Some people watch the CMA Awards for the performances. Some watch for Carrie Underwood’s epic outfit changes. And some watch for both! We fall in that latter category. Underwood’s stage style has become one of the most captivating parts of the CMAs, and this year she’s celebrating the 50th anniversary of country’s biggest night with a special “dressing through the decades” theme.
Underwood will be wearing a different outfit to celebrate the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and ’00s, and each look will pay homage to the evolution of country style.
“There are some looks throughout our night that are very singular artist inspired and it should evident,” Underwood tells PeopleStyle exclusively. “But going back, there are just so many incredible, legendary ladies of country music. I didn’t wanna really completely pigeonhole myself to one artist. It’s about paying tribute as well.”
We can’t give too many spoilers away, but we can tell you that Underwood has been working with her stylist and four-time Emmy Award-winning costume designer, Marina Toybina, on crafting each look using modern-day, hot-off-the-runway fashions. The country queen, who is about to host her ninth CMAs alongside Brad Paisley, said the ’80s ensemble has proven to be the hardest to put together.
“The ’80s are a little tougher and we haven’t completely locked down my look for that,” Underwood shares. “I think we need some more, because it seemed like the ’80s were a little more menswear inspired but in a less flattering way. Right now, we’re looking at something blue and it reminds me of my sister’s prom dress. I need to get some matching satin shoes to match.”
Aside from her five “decades” outfits, Underwood says she has five additional looks, including her red carpet dress and her performance dress, plus an after party dress. (That’s a total of 11 changes!)
“My performance look is a more menswear inspired type outfit,” she says. “And then I have a part in another tribute performance, and that one will be just sequins all the way. Then of course there’s my carpet dress which I’m very excited about because it’s just girly, princess-y and pretty.”
Even though there are 10 looks to change into during the show, Carrie says she doesn’t wear them all to the dress rehearsals.
“When we get the running order of the show, we’re like, ‘Okay these are complicated so we’re gonna need more time,’ so we try to just plan where things that might need a little more time get a little more time,” she explains. “And there are easy changes, like, ‘Oh, we have five minutes, that’s a lifetime in TV-quick-change world. We make the time count.”
Her record for a quick backstage change? Forty seconds during the CMAs in 2012.
“That 40-second quick change we tried in rehearsal because it was such a fast change, and I run backstage and someone holds a sheet up and I busted a zipper in rehearsal,” she says. “And everybody was worried I was not going to make it back out for the actual show and I was like, ‘It’s okay, we’ll fix the zipper.’ The zipper was one of those little hidden, flimsy plastic zippers. So they trusted me and we made it work. But during the entire run through I had to hold the back of my dress shut.”
• Who should win at #CMAawards50? Record a video with your vote at burst.com/CMA50Live to be featured on PEOPLE and EW’s red carpet LIVE show, airing Wednesday, Nov. 2 at 5:30 p.m. ETon our homepages or the newPeople/Entertainment Weekly Network (PEN). Go to PEOPLE.com/PEN, or download the PEN app on Apple TV, Roku Players, Amazon Fire TV, Xumo, Chromecast, iOS and Android devices.
- PEOPLE’s Special Edition 50 Years of the CMA Awards is on sale now.
The CMA Awards will broadcast live from Nashville on Wednesday, Nov. 2 at 8 p.m. EST on ABC.
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