From the start, Parton’s style always featured some sort of sparkle, seen here in an embellished high-neck, baby pink look on stage in 1976.
Parton’s longtime costume designer, Steve Summers, describes her mid-’70s style as “a butterfly look.” And this bright yellow outfit from 1979 features subtle butterfly motifs throughout.
In 1980, Parton (with costars Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda) had 9 to 5 costume designer Ann Roth make her pink embroidered dress for the movie premiere: “I needed to be fancy, and I didn’t know how to do that.”
Dolly & Rocky
She knew costar Sylvester Stallone would be “dressed to the nines” for the premiere of Rhinestone Cowboy in 1984. “So I tried to look my Dolly best,” she said. And she succeeded in this crystal bustier top, matching bow-tie choker and embellished tuxedo jacket ensemble.
Her fashion — bust-baring, sparkly and unapologetically tight — has served as Parton’s Trojan horse. “I look like a woman, but I think like a man,” she’s said, pictured here in 1988. “And in this world of business, that has helped me a lot. Because by the time they think that I don’t know what’s goin’ on, I got the money, and I’m gone!”
Bring the Bling
“I am feminine, and I am strong. The Steel Magnolia-type thing,” Parton (at the premiere of the film in 1989) told PEOPLE last year.
Pretty in Pink
Ever since breaking through in 1967, Parton knows people may be looking — and judging — what she’s wearing. But she’s been the first to joke about her appearance. “It costs a lot of money to look this cheap!” is one of her favorite quips. We’d argue she looked far from cheap at the 2006 Oscars, in a ruched gown with slit at the skirt.
“When I wear white, I feel like I’m singing to God,” said Parton, pictured on stage in 2016 in a white-hot suit.
The Greatest Show-Woman
“I’m old-school,” Parton has said. “If you’re going onstage, you should look like a star!” She wore a modern “Coat of Many Colors” to the ACMs in 2016.
Parton coordinated with her goddaughter Miley Cyrus at the Grammys in 2019 in crystal-encrusted ensembles.
The Man with All the Sequins
“There’s a formula to dressing Dolly,” says Steve Summers, 56, who has designed Parton’s gowns and costumes for 30 years. “It’s going to be sparkly and vibrant. It’s going to be cinched at the waist. And it’s going to have that Dolly flair.”
As her creative director, Summers produces more than 300 looks a year for Parton, who generally defers to his fashion sense. “She is focused on her work, on music and producing more music,” he says. “But she always knows what she wants.”
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