Dolly Parton Shares Her Life Story With Clothing in New Book

LOS ANGELES - 1978: Country singer Dolly Parton poses for a portrait session in 1978 in Los Angeles, California.
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Sure, she’s got 48 studio albums, 11 Grammy Awards and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame under her belt, but Dolly Parton‘s new book, Behind the Seams, will make you want to go out and shop! One of the most widely acclaimed and recognized country performers of all time, Dolly Parton might be just as well known for her fashion choices as her voice, and her new book, which chronicles her life via funky outfits and original fashion styles that have spanned decades, is a treat for both fans of Parton and fashion alike.

Before she was “the Dolly Parton,” Dolly was a young girl living in the Smoky Mountains with her 11 siblings. Even at the young age of three, Dolly was already interested in clothes and shoes especially (of which she now has over a thousand pairs!), but they didn’t have much money so they’d wear hand-me-downs, or her mother would sew her the colorful outfits she desired. Her upbringing made her creative and resourceful, and she credits her family for much of her success, including an uncle who got her into show business. Her childhood is the basis for the 2015 TV movie Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors.

Dolly Parton: Behind The Seams

Dolly always felt a strong desire and drive for a life in performance. “When I was fifteen, I made a 45 rpm record for Mercury Records,” she writes in the new memoir. “I returned home to finish school, and at my graduation, I was asked, ‘What are you going to do?’ I said, ‘Be a star.’ Everyone laughed, but I knew what I wanted.”

Dolly definitely had the talent and drive to succeed. It didn’t take long, either. Despite some resistance to her unique and bold style choices in the 1960s, her look eventually helped her become the successful artist she is today.


Richard E. Aaron/Redferns

In addition to including all the various hair stylists and designers she has worked with over the years, Parton also credits Mae West, Cher and RuPaul as major influences in her fashion choices. She also writes about many of the friendships and connections she’s made over the years, with lots of personal anecdotes and interesting stories.

“During the 1980s, my weight fluctuated a lot. I remember my first photo shoot with Annie Leibovitz for Rolling Stone when I was a bit curvier. Thankfully, when Arnold Schwarzenegger picked me up for one picture, it was like he was picking up a baby! He was so big and had just been named Mr. Universe. Then, a few years later, Burt Reynolds picked me up for a scene in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. I could see in his face that I was too much for him, and sure enough, he got a hernia!”


Universal. Courtesy: Everett Collection.

“In the mid-1980s, I decided to take control of my weight once and for all. Sylvester Stallone, my costar in Rhinestone, gave me lots of advice about eating healthfully and exercising. When Annie Leibovitz photographed me in 1991 for the cover of Vanity Fair, I was wearing a slinky Marilyn Monroe-style halter dress designed by Tony Chase. By that time, I felt great.”

LAKE TAHOE, CA - 1992: American singer-songwriter Dolly Parton poses for a studio portrait circa 1992 in Lake Tahoe, California.

Ron Davis/Getty Images

If you like denim, leather, rhinestones or a combination of all three, this book will definitely be of interest. It’s no wonder there’s an entire limited-time exhibit dedicated to Dolly Parton’s clothes! But what makes it the most interesting is how Dolly catapulted herself to fame with vision, purpose and a lot of hard work.

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November 2019

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