The stage of the Grand Ole Opry is not one of the world’s great fashion runways, but its ever-so-humble barn decor has been the backdrop for country’s shifting sartorial styles for nearly seven decades. In the 1920s, when country music was just beginning, stars (not realizing they were stars) dressed as their audience did, in their best Sunday outfits. The Carter Family, country’s first true stars, typified the look: somber, sober, and God-fearing. That Everyman style is still a mainstay. Today George Jones sings the country equivalent of arias wearing a polyester shirt and Sansabelt slacks. The Western look was developed by Jimmie Rodgers. A freewheeling Mississippian-turned-Texan, he wore suits starting out in 1927, but occasionally affected a Western look — cowboy boots, a white hat — that influenced such honky-tonk stars as Hank Williams in the ’40s. Since then the look has evolved from the glitter getups of Porter Wagoner to the black leather outlaw style of Waylon Jennings to the fresh-pressed earnestness of today’s ”hat acts.”
For women, things have not been so simple. Country’s first female stars, called ”girl singers,” dressed in gingham dresses and sweet little cowgirl ensembles. It wasn’t until Patsy Cline wore whatever she wanted that women started to walk on the wild side. Since then, it’s been big hair and sequins, tie-dyed chiffon and high-heeled boots, tight jeans and hoop earrings. Here’s a look at country couture.