The Story Behind Lady Gaga’s Bulletproof Inauguration Dress: “It Was a Scary Time in This Country”

“The national anthem is a complicated tune… and it was a complicated time,” Lady Gaga told Stephen Colbert.

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Stopping by The Late Show on Tuesday night (Nov. 23), Gaga offered a unique, behind-the-scenes peek into her involvement in a historic undertaking: singing the national anthem at the inauguration of President Joe Biden. Yet, this wasn’t quite a normal inauguration—it was held on the steps of the capitol just 14 days after supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the capitol in an effort to overturn the official results of the 2020 election. 

“It was one of the proudest moments I’ve ever had as a musician and performer,” Gaga said. “Every performer has something that is meaningful to them about why they do what they do—for me, I love to make the public smile. I had two minutes and thirty seconds to talk to the whole world, and I thought it might be a good opportunity to sing to everybody—not just to President Biden’s fans and the people who voted for him, but to the whole world.”

With that in mind, Gaga and her musical director, Michael Bearden (who wrote the arrangement used on that day), felt it would be appropriate to give a little extra oomph to the line “And the flag was still there”—but things didn’t go exactly as planned…

“What’s funny about that moment—in addition to it being emotional and powerful—was that, believe it or not, they actually moved the flag,” Gaga explained. “I had gone out, the day before, to the capitol and it was… you know, the energy was powerful. It was tense because there was such violence the week before… I went out to my rehearsal and planned to find the flag to point it out when I sang this part, but what I didn’t realize was that they were going to move the flag. When I got out there, I started turning and thought, ‘Oh girl, just keep turning and maybe it’ll show up.’ Turns out, they still kept the flag up on that beautiful day… and I found it!”

Perhaps one of the biggest revelations from the interview, however, was the fact that Gaga’s dress—a royal-looking gown with a black top and a flowing red skirt—was bulletproof. 

“There was a bulletproof vest sewn into the dress… it was a scary time in this country,” the 35-year-old singer said. “I care a lot about my family and, as a performer, I understand that I put myself in all types of dangerous situations in order to do what I love. So, I did that for myself and for my family as well, so my mom, dad, and sister could feel confident.”

Continuing, she highlighted how the dress was inspired by her appreciation for Enlightenment-era idealism: “That dress is a Schiaparelli dress, an Italian designer, and everything about what I wore that day was inspired by the Italian and the French Revolution. I felt like that day was a ‘revolution’ for this country and a real opportunity for us to look past the resistance and look forward into a time when we can be kinder and we can be braver as a nation, as people.”

Beyond that, Gaga spoke with Colbert about her activism, her love for the LGBT community, and more. Watch the interview HERE and check out her performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” below:

Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images for Fashion Media

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