The 2023 MTV VMAs were part live concert, part magic show this year, thanks to Kelsea Ballerini. After walking the pink carpet with boyfriend Chase Stokes, the country singer executed a sneaky outfit change in the middle of her performance, leaving viewers at home mystified. To hear about how she pulled off the swap so seamlessly on stage, we got the full scoop from her stylist, Molly Dickson, who helped the moment come to life.
For those who may not have tuned into the VMAs on Sept. 12, we’ll start with a brief recap of Ballerini’s performance. She took the Prudential Center stage wearing a white strapless gown with a leg slit to sing “Penthouse,” an emotional ballad about her divorce from Morgan Evans. After she belted out the lyrics “And it stings rolling up the welcome mat / Knowing you got half,” the fog around her suddenly got thicker, and when it cleared seconds later, she stood in the same spot wearing a totally different dress, a black Alexander McQueen minidress. “I need someone to explain this Kelsea Ballerini sorcery to me,” one person tweeted with a video of the outfit swap. Fan theories quickly flooded the internet.
It wasn’t sorcery but some “expert tailoring” that helped Ballerini switch dresses so quickly, Dickson shares. “Once we decided we wanted to have a look change, we worked backwards,” she tells POPSUGAR. They started by fitting her in the black McQueen minidress and then fit the white gown on top “truly down to the centimeter.” Her team also transformed the white gown into the stylish equivalent of tearaway pants from the ’90s, replacing the side seam stitching with invisible magnets and Velcro to make it easy to remove quickly. “It was definitely a process; the slit on the white gown had to be tailored exactly to not reveal any of the minidress,” Dickson adds.
“I’m afraid to tell you the amount of time we spent on this look.”
Dickson played coy about exactly how much preparation went into making the now-viral moment happen. “I’m afraid to tell you the amount of time we spent on this look, but the fact that it worked made it worth it,” she says. “We did countless fittings, meetings with tailors in both LA and NYC, and lots of rehearsing.” Ballerini shared a behind-the-scenes glimpse at one such rehearsal on TikTok the morning after the VMAs. “Telling my future children i was once houdini,” the star captioned a video of her dramatically stripping away the white dress. In the clip, she noted how a bright light would briefly shine into the camera to help shield viewers at home from seeing the dress being torn away.
All of the fittings and rehearsals helped make Ballerini’s debut VMAs performance one for the books, and Dickson couldn’t be prouder. “Seeing the full look come to life on stage with the lights, the fog, the string quartet, it honestly brought tears to my eyes,” she says. “This was such a busy week with Fashion Week and the VMAs, and seeing it all work out is the best.”
Watch Ballerini’s full VMAs performance below to relive her slick outfit change, then catch up on every other standout fashion moment from the 2023 VMAs.