Sunday, December 3, 2023

Weekend Review: Behind the Seams: My Life in Rhinestones


Dolly Parton Behind the Seams / Dolly Parton
New York : Clarkson Potter/Ten Speed, 2023
336 p.

If you love costume and how people use clothing as self-expression, you'll want to read this fantastic, lushly illustrated, and lengthy book on Dolly Parton's clothing over her career. It starts when she's just a young woman starting out locally, and moves toward the present, with stories told by Dolly, as well as a large number of the people who were involved in her wardrobes at different stages. 

The cowriters/compilers of the book are Holly George-Warren and Rebecca Seaver (the second is Dolly's niece, who is now in charge of the costume archive). They have drawn together excellent documentation on varied pieces from different stages of Dolly's career, as well as stunning and clear detail photos of many garments. 

Sewists and fashion fans alike will be absorbed by this book. Dolly talks about the two local women who sewed for her early on, and started her off on her own style. She's worked with Tony Chase, Bob Mackie, and many more, and each designer gets some airtime in this book alongside examples of their work.

I enjoyed the context given for many of the pieces, and how Dolly states early on that her style was integral to her performance and her personal integrity over the years. When she started to hit it big, executives wanted her to tone it down and move into a more mainstream look, but she refused and stuck to her own sparkly style. It's such a personal brand by now, we can't imagine her another way, but this was long before going your own way was an everyday thing. 

Along with all the clothing descriptions and images, there are discussions of her hair - she owns over 200 wigs, and there's an entry from her hairdresser/wig master. And discussions of her work beyond music as well -- so much to learn and such amazing images to peruse. This one gave me hours of entertainment as I looked through the pictures to focus in on some of the details, as well as read all of the truly fascinating documentation from so many voices. 

What a fabulous read! It's a bit expensive (I read it via the library) but well worth it if you can afford it. It would make a great gift for any fashion obsessed sewist, I think. If you want to be inspired by a woman who forged her own path, stayed true to herself, and worked with many other women along the way, this is a great pick. So fun! 

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