Warning: Minor spoilers ahead for Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square.
The holidays came early thanks to Netflix’s Christmas special Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square, a musical that sees the singer-actress-humanitarian as a literal angel. Following the story of Fullerville — a small town whose residents are threatened to be evicted by Regina (played by Christine Baranski), a Grinch-like character who returns home after the death of her father — Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square costumes feature winter-appropriate sweaters and holiday colours and prints. The film’s costume designer Provi Fulp, who calls the musical the “Fame of Christmas movies,” wanted it to feel cosy with “a little bit of Dolly charm throughout.”
“There had to be some Southern charm, because Dolly is a Southern darling, and there had to be Christmas everywhere,” she says. “We peppered colours of red and green all around and added sparkle and texture and lots of knits. And especially at the finale, I just needed a Christmas explosion, and it was so easy to do it because it was a musical and I could kind of go there.”
Throughout the film, Parton appears in over-the-top, all-white looks, ranging from crystal-adorned mini dresses to a button-down with statement buttons and frayed, crystal-encrusted jeans — all with matching 10-inch heels and jewellery, which notably includes crystal fingerless gloves and an oversized star-shaped ring. “She had some bling all the time. She’s the queen angel,” says Fulp. “She loves to shine and is so fabulous.” While Parton’s looks were designed by her longtime creative director Steve Summers, Fulp collaborated with him to make the costumes feel “all Dolly-inspired,” especially when it came to the character of Felicity (Jeanine Mason), a (secret) angel-in-training.
“When I was doing Jeanine’s character, who eventually turns into an angel, I wanted to make sure that I had some Dolly in the looks,” says Fulp. “[Before becoming an angel,] Felicity is very preppy. I wanted her to be very J. Crew-like and just really kind of appealing and warm and fuzzy.” To hint at her being more than Regina’s assistant, Fulp added a hidden touch: “Throughout you’ll notice she wears a little bit of sparkle on her neckline, she’ll have a little bit of sparkle as she goes along, and I wanted that to be some zhuzh that she has every time you see her. When she morphed into the angel, it kind of made sense that she had a little bit of Christmas and a little bit of angel in her the whole time.”
In the final scene, Felicity appears in an all-white, winged angel costume featuring 1,200 Swarovski crystals and lots of tulle detailing. “I collaborated with Steven and Dolly’s team, and we made sure that it was a mirror of Dolly’s [look],” Fulp says. “When you have someone so legendary like Dolly Parton, and she’s training an angel, I was like, ‘This has to be full of fabulousness and crystals everywhere.’”
For the no-nonsense, all-business character of Regina, Fulp was inspired by the fashion of New York. “It was important for me to kind of give that Manhattan Fifth Avenue, very powerful woman kind of [look, and] sharpen it, so she’s like a butter knife just coming through,” says Fulp. With that in mind, she dressed Baranski in immaculately tailored suits and coats, from brands like Max Mara and Armani, which contrasted with the town’s more casual, soft, brightly coloured fashion. “When I read the script, it was almost like her character felt misunderstood,” she explains. “I think a lot of times as strong women, we can come across as very aggressive, because of just protecting who we are.”
As Regina progresses through her character arc, her look changes, too. “I really wanted to make sure she looked really powerful and sharp and kind of cold. [She wore] very dark colours at the beginning, so that the audience can really see that she was about her business and not very warm,” Fulp points out. As Regina begins to process the painful memories associated with the town and starts to care for its residents, more colours appear in her wardrobe. “Her colours turn a little bit lighter and then go white for the finale with a dress by Alexander McQueen. She’s such a powerful character, but I used white to show the purity and the change of heart that she had, and add a little bit of Christmas spirit.”
Fulp also had fun with Margeline (Jenifer Lewis), the town’s hairdresser and the only person who can stand up to Regina. In my favourite look from the film, she wears a graphic polka dot button-down, with a pair of red pants and loafers (pictured above). “I wanted to incorporate some geometric shaping and cool colour and texture. So, every time you saw her, she looked really jazzy and edgy and interesting and artistic because she’s a hairdresser,” notes Fulp. “I wanted to make sure that her bold and sassy personality showed through.” This also resulted in some standout jewellery pieces, too: “She has that big personality — she’s an artist, hair stylist, she’s got that big voice — so statement pieces were important.”
Fulp also paid special attention to the looks of Jenna Hathaway (Mary Lane Haskell), the pastor’s wife, taking extra care to source her looks, which included pashminas, floral skirts, and bouncy dresses. “It’s so important to me that curvy women, real women are represented. I wanted to make sure she was beautiful and sexy, but still very classy, and not frumpy. I wanted everything to be tailored to her,” says Fulp. “It was important that she’d be relatable, but also kind of unique, so that other real women could relate to her and be like, ‘I would wear that.’”