One of the things those of us who love Dollywood enjoy most about the park is the unique atmosphere. An invaluable element that contributes to the charm of the Dollywood properties is not only the friendliness of the employees, but also their themed costumes.
So what is it like to dress 3800 Dollywood hosts? I sat down with Angie Davis, the Wardrobe Manager who has worked in this department for 27 years, to find out. The six employees in this department costume all the people who work at Dollywood, Dollywood’s Splash Country, Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa and Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Cabins.
Each host receives three complete outfits in the summer and three for the winter season. Common uniforms consist of a shirt, pants and a vest or a dress and pinafore. Two hundred of the hosts change costumes five or more times a year due to the different seasonal festivals and parades at the park.
I asked Angie to describe a typical workday in the Wardrobe Department and was amazed to hear what this small department accomplishes over the course of a day! Their busiest time is between February and May when there are a lot of new employees. That’s when they fit between 30-40 hosts with their new costumes every morning Monday through Saturday from 7-8 a.m. Then, while those new hosts attend Orientation until 2 p.m., Angie and her team get to work. The wardrobe hosts are always ready to hand over those newly-altered costumes when the hosts return. Angie said they hem up to 150 pairs of pants per day during this time!
Additionally, the Wardrobe team can expect 25 to 35 hosts to come by to check out an item they may have forgotten that day. Not surprisingly, the most-forgotten items are small pieces like hats and nametags.
The rest of the day is dedicated to production (making costumes from scratch), alterations, and laundry. They also continually check sizes and restock shelves to make sure they have enough costumes for the needs they anticipate will arise. Angie noted that last year they did 6,983 alterations and made 12,812 dresses and pinafores – wow!
This small team even costumes all of the craft vendors who come in for Dollywood’s Harvest Festival to ensure that everyone working at the park is in theme.
I came away awed by the incredible organization and creativity of this amazing department. Next time you are at one of the Dollywood properties, make sure to notice the little details of the hosts’ costumes – for example, in the Miss Lillian’s Smokehouse, the hosts have chickens on their dresses to honor Miss Lillian, Dollywood’s famous “chicken lady,” and the delicious fried chicken served by that restaurant. The hosts wear poodle skirts in Red’s Drive-In (which has a 50’s diner theme) and at the Sweet Shoppe, you will find dresses and vests made of a colorful fabric covered in sweet treats. At the Barnstormer ride, you will find the ride attendants dressed in plaid shirts, red ball caps with a “Co-op” patch and blue jeans, adding to the ambiance of that ride. It’s just another layer of detail that makes Dollywood such a special place!