Dolly Parton Breaks Down Her Most Iconic Style Moments: 'Whoever Made Up Less Is More Is Full of It'

Hanna Flanagan
·4-min read

She practically pioneered the country-glam look (which has been imitated by everyone from the late designer Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel to rapper Lil Nas X over the years) by accentuating her famous curves with sequin jumpsuits, rhinestone gowns and plenty of pink, but Dolly Parton insists she's not a fashion icon.

In a new video for Vogue’s "Life in Looks" YouTube series, the music legend, 74, breaks down 11 of her most iconic style moments — but not before making a little disclaimer: "I have never thought of myself as being fashionable. I'll just tell you what I know about how I look and why I look that way."

From her Jolene album cover in 1974 to her Grammy Awards performance look in 2019, Parton reminisces on her most memorable and over-the-top outfits of all time throughout the clip, including the pink satin and lace gown she wore to the 9 to 5 premiere in 1980.

"I got to dress up like I was a city girl in this [film] and I've never even thought about being fashionable I just always wore things that fit me. But I thought, for something as big as a premiere, I needed to be fancy and I didn't know how to do that," Parton says.

Ron Galella/getty images Dolly Parton at the premiere of 9 to 5

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So, the country music singer asked Nine to Five costume designer Ann Roth to create a red carpet-worthy gown for her. "I thought it was a beautiful dress. I remember feeling really pretty, and I felt like I was well-dressed and not half-assed like sometimes you are. And I just remember that was probably the first time I ever really felt like I was fashionable."

Parton's next big movie premiere came in 1984 for the musical comedy Rhinestone in which she played a country singer opposite Sylvester Stallone. And this time, it was her famous costar that inspired her to bring her A-game to the red carpet.

Bill Nation/Getty Images Dolly Parton and Sylvester Stallone

"I remember thinking 'I have to look good' because Stallone was hotter than Dooley at that time," she shares. "I knew he'd be dressed to the nines because he really goes all out with everything he does."

The "Jolene" singer chose a white off-the-shoulder gown with a slit and, of course, rhinestone-embellished hemlines. "I tried to look my Dolly best," she recalls of the premiere.

In the video, Parton also dishes on her Dolly variety show look from 1987, her Christmas at Home television special dress from 1988, the black leather jumpsuit she wore on Saturday Night Live and more (sprinkling in some fashion advice, hilarious quips and quintessential Dollyisms in the process.)

NBCUniversal Dolly Parton on Saturday Night Live

Speaking about Dolly variety show costume designer Tony Chase, Parton says, "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!'"

"Well, hey!" Parton says when she flips to a picture from her SNL appearance in 1989. "I was hosting the show, and I was also the musical guest."

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The country music icon's style is anything but subtle, so understandably, she was a "nervous wreck" about having to do several quick costume changes that night. "My look is not easy. I don't just go put on a shirt to do something. I have to totally tear it all down, take the hair off, take the clothes off, get it all on."

Parton remembers being "worn to a frazzle" before the show was over. Luckily, she pulled it off and gave us one of her best looks of all time: a bedazzled leather jumpsuit and a red lip.

When she looked back at her Elton John-inspired CMA Awards look in 2005, she acknowledged that she does "like to wear a lot of makeup" but will never apologize for it. "I think more is more and whoever made up that 'less is more' is full of it."

Danny Martindale/WireImage Dolly Parton at The Glastonbury Festival

The Vogue video ends with some of the "9 to 5" singer's more recent appearances, including the rhinestone-encrusted white pantsuit she rocked during at The Glastonbury Festival in 2014 and the sparkly white dress with sheer overlay by Steve Summers that she wore to perform with goddaughter Miley Cyrus at the Grammy Awards in 2019.

"Because of [Miley], when she was young on Hannah Montana, I kind of got this whole new generation of young fans. I really credit Miley a lot for some of my younger fans...It is kind of like a wonderful little connection I have with Miley and Billy Ray [Cyrus]. They're like family to me."