Why Dolly Parton Wears Long Sleeves All The Time

Dolly Parton mania continues sweeping the world. The woman who penned "Jolene," "I Will Always Love You," "9 to 5," and many more uses her extensive wealth to fund everything from her Imagination Library – a nonprofit organization that gives free books to children — to research that helped make possible the Moderna vaccine, as reported by CNN.  However, Parton isn't just one of the all-time great singers and songwriters of country music; she's also someone with a completely individual, iconic personal style.

At 75, Parton has been famous for most of her adult life, and the public has never been shy about commenting on her signature looks: the big blonde wigs, the long polished nails, the giant sparkling jewelry, and the curvaceous figure usually clad in rhinestones and other shiny material. Parton, whose look has made her a fashion icon, has famously said (via The Guardian), "it costs a lot of money to look this cheap." In a 2020 interview with Wired (as seen on YouTube), Parton confessed that she modeled her look after the "town tramp in my hometown."

Another less flashy but just as intriguing Dolly trademark is the fact that she's almost always seen wearing long sleeves and often sports fashionable fingerless gloves as well (via Distractify). It's really no one's business what anyone else does with their own bodies, but casual and devoted Dolly fans alike keep wondering why her arms and hands remain out of sight.

Dolly Parton says she has more than one tattoo

One theory is that Parton wears the long sleeves to cover her ink. Fans might be surprised to learn that Parton has various tattoos. According to Independent, actress, comedian, and occasional candidate for public office Roseanne Barr first discussed Parton's tattoos in a 2011 interview, claiming, "She's got all these awesome tattoos all over her body. ... All pastel, gorgeous bows all over everything." Parton didn't speak out about her alleged tattoos for many years, finally addressing the topic in a 2020 interview with People magazine. "I do have some tattoos, that's true," said Parton. "But they're tasteful. I'm not a tattoo girl."

She then went on to partially confirm Barr's description of her tattoos: "Ribbons and bows and butterflies are the things that I have. I was very sick for a while and I had to wear a feeding tube. It left a little indention in my side and I didn't like it because I'm so fair that scars turn purple on me" (via People). Parton added, "Who knows, I may get some more later. I may just have to get covered with tattoos just so everybody could be right!"

She further discussed her use of tattoos to cover surgical scars in a 2021 interview with W magazine: "I've had surgeries for different things, and if the scars didn't heal properly, I just gotta put tattoos to take the sting out. I don't have the real heavy, dark tattoos. Mine are all pastel. And I have more than one!" Parton hasn't clarified if and why she keeps the tattoos covered up with long sleeves.

Dolly Parton may have had corrective surgery

And what of the fingerless gloves? In a 2019 InStyle article, Parton's long-time creative director Steve Summers addressed the gloves, which the publication states are all custom-made. He explained, "People always ask why she always wears sleeves — well, she's 73 years old, and she doesn't like her elbows. [They ask] 'what's wrong with her hands?' She's 73, and she doesn't like them! It's a normal woman thing." Interestingly, Summers did not mention Parton's tattoos. Although this could be why Parton is never seen without her signature gloves, there may be another reason. Like the tattoos, the fingerless gloves could be hiding scars (per Distractify).

According to Prevention, there is a possibility that Parton has scars from hand surgery, prompting her to wear fingerless gloves. Duane Gordon, the longtime administrator of the fansite Dollymania, addressed this theory in 2011. He explained (via Distractify) that Parton had not been seen without the fingerless gloves for a majority of that year. Gordon went on to say, "I can relay third-hand information that she was asked about the gloves by fans while filming scenes for her upcoming movie 'Joyful Noise' and told them that last year she had had corrective hand surgery (medical, not cosmetic) and it left a scar that she's covering."

He added, "Again, I've not heard that directly from Dolly or her management, but I'm told that's the answer she gave privately in Atlanta to those who asked." However, fans might never know the truth. When questioned by interviewers, Parton said that she thought the fingerless gloves were "cute" or that she was "cold" (per Distractify).