Dolly Parton Behind the Seams: A Dazzling Life in Rhinestones 

Dolly Parton, rhinestones

By Kathy A. Megyeri 

Book review of “Behind the Scenes: My Life in Rhinestones,” by Dolly Parton

“I just wanted to be different. I wanted to be seen.
I wanted to wow the audience. I wanted to really dazzle them.”

Dolly Parton

One of the happiest trips I ever took was to Dollywood, Dolly Parton’s theme park in the Great Smoky Mountains. While the others ate at the many restaurants, bought souvenirs, attended musicals in the theaters and enjoyed the rides, I remained in her museum filled with costumes, tried on some of her wigs, and appreciated Dolly’s sense of style and fashion.  

You can find all this and more in her dazzling new coffee table book “Behind the Seams; My Life in Rhinestones.” The book’s gorgeous photographs include close-ups of some of the intricate costume beadwork and take the reader on a journey through her private costume archive. It tells the story in her own words of her lifelong love of fashion, including how she developed her distinct style that has endeared her to fans all over the world. 

rhinestones, Dolly Parton
Dolly Parton as “Miss Mona” in her red sequined dress

The book tells the story of these outfits – from the little bolero vest she wore performing as a child to her simple wedding dress to the red sequined dress that turned her into Miss Mona in the “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.” Growing up in the hollows of East Tennessee, she loved make-up and wanted to be pretty, so she started wearing the tight, low-cut, sexy outfits her mother made for her and even suffered a whipping or two from her dad and grandfather to keep that look.  

When she went to Nashville in 1964 to become a country star, others told her to “tone it down,” but she loved the big hair and make-up, the long nails, the high heels, the flashy clothes and above all, the rhinestones that became her Dolly style. She is proud of her motto “To thine own self be true.” She writes, “My clothes and make-up reveal the real me and even though they’re ‘made up,’ they reflect my innermost self, my own personal truth.” 

The book pays homage to her designer, tailors, hairdressers, make-up artists, photographers, her long-time creative director Steve Summers, and her personal assistant and best friend Judy Ogle, who’s assembled her clothing archive and is preserving it. Dolly’s niece Rebecca Seaver selected the pieces featured in the book from among the thousands Dolly owns. Dolly says, “Rebecca knows every dress I ever wore, how it looked, how it felt, and how it smelled so she’s selected items spanning six decades from complete outfits, accessories, shoes and wigs, all with the purpose of encouraging readers to develop their own sense of style.”  

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She finishes: “I value my freedom to look like and be my own true self more than anything else, and I hope this book will give you the confidence to look like and be the person you want to be and are and enjoy your own journey behind the seams.”