Dolly Parton once told Wendy Williams that "The only way [I would go] without makeup and my hair done up a little bit is if my husband, you know, had a heart attack or something. Then I'd have to really think about that." Ha! And we wouldn't want it any other way. At this point the country singer-philanthropist as is beloved for her blonde beehive and sparkly get-ups as she is for timeless hits like "Jolene." After 54 years in the business, Parton's has served up a feast of seriously iconic looks. Take a look below for just some of our favorites.
'Here You Come Again' (1977)
An earlier marker of Parton's celebrity style was the cover shoot for her 1977 album, Here You Come Again. The young Dolly looks markedly casual here, compared to the glitz and glam of later years. But adorable all the same. Her big hair appears inflated, falling to shoulder-length, and accentuating the statement red polka-dot button down. With the top all tied up, paired with tight jeans and pumps, Parton resembles another blonde bombshell: the classic Marilyn Monroe.
The Grammys (1977)
Dolly Parton at the 1977 Grammys is still the greatest thing that happened to America pic.twitter.com/kQe8cic5lp
— Clay Kogut (@Clamse) February 9, 2015
A Barbie Dolly! The plastic-perfect toy immediately comes to mind when envisioning Parton's 1977 Grammy ensemble. That year, she was nominated for Best Country Vocal Performance for the album All I Can Do. And on that glamorous night in Los Angeles, California, Parton honored her Tennessee roots through a subverted western-style vest, loose curls, and bouffant bangs. But of course, the non-traditional Parton made the look entirely her own with trendy bell sleeves and hot pants.
The 'Heartbreaker' album cover shoot (1978)
Parton looks positively ethereal in these soft, beautiful photographs by Ed Caraeff. In the shoot that would become the basis for Parton's 1978 Heartbreaker album, a baroque set enhances the angelic lace of Parton's pink frock. Styled to the times with a cheeky file cabinet pose and metallic mule heels (which are so back in style), the effect is more than fashionable. It's a cross-genre masterpiece. Though the gloriously odd background was edited out for the final Heartbreaker cover -- and replaced with a blue cloud graphic -- Caraeff's photo has stood the test of time.
The 'Playboy' Cover (1978)
💖 Dolly Parton // Playboy October 1978💖 pic.twitter.com/tlINxM8CfB
— 『 Jiji 』is a soft pisces (@jijidraws) August 25, 2020
While this famed photoshoot may not show off Parton's personal style, it's still a testament to how damn good she looks. Parton posed in a simple black bodysuit accessorized with, what else, a rhinestone bowtie and pink sequined cuffs. And she channelled the look six years later at the world premiere of Rhinestone, walking the red carpet with her co-star Sylvester Stallone. See a pic of that show stopping pairing here.
In 2020, there were talks of Parton posing for Playboy once again. At the age of 75, Parton told People: "I just might do it. If I can do it in good taste and they want it, we'll do it along with a really good interview inside." Here's hoping.
'9 to 5' Premiere (1980)
Walking the red carpet in New York City for her theatrical debut, 9 to 5, alongside co-stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, Parton looked absolutely radiant in a pink lace gown and matching fur throw. (Tomlin also opted for statement fur while Fonda donned a sleek, slim, sequined number.) Appearing beside the A-listers, the chic moment represented a Hollywood transition for the earnest country music singer. And her sweet, ruffling fit here showcases that subtle crossover.
On the 'Dolly' Variety Show (1987)
Parton once said of the Dolly costume designer Tony Chase: "He was always trying to put me in all these clothes that had these big ole' shoulders that were so fashionable. I said, 'Tony, you just gotta tone it down a little -- there ain't nothing big about me besides my mouth and my boobs!'" Of course, we know that 's not true. And if anything, the short-lived Dolly offered the chance for fans to see the versatile star don more than a dozen crazy looks per episode. Always a treat. Watch some of that retro footage above -- and you'll see exactly the kind of sky-high shoulder pads Parton was talking about.
'Steel Magnolias' Premiere (1989)
Parton stunned at the Steel Magnolias premiere in 1989 with an ultra-sequined dress. There's a lot going on here. But all of it worked to portray that perfect Dolly quirk.
Hosting 'Saturday Night Live' (1989)
In 1989, Parton hosted SNL for the first time. (And only time!) And while the jumpsuit she wore for her monologue -- a bright blue, heavily adorned affair -- may not have gone down in Dolly history, the cameraman's wily tricks certainly have. Check out that brazen video above, from the dirtier days of Saturday Night Live. Parton's signature sense of humor was in full swing that night. And note the sequined peacock on Parton's bodice! Simply epic.
That same week, Dolly struck a more casual look (as casual as Dolly can be, that is) in this cowgirl-chic sequined pearl snap button down and jeans for Saturday Night Live promos.
The Kennedy Center Honors (2006)
When she was honored at Washington's Kennedy Center Honors in 2006, Reba McEntire, Reese Witherspoon, Kenny Rogers, and Shania Twain all took to the stage to laud the country legend. Witherspoon even offered a few classic "Dollyisms" which pertaining to her inimitable style:
"I don't get offended by dumb blonde jokes because I know I'm not dumb. And I'm definitely not blonde."
"You know sweetie, it takes a lot of money to look this cheap."
For the special event, Dolly wore a fitted white gown with three-quarter-length sleeves -- and just a touch of glitter! The flattering look may seem muted for Parton but the stark white emphasized the night's true accessory: Parton's rainbow medal.
Dolly Parton Ranks Her Own Looks
Obviously, no one can speak about these fashion statements like the legend herself. Watch above, Parton's illuminating interview with Vogue in which she traces her own style evolution.