Dolly Parton Has a Space-Saving Hack for Storing Her Wigs on Tour
Many are familiar with Dolly Parton’s award-winning status as a singer, songwriter, actress, and philanthropist, and her accolades continue to grow with a new fashionable memoir out on October 17.
Behind the Seams: My Life in Rhinestones chronicles the country superstar’s memorable wardrobe with a behind-the-scenes look at her vast closet that Parton describes as a “little museum.” With 450 full-color photos, it’s impossible to not get lost in the pages of Parton’s signature style and famous wigs. In addition to the book, she is releasing Rockstar, a 30-track rock-and-roll album, on November 17, featuring collaborations with Paul McCartney and Stevie Nicks.
In an interview with Apartment Therapy, Parton shared an unlikely hiding spot at her home and revealed the space-saving hacks on her tour bus (along with her knack for meal prepping). This interview has been edited for length.
Apartment Therapy: In this book, we get a glimpse of your iconic dresses, outfits, accessories, and shoes throughout your career. But what’s a “Closet Tour with Dolly Parton” like?
Dolly Parton: In our big house, I have a whole top floor of clothes that we have for shows, things that I’ve worn, and things we’re going to need at the Imagination Library. And then we have all the big, shiny stuff like [the rhinestone-covered dresses] for when we’re gonna go out on tour. There’s just shelves and shelves of shoes, from the casual to the show shoes. So everybody loves going into my closet; it’s like going into some little museum.
AT: While talking about your favorite looks, you mentioned the Red Dress and the den in your Antioch Pike home that was meaningful as the location of your songwriting and album cover for Burning the Midnight Oil. Are there any cozy corners or memorable spots in your current home that you’d also consider pretty meaningful?
DP: The corner that you’re talking about in my and Carl’s first home that we bought is where I wrote so many songs like “Jolene,” “I Will Always Love You,” and “Love Is Like a Butterfly.” Now that we built our own home that we’ve lived in for 45 to 50 years now, I have little places that I can go to like a little music room, a chapel, and downstairs in my basement I have this wonderful little cubby hole. I go down there when I’m going to write, and I sit down there for a long time and listen to the music to get myself into that wonderful place when I know I’m going to write.
I have a couple of tree houses on my property for the kids, but I literally keep them air conditioned for the nieces and nephews to come over. And if I’m working (for instance on a children’s project), I just pack myself a little picnic basket and go up to the tree houses and work there for hours.
AT: At Apartment Therapy, we really enjoy space-saving hacks and just figuring out how to store a lot of things in a smaller space. You wrote that you had over 200 wigs while touring. At that time, were you on a tour bus? How do you store these wigs in such a small space?
DP: Usually I take my hairdresser if we’re on tour, and they have a setup in the back of the auditorium [for us to decide] what I’m probably going to wear. They’re labeled short, long, medium, and she keeps those categorized, but I don’t even know how many wigs I have [since] we don’t count them. And if [the wigs] get to where they’re not in the best shape, we’ll either give those away or fix them up and let other people have them in their museums. When I do tour, I have a whole wig cabinet in the back of my tour bus that’s got the pegs for the wigs to sit on.
AT: Before your old tour bus, Suite 1986, was retired and placed in Dollywood, did you have any space-saving hacks in general for storing your personal belongings and wardrobe on a bus?
DP: I did have drawers and containers for makeup and sewing kits that we had built-in because you do have such a small space. You’re right, you don’t have a lot of room on a tour bus, so we learn how to minimize everything that we do. Same thing with closet space — on major tours, we have wardrobe trunks, but on the smaller tours, I don’t travel with the whole band so they have their own buses. I have my own room in the back [of the bus], and it has a bathtub and a shower, so we keep a rack in there so you actually can hang clothes when you’re not using it.
But also, the refrigerator [in my room] is very important — it goes in the back of the tour bus along the side of the wig trunk. I love to cook and if I’m on a certain diet when I travel for a tour, I cook up a whole bunch of my favorite things in little containers and freeze them in my refrigerator. We used to have a caterer on big tours, but I like to have my food handy. I also have a portable refrigerator that plugs in the wall, but it also serves as the stool for my cosmetic table. It’s got a cushion on top, and I sit there putting my makeup on. And if you lift up the lid, I’ve got food in there. And now that I think about it, we did have a lot of little odds and ends there.
To read more about Parton’s private costume archive and stories from her career, Behind the Seams: My Life in Rhinestones is available to purchase on Amazon or Bookshop.
Buy: Behind the Seams: My Life in Rhinestones, $33.62