How Dolly Parton’s ‘cheap’ signature look conquered fashion

The 73-year-old country singer has won over a new generation of fans and plans to capitalise on it

With catchphrases including it costs a lot of money to look this cheap and if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain, Dolly Parton was a master of the sassy quote long before Instagram made such quips internet catnip. Little wonder, then, that the 73-year-old star is finding a new fanbase in the social media generation, inspiring a raft of fashion collections, TV shows and podcasts.


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This week Shrimps a label known for bubblegum-coloured faux fur coats worn by celebrities such as Alexa Chung launched its latest collection, for which Dolly was a key reference. Featuring rodeo prints, wide-brim hats and fringe detailing, the clothes pay homage to the feminised take on western wear with which Parton has long been associated.

An outfit from the new Shrimps collection. Photograph: PR company handout/Company handout

I particularly love her outfits from the early days, says the Shrimps designer Hannah Weiland. She had such an individual, strong sense of style that has always stayed true to who she is.

Weiland is not the only designer influenced by Partons retro, glamorous take on cowboy style. This autumn/winter, at Isabel Marant, V-neck dresses were reminiscent of western-style shirts with yoke detailing. At Moschino, jewel-embellished jackets and sequinned minidresses were worn with big, bouffant hair a Dolly Parton signature. Dressed up denim a Parton staple was found at labels including Philipp Plein, while there was shimmering fringing at Alexander McQueen and leather at Victoria/Tomas. Last year, Guccis spring/summer show featured a jacket with the singers face emblazoned across the back.

The big-haired singer will also capitalise on the trend herself. Last week, she told The Late Show with Jimmy Fallon that she would be creating her own line of perfume maybe called Dolly, I dont know yet as well as wigs and skincare. People follow me down the street wanting to know what Im wearing because they love the smell, she told Fallon. News of Partons perfume range follows the announcement this year that the singer would be launching her own clothes, jewellery, accessories and home goods line in partnership with the international agency IMG. Her first collection of apparel and accessories is expected next autumn.

Parton certainly has a captivated audience of potential customers online. On Instagram, where she has 2.2 million followers, she is well known for kitsch throwback posts, such as the photograph of herself and Cher in 1978 with matching gravity-defying hair, captioned casual Friday.

Fashions interest reflects growing Dollymania in the wider culture. Last week saw the release of the Netflix anthology series Dolly Partons Heartstrings, hot on the heels of the new podcast Dolly Partons America.

A publicity image from Dolly Partons Heartstrings. Photograph: 2018 Warner Bros Entertainment/Tina Rowden/Netflix

She obviously has longevity which suddenly seems important in an unstable world, says the fashion historian Tony Glenville of Partons current appeal. The ruffled, flounced Grand Ole Opry style is a trend with some designers whose take on the 80s hovers very near saloon girl and country and western.

At a time when fashion is often used as a platform for protest, Partons influence may appear somewhat incongruous: the singer has long refused to speak out on political issues as well as, more recently, the #MeToo movement. Yet, as the New York Times noted in its own assessment of Partons recent renaissance, the attributes that used to set her up for criticism the outrageous, hyper-femme style the so-what acknowledgment of her own cosmetic surgery are no longer taboo.

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