Lessons We Can Learn from Country Queen Dolly Parton

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Dolly Parton and Carl Dean

As the superstar once wisely quipped “it costs a lot of money to look this cheap!” In honour of her 71st birthday, we dissect her enduring style

Dolly Parton is recognised as much for her distinctive style and witticisms as she is for her faultless songwriting. She inspires universal adoration, and has risen to fame as one of the world’s most loved stars, but still remains firmly in touch with her Tennessee Smoky Mountain roots. Parton recently compiled her stories and one-liners into a book entitled Dream More; because, as she wisely claims, we could all use a little extra dreamin’. One such nugget of sagacity goes a little something like this: “I have no taste and no style and nobody cares. I love it!” Well, Dolly, we would beg to differ – there are few stars, after all, who have so effortlessly secured iconic sartorial status through a steadfast fidelity to their own image, and an insatiable appetite for rhinestones. Today, in celebration of Parton's 71st birthday, we present some lessons we can all learn from the unrivalled queen of country. 

1. Don’t be afraid of embellishment
Over the years, Parton has become synonymous with her generously embellished outfits. Countless sequins and rhinestones adorn her ensembles, and even her instruments are encrusted with gems, guitars, saxophones and violins all sparkling under stage lights. Parton quips that she’s “never let a rhinestone go unturned,” and although she’s known for her wry sense of humour, this could very well be true. Unwavering in her love for glittering garments, Parton is a magpie whose abundant embellishments only serve to enhance her charm.

2. Western style need not be niche
We would imagine that, as a country singer, it might be tempting to adopt the sartorial codes that come with the genre: cowboy hat, boots, gingham shirts and blue jeans, maybe even a lasso. Parton knows best, however; she maintains balance in her outfits by taking one element at a time, and never compromising when it comes to her ever-present glitz (see lesson number one). Of course you’ll never forget that she is a country singer, but she doesn't exploit this fact. What's more, 2017 is the time to take a leaf out of Parton’s book; subtle western style tropes have been cropping up all over the place on the runway, from dusty pink western shirts at Coach to cowboy boots at Céline and Miu Miu.

3. If something isn’t working, change it
“The thing that’s always worked for me is the fact that I look so totally artificial, but am so totally real,” says Parton. In keeping with her outspoken ethos, Parton is nothing if not upfront about the voluntary adjustments she has made to her appearance, making no secret of her surgical enhancements: “if I see something sagging, dragging or bagging, I’m gonna have it nipped, sucked, tucked or plucked,” she says, by way of confirmation. It’s a life philosophy that we should all take note from: if Parton doesn’t like something she sees, she’ll happily change it, comfortable in the knowledge that in the grand scheme of things it’s her unashamed and unapologetic sense of self that possesses the real staying power. Ultimately, she remains the Tennessee mountain girl she’s always been.

4. Co-ordination is key
When Parton decides on a look, she commits to it wholeheartedly; wearing pink, denim or leopard-print from head to toe. There’s a simplicity and a dedication to this approach and just as her pared-back songwriting methods demontrate a faith in her message, so too does her willing to don matching hats, tops, bottoms and shoes. 

5. Make your hair your crowning glory
It would be criminal to dissect Parton’s style without giving her glorious and voluminous blonde barnet due mention. Her locks have become something of a signature over the years, reaching towering heights and achieving volume that most women can only dream of. That’s not to say that Parton hasn’t experimented with her coiffure: the 60s and 70s saw her favour an often gargantuan beehive, with perfectly formed thick curls tumbling down over her shoulders; the curls were tighter and greater in number in the 80s (arguably the golden age of the perm); and in the 90s she introduced a straight style that erred on the side of minimal (for Parton, anyway).

In recent years she has returned to her fail safe curls, for which she will be forever recognised. Parton is unashamed about revealing the maintenance required for such a style; countless fans have asked the country singer just how long it takes to craft her look, to which she famously retorts, “I don’t know, darlin’, I’m never there.”