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Why Does Dolly Parton Wear Long Sleeves? Does She Have Tattoos?

Dolly Parton waves to a crowd on a red carpet in las vegas

Dolly Parton is rarely spotted showing her arms, which has sparked internet rumors (photo by Kathy Hutchins/shutterstock.com)

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Dolly’s creative director says ‘It’s a normal woman thing’, amidst tattoo rumors

I’ve been lucky enough to cover Dolly Parton a handful of times at Dollywood over the years. I’ve never spoken to the Sevier County icon, but I’ve taken photos and videos of her at various media events. And I’ve dutifully taken quotes from her from the stage off and on for 20 years. I like to think of myself as an observant person but I wasn’t observing Parton’s hand and arms. I just never paid them much attention.

The first time I noticed that Dolly covered her hands must have been about 2016. I was attending an event celebrating the Lightning Rod coaster. They set a little stage next to the ride and Dolly spoke to us for a bit. Afterward, she sang her early hit “Puppy Love” with a live backing band. When I got back to the office and started going through the pictures, it was the first time I saw Dolly Parton wear fingerless gloves.


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Dolly Parton frequently can be seen wearing fingerless gloves (2019 photo by Carl Beust/shutterstock.com)

Why does Dolly Parton cover her hands and arms?

If I thought much about it at all, I would have figured it was simply that she doesn’t like how her hands are aging. And she went with a cover-up that nobody would notice unless they were shooting with a zoom lens. Like most of you, I’ve been aware of Dolly Parton for nearly all of my life. Between years of her music, her public appearance, her acting, her theme park and her philanthropy, I felt like I had a pretty good handle on Dolly – at least her public persona, anyway. But would I have guessed in a million years that Dolly Parton is covered in tattoos? Reader, I would not have guessed it.

The first time someone told me she was tatted up, I laughed. Now look, I know as well as anybody that Dolly Parton has made millions – maybe billions while being criminally underestimated. Dolly is a businesswoman of uncommon talent and uncommon savvy. In fact, she has frequently played the roles expected of her publicly while making moves in private. In recent years, she has given more indications of her real inner self. She has shown genuine support for people and causes that her fan base has been, to put it gently, slow to embrace. So I shouldn’t necessarily be surprised to find out Dolly Parton is covered in little tattoos under her clothes.

Dolly Parton in an interview inside Dollywood
Dolly Parton in an interview at Dollywood (archive photo by John Gullion/TheSmokies.com)

Does Dolly Parton have scars to cover?

It seems the accomplished country singer first started to wear gloves in 2010. Dollymania fan page’s Duane Gordon, citing third-hand information, said she’d had corrective hand surgery – medical, not cosmetic. And that the gloves were not covering Parton’s tattoos but her surgical scars. However, Dolly’s tattoos and the air of mystery surrounding them go back further. It’s hard to believe that someone as in touch with the fashion scene as I am has never noticed Dolly’s proclivity for long sleeves – pre-dating the fingerless gloves. She kept the fact that the sleeves kept her little pastel tattoos under wraps for years. Because, well, it’s not anybody’s business.

In 1996, Jay Leno spotted one of her hidden tattoos on The Tonight Show and he asked her about them. And occasionally paparazzi pictures would catch a glimpse of a Dolly tattoo. But it wasn’t until she was doing publicity for her 2012 film “Joyful Noise” that the rumors about her secret tattoos really began to swirl. Several paparazzi had captured a photo of Dolly bending forward slightly in a low-cut blouse, revealing what appeared to be pink flowers on her chest.

Dolly Parton at Dollywood
Dolly Parton speaks at an event for the Imagination Library (archive photo by John Gullion/TheSmokies.com)

Are Dolly’s arms really covered in tattoos?

At the time Parton denied the rumors, saying the pictures had been doctored. However, in a 2017 interview with Vanity Fair, the country music legend confirmed her colorful tattoos without getting into specifics about what they are.

“I don’t really like to make a big to-do of [the tattoos] because people make such a big damn deal over every little thing,” she said.

“But most of the tattoos, when I first started, I was covering up some scars that I had, ‘cause I have a tendency to have keloid scar tissue, and I have a tendency where if I have any kind of scars anywhere then they kind of have a purple tinge that I can never get rid of. So mine are all pastels, what few that I have, and they’re meant to cover some scars. I’m not trying to make some big, bold statement.”

Celebrities who claim to have seen Dolly’s tattoos

While Parton has kept her tattoos under wraps in public, according to British actress Jennifer Saunders – of “Absolutely Fabulous” fame – she’s more open in private. In a 2013 interview, Saunders told about the time she and Roseanne Barr bumped into Dolly at a restaurant. Parton, she says, offered to show them her tattoos. Saunders said Parton’s chest is covered in “the most beautiful angels and beautiful butterflies and baskets of flowers in pastel-colored tattoos.” Roseanne told another version of the same story on the Craig Ferguson show in 2011. Of course, some people are better at keeping Dolly’s business private than others.

Is that the real reason Dolly doesn’t show her arms?

Dolly’s creative director Steve Summers was asked about Dolly’s sleeves and fingerless gloves by InStyle in 2019. He said the real reason had nothing to do with little butterflies or little yellow flowers or a tiny little bee tattoo.

“People always ask why she always wears sleeves — well, she’s 73-years-old, and she doesn’t like her elbows,” he said. “[They ask] ‘what’s wrong with her hands?’ She’s 73, and she doesn’t like them! It’s a normal woman thing.”

Where do you think the truth lies? Does Dolly really have tattoos or does she just prefer to cover her arms? We want to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

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5 thoughts on “Why Does Dolly Parton Wear Long Sleeves? Does She Have Tattoos?”

  1. I believe it’s her business no one else at least she doesn’t show everything God gave her She’s beautiful love to hear her sing I’m raising 9 kid’s they love her could never afford to take them to Dolly wood 11 of us my dear brother bought me tickets 2 years ago had the time of our life he did it because someone set our house on fire

  2. Dolly should never have to cover her skin, I have seen worst keloid, that is just something some people skin do and it’s nothing they can do about it. Just because she has tats and some skin problems does that mean she can’t continue to do what she enjoys doing no. So what’s the problem that’s her skin. With all that Money she has she can get all that corrected if she really wanted too. No one should knock the other cause the color of their skin or what they have on their skin. At the end or the day it’s nobody business but hers.

  3. I don’t really see why it makes a difference.
    I don’t care for tats, but if Dolly wants or feels she needs them, but wants to keep them private folks should be good with that.

  4. Whether she has tattoos or not, it’s nobody’s business but her own. If she wants to show them some day, then I’m sure she will when she is ready, otherwise let’s all mind our own business. Love you Dolly

  5. I wore long skirts and pants throughout my entire high school years because I believed I had strange looking legs. It is a woman thing. We get it in our head that something doesn’t look good about us and we spend the rest of our lives going through hell and half acre to make darn sure we are covering it up.


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