Holly George-Warren was prepared to start out a biography of Beat Era poet and novelist Jack Kerouac when she acquired a suggestion from singer, songwriter, and actress Dolly Parton. May she write a e book about Parton’s iconic wardrobe? It was an thrilling proposition, however George-Warren nervous that writing Dolly Parton Behind the Seams: My Life in Rhinestones (Ten Velocity Press, 2023) would possibly battle along with her contract to jot down about Kerouac. Her Kerouac editor assured her that it was nice, including, “How do you say no to Dolly Parton?”
So, in fact, she stated sure. Whereas Kerouac’s life is likely to be a darker story than Parton’s, they really have one factor in widespread. Neither wished their inventive spark to be stifled by the atmosphere they grew up in. It has at all times been Parton’s unshakeable self-confidence and perception in her musical future that intrigued George-Warren.
“I simply love her fearlessness and her being herself, actually being herself, and standing as much as no matter forces attempt to make her be like everyone else,” says George-Warren. “And I came upon from doing the analysis after which interviewing her and speaking to her and studying what she needed to say about every part that it has been like that basically since she was rising up in East Tennessee.”
From a younger age Parton loved expressing herself by means of trend, even when her selections did not at all times obtain a constructive response. Her mother and father warned her to not put on make-up or attention-provoking garments, saying that solely “trash” dressed that method. Regardless of their opposition Parton continued in making her exceptional sartorial selections. “Nicely, then trash is what I wish to be,” she advised her mother and father. Early in her profession she was repeatedly cautioned to tone down her look or folks would not take her severely. She refused.
“She’s like, look, I’ve created this look,” says George-Warren. “That is how I wish to look, and I am simply going to make my hair larger and greater. My clothes flashier, my sneakers increased.”
A Peek within the Closet
True to the e book’s title, Parton’s closet now glitters with gems, however lengthy earlier than she may afford to purchase rhinestones, she improvised, embellishing her clothes with varied sorts of trim and buttons. “Her household had nothing, no working water, no indoor plumbing,” says George-Warren. “And her mother made her little clothes out of feed sacks and to repair them up she would sew on rick rack to make them extra colourful.”
George-Warren admits she has additionally at all times been obsessive about trend and commenced shopping for classic garments within the ’70s when she was a teen, favoring objects impressed by a cowgirl aesthetic. Seeing Parton’s garments up shut, a few of which have adorned beloved albums, was a dream come true for her. “I used to be vibrating,” she says of visiting Parton’s closet.
George-Warren, a Phoenicia resident, is the award-winning writer of 17 books, together with works on trend, pop music historical past, and biographies, most not too long ago Janis: Her Life and Music (Simon & Schuster, 2019). She wrote about Parton earlier than, having reviewed her music for various magazines. “I might written liner notes, together with a field set that got here out with three or 4 CDs,” she says. “So I might executed a giant deep dive into her profession then. After which in fact, I might already written another fashion-type books. I wrote this e book known as How the West Was Worn (Harry N. Abrams, 2001).”
Dolly Parton Behind the Seams was a collaborative effort between George-Warren, Parton, and Parton’s niece Rebecca Seaver, who curates and manages the 1000’s of costumes that Parton has worn and preserved. The e book options tons of of detailed pictures, in addition to Parton’s tales about creating and carrying her garments, plus interviews with a number of the hairstylists, make-up artists, and designers who helped create the distinctive seems to be.
The New York Occasions-bestselling e book divides the long-lasting wardrobe into sections that mirror eras and particular events. There are the clothes Parton wore on “The Porter Wagoner Present” within the late ’60s and early ’70s, her wardrobe for the movie 9 to 5, in addition to the outfits she donned for journal covers and on her many album covers. There is a treasure trove of shimmering robes, however there’s additionally a lumberjack outfit, a costume ringed by little plastic bubbles, and a lifeguard outfit with whistles for fringe. There is a vacation part, as a result of Parton loves holidays, significantly Christmas, and it showcases some form-fitting purple jumpsuits, a gingham robe, and fairly a couple of Santa fits. Parton stored the sleigh from her album cowl for House for Christmas and brings it out yearly. She hosts an annual cookie-making evening for her household.
“After which she clothes up in a Santa outfit and she or he’s bought an elevator in her home and she or he decorates it prefer it’s a hearth,” says George-Warren. “So, she comes down the fireside with an enormous bag of presents and provides out presents to all the children.”
The writer, who like Parton, has roots within the South, makes use of a Southern expression to explain the star. “She by no means bought above her ‘raisin’,’ as they are saying. She was at all times true to her roots. Speaking along with her, she is simply so down-homey and she or he by no means tries to placed on airs or be highfalutin, or no matter. She’s tremendous. The opposite factor about her is she’s so sharp and sensible that you simply assume, oh my God, this girl is so savvy. She’s at all times determining the following factor, the following five-year plan or no matter.”
Dressed for Success
George-Warren says it could be foolish to jot down off the e book as simply being about “garments.” For Parton, who at 77 nonetheless writes songs and can quickly launch a brand new album, garments are an ongoing expression of who she is and what she’s achieved.
“She actually does encourage folks to be true to how they really feel inside,” says George-Warren. “And so they can current nevertheless they wish to. It would not matter what gender you are born or no matter. You current the best way you are feeling snug and the best way you be ok with your self, and also you stand as much as the established order to do this, and in the long run you are going to really feel snug in your personal pores and skin. So, a few occasions early in her profession after they tried to make her put on flat hair and put on a turtleneck sweater and stuff, they tried to market her first as this type of pop folks singer. She stated, ‘I simply felt like I used to be carrying my mama’s garments or one thing. I wasn’t snug in my very own pores and skin.’ And I feel that is the message that is very highly effective.”
Parton’s garments are a murals, however additionally they function a superhero costume. “I feel getting that willpower and that stamina to be a lady within the music enterprise and to be as profitable as she was in all types of companies, that type of gave her the gumption and the stamina to do this by beginning along with her presentation and sticking with that. After which she went from there to be a singer-songwriter, to be an artist, to be a enterprise entrepreneur, a producer, all the various issues that she does. That is an incredible message.”