A room full of bedazzled dresses, glimmering shoes and sparkly jewelry shine under the gallery spotlights in Lipscomb University’s Beaman library.
The look is completed with a large makeup counter and shimmering pillow, outfitted with perfume for guests to try on as they take a seat at the table, asking themselves the most obvious question.
What is it like to get ready as Dolly Parton?
That’s what gallery director Jamie Reschke wants people to think of as they enter the fashion exhibition, Dolly Parton and the Makers: My Life in Rhinestones.
“Our exhibition mostly focuses on the stories behind the seams. The artisans, patternmakers, designers, seamstresses, rhinestone embellishers, all those people,” said Reschke. “As Dolly says, it costs a lot of money to look this cheap. It also takes a lot of people to look that cheap,”
After opening on Tuesday, the exhibition is now available to the public through online
ticketing on Lipscomb’s website. It features dresses, jewelry, shoes, guitars and more from Parton’s performances.
The exhibition is a promotional event for her new book, “Dolly Parton and the Makers: My Life in Rhinestones,” which tells the story of those who have worked behind the scenes in Parton’s life to allow her to achieve success and fame.
The project, though worked on by some members of Parton’s staff and the fashion faculty at Lipscomb, was mostly student organized.
“Over 45 different students, over the course of 12 different majors, are working on this project,” said Reschke.
One of these students is Sean Worth, a junior graphic design major at Lipscomb. He was the student art director, working to design the merchandise and marketing materials with Parton’s team so that it matched the aesthetic of the book.
“At one point it’s all just files on a laptop,” said Worth. “When I actually see it come to fruition, it’s insane to be able to look around, and everywhere I look is something I did for this.”
Worth is also working in the merchandising area of the exhibition. He’s seen customers travel from near and far to see the work these students put together.
“There’s people that have traveled so far, or just from Nashville that are really excited about it, like it’s selling out,” said Worth. “A lot of these clothes really touch memories that people have had.”
That was the case for Jody Lyons, a retired schoolteacher from Texas. She came to Tennessee to visit this exhibition on opening day, as well as take her grandchildren to Dollywood.
“She’s known for her beautiful, over-the-top costumes, and to be able to see them up close and personal and see how much work that gets put into them, and the team of people behind her, it was really amazing,” said Lyons.
Though the exhibition gives customers a healthy dose of Dolly Parton, it makes a point to emphasize the "makers" too – all the people who helped her get where she is today.
“People are really fascinated by the makers station that features the patterns and the sewing machine and the bedazzling machine,” said Chloe Beauchene, student director of hospitality for the exhibition. “It’s great to know that the focus of Dolly Parton and the Makers is landing.”
Though they’re selling out fast, tickets are still available through Lipscomb’s website. The exhibition is open until Dec. 9.
This article was written by Katie Beth Cannon