The ’70s were relatively toned down for Dolly, but her signature glamour began to take form in the ’80s. Parton recalls attending the premiere of her film 9 to 5 in 1980 and being completely new to the red carpet experience. She enlisted the film’s costume designer, Ann Roth, to make a dress for her, resulting in an embroidered, strapless pink gown with a matching fur stole. “I remember feeling really pretty,” Parton says. “That was probably the first time that I ever felt fashionable.” During the ’80s, Parton hosted her own variety show called Dolly, and she continued to turn out glitzy, theatrical looks—always in collaboration with Dolly’s costume designer Tony Chase. She recalls a 1987 episode with Oprah Winfrey. “I remember us loving our outfits,” she says of their glittery gold dresses. “Tony was always trying to put me in all these clothes that had these big ol’ shoulders—I said, ‘Tony, you gotta tone it down a little. There ain’t nothing big about me but my mouth and my boobs!’”
As for more recent style successes, Parton looks back fondly on performing with Elton John at the 2005 CMA Awards, where she sported a pair of embroidered bell bottoms as an homage to her costar. “I was trying to look like Elton John,” she says, adding that maximalism has always been the name of her fashion game. “More is more, and whoever made up ‘Less is more’ is full of it.” Another favorite moment was when she performed at the 2019 Grammy Awards with her goddaughter, Miley Cyrus, wearing an ethereal Steve Summers gown. “I’ve known [Miley] since she was a tiny little baby,” Parton says. “Miley has always loved [and performed] my songs, and when she was young on Hannah Montana, I got a whole new generation of young fans!”
Above, watch the full video of Parton’s life in looks.
Director: Max Bartick
Producer: Naomi Nishi
DP: Natalie Simmons
Editor: Marcus Niehaus