“I’m Not a Fashion Icon—I’m an Eyesore!”: Dolly Parton Shares Her Six Fashion Rules

long with her musical discography and impressive philanthropic work, Dolly Parton is renowned for her impressive wardrobe. Over the years, the iconic country star has cultivated a glamorously tacky look that’s built around her bleach-blonde wigs, skin-tight clothes, and sky-high heels. “I always laugh when I get called a fashion icon,” Parton tells Vogue. “I’m more of an eyesore! Only because I overdo it.”
Whether you think it’s an eyesore or iconic, Parton’s signature aesthetic is the focus of a new book titled Behind the Seams: My Life in Rhinestones, releasing today. It explores Parton’s fascinating life through style, all the while offering a ton of fashion inspiration for potential Dolly wannabes. “If somebody thinks I’ve done something that they can draw from, then I’m happy with that!” Parton says.
While learning about her journey from Tennessee to Hollywood, viewers get to take in the one-of-a-kind ensembles—complete with tons of rhinestones and crystals—that Parton has worn during her life. “I had a lot of laughs looking at those pictures, thinking, ‘Oh my Lord, was I serious about that?’” says Parton. “At the time, I felt like I really looked good in everything that I had on.” Featured in the book are some of her best ensembles from the red carpet to the big screen, made by legendary designers like Bob Mackie, Ann Roth, and Lucy Adams.
For the singer, the book is much more than a scrapbook of her standout fashion moments. “When I turned the pages, it was like turning the pages of my life,” says Parton. Inspired by the new book release, Vogue couldn’t resist asking Parton about some of the main fashion rules that she’s lived by. Read on for her six style commandments.

Be unapologetic

“I was always a little bit flamboyant, even before I could afford to buy clothes. When I got to where I could actually pick and choose [what I wore], I was drawn to color and tight clothes—anything just a little bit different than everybody else. I always [toed] the line, and sometimes I was willing to cross it in order to look like I wanted to look.”

Find style inspiration in the unexpected

“When I was little, I patterned the way I looked after the town tramp in our hometown…I thought she was the prettiest thing I’d ever seen. She had the peroxide blonde hair piled up on top, with red lips and fingernails, the high heel shoes, the tight skirt. I thought she was amazingly beautiful. I was a creative child, so I would find ways to make those things possible—using a burned matchstick for eyebrows or eyeliner, or mashed-up honeysuckle for perfume.”

Don’t follow trends

“I never cared what other people did, and I never cared what other people said about what I wore. It was more important that I be comfortable in my own clothes and in my own self. I couldn’t afford to be fashionable, and I wasn’t smart enough to follow those trends—nor did I have the time to do it. I was more interested in my music and in my work.”

Dress to your strengths

“I’m short and I’m kind of curvy, so I can’t just wear things that a big, tall person would wear. I try to accent my positive things—and try to stay away from the negative ones. I have big boobs and a tiny little waist, so I have to be careful about not having real thick fabric. Whether it’s leather or denim, I look for silhouettes that play up my best features. If I have too much stuff going on up top, then it’s just too overwhelming.”

Know the power of wigs

“[My first hairstylist] Colleen Owens introduced me to my first hairpiece—they used to be called falls—that you could add to your own hair and give you extra bulk. And it was through her that we found wigs. She was so creative. The wigs were wearing me—I wasn’t wearing the wig! But I loved all the intricate little things that Colleen used to do. It was always the bigger, the better. I started wearing wigs because I quickly realized that bleaching and teasing my hair every day would cause breakage and not look good. It was handy to have several looks that I could just choose from, and never have a bad hair day.”

When it comes to shoes—the higher, the better!

“I feel pretty in a heel. I’ve loved high heels before I even knew I was going to be short. I wear heels every day. I have them custom made. It’s important that you have a shoe that’s built to fit your arch, and to where your body weight is on that. I thank God that I’m able to do that. I have bought shoes off the rack at times, but then you’ll get a blister or it’ll hurt here or there. I love the extra height [they give you], and I’ve always thought they were sexy. They make you look powerful.”

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