Dolly Parton Shares Her Six Fashion Rules

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 wear], 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. She was like the trash, but 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.”

Photo: Courtesy of Dolly Parton Archive

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.”