Remember when Dolly Parton fully subverted the 'dumb blonde' cliché with her '80s excess styling?

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In the '80s, Dolly Parton lit a rocket under her cowgirl look, multiplying the sequins and turning the bimbo cliché into a weapon.
Written by Hannah Lack, CNN

At the Los Angeles premiere of "Steel Magnolias" on November 9, 1989, country diva Dolly Parton was a walking embodiment of that decade of excess: skyscraper hair, elongated nails, pneumatic boobs, and a dress smothered in rhinestones. "I kinda patterned my look after Cinderella and Mother Goose -- and the local hooker," she once said, always ready to beat her critics to a punchline.

It was perfect attire for a woman who now owned her own theme park, Dollywood. While early Parton favored down-home country checks, ruffled Grand Ole Opry-style gowns or bubblegum-pink jumpsuits, '80s Parton lit a rocket under her cowgirl look, multiplying the sequins and weaponizing the bimbo cliché. "I'm not offended by all the dumb blonde jokes because I know I'm not dumb... and I also know I'm not blonde," she is said to have quipped.

Dolly Parton attends the LA premiere of 'Steel Magnolias' in 1989 Credit: Ron Galella/Getty Images

By the 1980s, the singer who wrote the hits "Jolene" and "I Will Always Love You" on the same day had parlayed her success as a Nashville country artist into mainstream pop stardom, and set her sights on Hollywood. She made her feature debut in 1980 with office revenge fantasy "9 to 5" -- Parton has said she wrote its hit title song on set, tapping out the beat with those icepick acrylic nails to mimic a typewriter.

"Steel Magnolias" was Parton's fourth film, with an ensemble cast that included Shirley MacLaine, Sally Field, Julia Roberts and Daryl Hannah. Set amid the gossip and hairspray of a Louisiana beauty salon, on the surface it's chick-flick fare. But beneath the wedding cakes and Christmas sweaters run some unexpectedly complex, dark currents -- not to mention some killer one-liners ("In a good shoe I wear a size six, but a seven feels so good, I buy a size eight," Parton's character Truvy says with a beaming smile).

Dolly Parton, circa 1975 Credit: Silver Screen Collection/Moviepix/Getty Images

In that…
Hannah Lack, CNN
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