When Dottie West stepped onstage - before she ever sang one note - her audiences saw a star from head to toe. She immediately realized the importance of finding a signature style that defined her, because when Dottie came to Nashville, all the women in the industry were wearing calico, ruffles and gingham. Although gingham and Dottie were synonymous of her early days in the 1960's and early 1970's. Louise Crawford, a Nashville dressmaker, designed many gingham gowns for Dottie in the early 70s, when gingham was synonymous with female country artists.

A few years later Dottie took to wearing denim and in 1974, Dottie commissioned mother-daughter team Evelyn Wahl and Julianna Eskew from Tennessee to design some of their hand-embroidered denim outfits especially for her. She wore them regularly including some special assignments for Coca-Cola. The first outfit they produced for Dottie was in shades of light and dark blue covered in butterflies of various sizes. One of the stage and TV costumes they made for her was a “Coca-Cola Country Girl” themed jacket embroidered with a bright yellow sun and flowers combined with the lettering “Country Girl” and “Coca-Cola” at the bottom of the jacket. Dottie often collected greeting cards with designs on them that appealed to which she brought back to Evelyn and Julianna. They reproduce them perfectly on Dottie’s denim suits. Dottie also commissioned them to design a pocketbook for her of light blue denim with the “Nipper” (dog-and-record-player) emblem of RCA.

Dottie became interested in Bob Mackie after she signed on with Kenny and wanted to titivate her wardrobe. They noticed his name in "The Cher Show's" credits and contacted Ken Kragen about meeting with Mackie, so Ken arranged it. With Mackie's creations, Dottie not only found a true signature style, but became a fashion trendsetter among her peers. Dottie West made it acceptable to be glamorous and sexy. She spent thousands of dollars on 20 custom Mackie creations from 1977 to 1982 and wore them for the rest of her life. Bob Mackie is probably best known for the controversial costumes he designed for singer Cher, but had a significant impact on country music because of his association with Dottie.

In the late 70s, Dottie paid him $100,000 a year to develop her stage wardrobe. When not wearing Mackie clothes, she could be found wearing other couture creations by top designers which consisted of many from boutique designer labels such as Halston, Andre Van Pier, Lillie Rubin, Giorgio, and others. She loved shopping off Rodeo Drive and could spend thousands of dollars during a spree there. Dottie loved acid washed jeans, which were made by USED or GUESS which she often paired with blazers and Mackie tops, especially towards the end of her life. It was no secret that Dottie loved to shop. Dolly Parton recalled that she and Dottie used to arrange to have all of the stores closed at Nashville's Green Hills Mall so that they'd have the opportunity to shop in private. These outings were always indulgent and satisfying. "Shopping is such great therapy for me!" Dottie said in a 1980's interview. Known for her generous nature, she often bought things for friends and family, always wanting to give them more than what they could afford on their own.

Daughter-in-law Jan West is quoted as saying: "When my daughter, May, was a little girl, Dottie would take her upstairs to her dressing area which was in a room over her mansion’s front door and play 'dress-up' with all of her stage clothes. We would just have fun dressing up and Dottie loved it. She enjoyed dressing May up so much that she bought these beautiful little girl dresses to play in. They're just absolutely beautiful and now May has a little girl of her own, we can share those with her." Though the IRS seized the majority of Dottie's things in 1990, she was permitted to keep her stage clothes, her tour bus and much of her sound equipment as such items were declared by the court as her "tools of the trade", meaning that they would be used to allow her to continue working to pay back her debt.

When Dottie died, her family met at her Wessex Towers apartment (#201) in Nashville to pack away her things. While many of her stage clothes were divided among her children, the remainder was placed in a rented storage unit. In 1995, the makers of the CBS television drama "Big Dreams & Broken Hearts: The Dottie West Story" borrowed many of Dottie's outfits for Michele Lee to wear in her starring role as Dottie. When production ended, the outfits were placed back into storage where they would remain until 2010, when the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville requested an outfit of Dottie's for their exhibit. Dottie's family selected one of her famed Bob Mackie's (and also one of Dottie's personal favorites—fans may recognize the hat and the boots from the "High Times" album cover. The pants, however, are not original to this outfit as they were designed to go with Dottie's white cowgirl/fringed Mackie). When the outfit was selected, several members of the family decided that it was no longer feasible to continue to pay rent on the storage unit to house the outfits. It was then decided that the outfits would be made available to fans and other museums.

We are pleased to share with you these select pieces from Dottie West's stage wardrobe as many of them have not been seen in over 20 years—until now.

Tour book autographed by Dottie which she gave as a gift to Bob Mackie.

Click on photos for a larger view