Dolly Parton Recalls Hilarious Wardrobe Malfunction at 1978 CMA Awards

In true Dolly Parton fashion, the Tennessee native handled her split dress like a pro and even joked about it to the CMA Awards audience.

Written by Lauren Laffer
Dolly Parton Recalls Hilarious Wardrobe Malfunction at 1978 CMA Awards
Dolly Parton receives the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award at The 50th Annual CMA Awards; Photo courtesy Country Music Association

The year was 1978 and Dolly Parton was vying for CMA Entertainer of the Year in a category that also included Kenny Rogers, Mel Tillis, Crystal Gayle and Ronnie Milsap. The prospect of winning was pressure enough, but for Parton, something else was also on her mind.

As presenters Johnny Cash and Ronnie Milsap read her name, the Tennessee native went through a nightmarish wardrobe malfunction.

“I remember thinking this is such a beautiful dress, but the fabric is so delicate! I thought, ‘Man, as tight as I wear my clothes…’ – and I was a little hefty then anyway! – I thought ‘I hope this all holds together!’” Parton told PEOPLE for the magazine’s Special Edition: 50 Years of the CMA Awards. “When they called my name, I felt something creeping up my stomach and I thought, ‘Oh My God – my dress is coming apart!’ And I thought ‘What am I gonna do?’”

Thankfully, Parton’s quick thinking and a nearby shawl helped her cover up in time for her to accept her award.
“Marianne Rogers [Kenny Rogers’ wife at the time] had on a big fur stole and I was sitting down there near her, so I grabbed her stole and held it up,” she explained.

The legendary singer even joked about her dress to the audience in typical Dolly fashion.

“I had this dress made in case I won and about five minutes ago, I was hoping I wouldn’t win because I busted the front out of it! But my daddy says that’s what I got for putting 50 pounds of mud in a 5 pound bag!’”

At the end of the day, the moment didn’t phase Parton as it fit her newly minted title.

“I wanted to look good when I won the award, but I did think, ‘Well, this is very entertaining!’ That that fit in well with the award!”

Dolly Parton is still one of only five individual country women to win the title of CMA Entertainer of the Year. Other female EOTYs include Reba McEntire, Barbara Mandrell, Shania Twain and Taylor Swift, with the Dixie Chicks as the only female group.