Stitching up the star so Dolly can dazzle

YOU could call them the rhinestone cowgirls now and there’s a fair bit of bling and brightness to the party stories Kathy Burke and Robyn Bourke can claim since Dolly Parton came to town.

The two seamstresses, best known for their fiddly bits for theatrical productions on Tamworth stages, were backstage of one of the American country music princess’s glittering Australian shows last weekend. The women were asked to pick up the needle and put their skills to work on the threads of the Parton musical group’s show costumes.

So, armed with sewing machine and as much sewing gear as they could think they might need for Parton’s productions, they trooped off to TRECC for a day’s sewing and primping, steam cleaning and ironing and putting things back together.

And yes, there were plenty of rhinestones and Swarovski crystals to sew onto Parton’s little gowns, especially the second aqua or turquoise number she wore in Tamworth. 

“We had a wonderful time,” Robyn said, still gushing and laughing about the whole celebrity deal days later.

“It was perfect, the best experience of my life – we were treated like royalty. I can say now that I’ve put zippers in for Wayne Rogers to sewing for Dolly Parton.”

Kath Burke’s no stranger to some celebrity sewing but she reckons Parton is her hit single these days.

“Dolly would be one of my four female singers who inspire me and my singing,” said Kath.

“I saw her in Cessnock two years ago. My husband bought tickets for my birthday and she was absolutely amazing. Only the day before I was called and asked to help out was I saying that I’d love to be able to get my hands on some of her costumes. Well, I can tick that one off my bucket list now, can’t I? It blew me away.”

Before she could claim Parton, Kath had more than a working knowledge of bright and specialty costume design.

Her claim to fame before that was making costumes for Nikki Webster (the pop girl captured Australia in the Sydney Olympics opening ceremony in 2000) and for Molly McClymont (of country music fame).

The two women also worked on the costumes of the female backing singers and the band, met Parton’s wig woman, who’s worked with her for 29 years and spent the day savouring the southern hospitality of the American entourage Parton has inspired such loyalty from. And yes, they did see her walk by.

She called out “Howdy, ladies”, as she passed through and although Kath admits that’s as much as a meeting they can rightly claim, it’s left a big smile on their faces.

“She’s beautiful, she’s the same age as I am and I want to crawl under a stone, she was just so stunning and everybody seemed to have worked with her for years and everyone I spoke to said how great she was.”

Kath worked on a Parton dress, worn in the second part of the Tamworth concert.

“I heat-set most of them and I glued a lot of others and I stitched on the Swarovski crystals, and I did little tassels and lots of dangly bits.”

The legacy of Parton is long-lasting, in more ways than one.

Robyn was so impressed with the rhinestone gun, used to attach them to the material, she’s ordered one from America. Until now the girls had mostly glued them when it came to doing that for Tamworth stage productions.

Kath comes away with some real Aussie memories.

A WIRES carer, she took her seven-month-old current boarder, Clyde the joey, in to see the American Parton band the next day, whre they all took photos of themselves with the baby roo. He had been banned the night before from the backstage area by a zealous Aussie security man but the rest of the band got to get up close and personal the following day.

Oh, and the huge steel crates that hold the costumes that the girls had to manoeuvre, left a memory too.

Kathy’s nursing what looks to be like a broken finger.

“I whacked my finger on one of them when we moved the boxes. But it didn’t stop me sewing. No way. Not on that job.”

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