Fashion & Beauty / Vintage Style

Dolly Parton: A Living Legend

As the legendary entertainer prepares to play Glastonbury, we consider her uniquely Southern style

Dolly Parton
Dolly Parton Photography by Andy Warhol

This weekend, living legend Dolly Parton will descend upon Worthy Farm to fill the Legends slot at Glastonbury Festival. Speculation has been rife surrounding the pint-sized singer’s anticipated performance, particularly, what might she might wear?

Since she rose to prominence in the 1960s, Parton has developed her own unique and extravagant country-glamour style, where stripper heels meet fringing, sequins and suede. Her style is delightfully garish, worn with bouncy, platinum curled wigs, bright make-up and her historic, pneumatic breasts. Parton grew up in small-town Tennessee and her look is very much rooted in country fashion, with staples including gingham, denim, hoop earrings and high-waisted jeans. She reportedly modelled her style on the town tramp she'd known as a child, who she believed to be the most beautiful woman she had ever seen. “If I hadn't been a woman, I'd be a drag queen for sure,” she says. “I like all that flair and I'd be dressing up in them high heels and putting on the big hair. I'd be like Ru Paul.”

It is a look that even Parton admits is trashy, but her participation in the joke is part of the joy and she simply shrugs off any criticism. “It takes a lot of money to look this cheap,” she famously said. She partied with Andy Warhol and starred in a plethora of films while enjoying enduring musical success, penning hits such as 9 -5, Steel Magnolias, I Will Always Love You and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. The sheer magnitude of Parton’s fanbase is demonstrated by Dollyworld in Tennessee, a themepark built in homage to the singer, and in 2010, there was a campaign in France to put Parton on the cover of French Vogue.

“It takes a lot of money to look this cheap” — Dolly Parton

However there is also a very different Dolly underneath her shiny veneer. Her deep, soulful bluegrass lyrics talk sincerely of heartbreak, love and social injustice, and continue to appeal to new generations. “I'm not offended by all the dumb blonde jokes because I know I'm not dumb... and I also know that I'm not blonde," she laughs. Indeed, Parton’s greatest asset is that her vibrant and sexually-charged appearance is coupled with a passionate enthusiasm, which is as loud as her costumes, and led by the same raw honesty and humour that flavour her lyrics. "Smile," she concludes. "It adds to your face value."

Text by Mhairi Graham