses Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda in the Colin Higgins-directed comedy film, 9 to 5. Set in California, the three played working women who have dreams of overturning their sexist, misogynistic boss. Even though Parton was already a well-known singer and songwriter at the time, 9 to 5 catapulted her into even higher fame and made her a household name. Parton’s pared down wardrobe in the film, which featured midi-length dresses, sweaters, and slacks in muted colors (all paired with big hair of course) also proved that Parton is still always 100 percent glamour no matter what she is wearing. Expect a sequel to this 1980’s classic in the future — Fonda and Parton announced in 2018 that there is one currently in the works.
Backwoods Barbie Album Cover, 2008
In 2008 Parton released her 40th studio album, Backwoods Barbie, which had an album cover that featured her on the bed of a pickup truck dressed in a leopard set paired with a bright pink trench coat. Many of Parton’s ensembles and stage costumes are made custom by her creative team which is headed by Steve Summers, Parton’s creative director and personal clothing designer.