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Transcript: Tues., July 20 at 11 a.m. ET

On Love: Bridal fashion trends

Hitched bridal salon owners Julia Lichtman Kepniss and Carin Rosenberg Levine
Hitched bridal salon owners Julia Lichtman Kepniss and Carin Rosenberg Levine (Courtesy of Hitched)

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Julia Lichtman Kepniss and Carin Rosenberg Levine
Owners, Hitched bridal salon
Tuesday, July 20, 2010; 11:00 AM

Looking for a wedding gown that fits your shape or dresses for your bridesmaids? Julia Lichtman Kepniss and Carin Rosenberg Levine, owners of Hitched bridal salon in Washington, D.C., offer tips on bridal fashion and trends.

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Julia Lichtman Kepniss and Carin Rosenberg Levine are native Washingtonians and have been friends since junior high. The pair was inspired to bring a sophisticated bridal experience to women in the D.C.-area while searching for their own wedding gowns, finding that the local bridal fashion scene was in need of something different.

For more tips, marital and relationship advice and to see how other couples have gotten to the altar, visit our OnLove section.

The transcript follows.

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Carin Rosenberg Levine: Hi all! Hope everyone is enjoying their summer. We are so excited to be here visiting with all of you today. We have learned so much over the last five years at Hitched and are happy to share our knowledge with all of you. Please continue to send in questions and of course we hope you will come visit us at Hitched or our new bridesmaids store, Hitched Maids.

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Just dreaming...: My issue is, I'm 5'1" and quite busty. My stance on a dress is, 'It's my wedding and I'm going to be comfortable.' So, strapless is out (I'd need an industrial size anyways), and I'm iffy on heels (I have weak ankles). Besides, there's a good chance I'll be walking down the aisle outside on the lawn. What's the best cut for someone short, busty, and curvy?

Julia Lichtman Kepniss: Go into a store and try gowns on. Sometimes it's hard to know what will feel comfortable until you try different silhouettes and fabrics. At Hitched, we have a wide range of necklines, including terrific gowns with straps, so you will definitely have options -- and you might even surprise yourself by liking the fit, look and support of a strapless gown. Most gowns can be ordered without a train if you are worried about freedom of movement outdoors. Also, you can decide to hem the gown a little shorter than usual to eliminate any worry of tripping on the lawn. Choose a comfortable pair of shoes on your day -- no one is looking at your shoes and the last thing you want to think about on your big day is hurting feet.

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Cleaning and preservation: Any suggestions on what to do with the dress after the wedding? I've considered donating, consigning, or just cleaning/preserving. I would prefer not to send the dress out to a preservation company. A local cleaner specializing in wedding dresses wanted $700, which is way more than I am willing to spend. Thanks for any suggestions!

Carin Rosenberg Levine: Yes, cleaning and preserving can be costly but it is a good idea if you are planning to hold onto the gown. We think Parkway Cleaners in Chevy Chase is the best of the best for that type of work. If you are thinking to donate there is a great nonprofit store in NYC called the Bridal Garden which donates its proceeds to an inner city public school. Alternatively there is an organization called Brides Against Breast Cancer that organizes sales in different cities with proceeds going to breast cancer organizations. For consignment there is a store in Rockville called I Do I Do which also donates a small portion of proceeds to an organization called the I Do Foundation.

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Woodstock, Va.: What would be the most flattering style for a petite frame but a large chest?

Julia Lichtman Kepniss: Surprisingly a strapless gown (with a sufficiently raised neckline) is a great silhouette for a petite frame and a fuller bust. It is a common misperception that a gown with straps would be better for a fuller bust. Of course, there are strapped gowns that will work, but a strapless gown will often work better. Skirt-wise a gown that is more fitted at the hips like a 'fit to flare' or modified a-line often works nicely for a petite frame, so that the dress doesn't overwhelm the bride.

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Baltimore, Md.: What is the single most useful piece of advice for any bride?

Carin Rosenberg Levine: Be true to yourself. Weddings come in all shapes and sizes now (as do gowns!)....so knowing what you want and going for it is our most useful piece of advice. Don't pick a gown because it's the gown your best friend loved or your mom wished she had worn....pick something that you love and that others think looks great on you. Same thing goes for your wedding style and ceremony planning - both should reflect you as a couple. Guests want to feel like they are at your wedding and not just a generic wedding. Check out blogs and magazines for inspiration and ideas that match your vision!

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Washington, D.C.: How far in advance of a wedding is TOO far in advance to buy a bridal gown? Due to timing, I won't be getting married for a little under two years, but I can't wait to start shopping.

Julia Lichtman Kepniss: Dress shopping is such fun and definitely a part of the planning process that people look forward to. It's never too early to begin planning what you will wear to your special day, but we recommend choosing your venue before your gown, as it often informs what style you choose. We've had brides buy their gown two years in advance because they found the gown they love and didn't want it to be discontinued. It is also fine to wait, however, but if you have a lot of time, try to make the decision by 7-8 months out from your date to ensure a comfortable production and alterations schedule.

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Capitol Hill: How much should a bride budget for her wedding dress? Is there a recommended percentage of the total wedding budget?

Also, what are suggestions for getting the best price for a wedding dress?

Carin Rosenberg Levine: Like everything else in your wedding - you have to decide how much of a priority your wedding gown is to you. Some women have a very specific wedding gown in mind and it is a really important piece of their wedding to them, while others would prefer to splurge on something else. Different stores carry different price point gowns. At Hitched our gowns start at $2,500 and go up from there. The majority of them run between $3,000 - $5,000. As for getting a good price - keep an eye out for trunk shows of designers that are of particular interest to you. Most stores offer a 10 percent discount on trunk show days.

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St. Louis, Missouri: Hi ladies! Thanks for doing this chat. Perfectly timed, as I'm shopping for wedding dresses this weekend.

My question has to do with sizes and alterations. I'm not getting married until next June, and I've enrolled in this fitness program and expect to lose maybe 20 pounds over the next few months (guessing I'd go from a size 12 to a size 8 hopefully).

If I buy a dress this weekend, will it cost me a fortune in alterations to take the dress in? Or is it better that I shop for the dress but not place an order until I've already lost some of the weight? (Not shopping this weekend isn't an option since plane tickets and other people are involved!)

Not sure how other ladies do this . . . trying to keep this from getting too expensive, but also don't want to not give myself enough time to place the order, either. What would you recommend? Thanks!

Julia Lichtman Kepniss:

Great Question. It's important to share this information with the store so they can best map out a plan with you. Different stores handle this question in different ways. It's true that it is not ideal to keep taking-in a gown. If you are planning to lose a lot of weight, it is best to try to push the measurements for the gown off a little bit. At Hitched, many of our designers allow us to place an order (getting the gown into their production schedule and ensuring that the gown is not discontinued), but allow us to hold off on submitting measurements or a size-selection until a later date. With a June 2011 wedding, you could order the gown soon, but hold off on measurements until the beginning of December.

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Bowie, Md.: I have a Prisicilla of Boston wedding gown from my 2006 wedding. Is there an easy way to sell this dress?

Carin Rosenberg Levine: Many people sell their gowns on craigslist, ebay, or preownedweddinggowns.com. Alternatively you could donate it to an organization (the ones outlined in one of the other answers above). Hope that helps.

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Washington, D.C.: When and how should you inform your salon helper(s) about your budget? I'm trying to stay under $1,000 if possible, but I'm not sure how to effectively convey that.

Julia Lichtman Kepniss: If you have a specific budget that you want to stay within, you should definitely communicate that to the consultant or store when you begin your appointment. It doesn't make any sense to look at gowns that are not within your budget, so let the consultant know so that she can steer you towards gowns that you will both look great in and fit within your budget. Also, stores have gowns that range between specific price points, so it is a good idea to ask the store what their range is before you visit, if you looking to stay in a specific range.

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Washington, D.C. : My bridesmaids are ALL shapes and sizes (literally from a size 2 to plus-size). I'm looking for a different dress that makes a statement, my Ulla Maija gown (from Hitched of course!) certainly does. Can you recommend any styles or silhouettes that are trendy and chic but will flatter a variety of body types?

Carin Rosenberg Levine: How fun to hear from a Hitched Bride! Hopefully you will have a chance to come check out Hitched Maids . . . lots of good options for all shapes and sizes. Many of our brides choose a designer, color and a fabric that they love and then let each bridesmaid choose a dress that suits their style, body, etc. Most of the bridesmaids companies we carry design with this in mind. If you want all the girls to wear one dress we are loving the Amsale crinkle chiffon one shoulder gown -- it seems to do well on both larger and slimmer girls.

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Champagne wedding dress: I bought a champagne-colored wedding dress. I love it (it's silk, bias-cut -- reminds me of the 1930s). I'd like to wear a veil (I'm thinking a bird cage veil), but I think white would be stark next to champage. What do you recommend for brides who have gowns that are not white or ivory?

Julia Lichtman Kepniss: Your dress sounds beautiful. As for veil colors, it's best to try to match a color or go a shade or two lighter with the veil. With most champagne gowns, we recommend an ivory veil (a champagne colored veil may look too heavy and may be hard to find). You are right, a white veil might be too stark of a contrast.

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Arlington, Va.: When I go for my dress shopping appointment what type of guidance should I be prepared to give my bridal consultant in order to make the most of my time and target the right dresses? Also, if I am purchasing my gown from a bridal salon about how much do I need to factor into my budget for alterations?

Julia Lichtman Kepniss: It's great to come to your appointment armed with ideas of what you like. Feel free to bring pictures or just describe the silhouettes, necklines and fabrics that you would like to try. Try also to be open-minded about trying on different styles and silhouettes. Sometimes you don't know what will look best or what you'll love until you try it on. In terms of alterations, we do a flat fee at Hitched, but some stores charge by the number of times you come for fittings, or by the item (ex: hem, bustle, side seams, etc.). Ask during your sales appointment, so you can best budget and know what to expect cost-wise.

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Cleveland Park: My wedding is June 2011 but I want to lose a bunch of weight before then (15 to 30 pounds). But, I've already found the dress I want. How long do I wait to order the dress/how much will it cost me in alterations? Thank you!

Carin Rosenberg Levine: Congrats on the upcoming wedding and on finding your gown. We have kind of already covered this topic but I say purchase the dress (you don't want it to be discontinued) and then work with the store to come up with a measurement and alterations schedule. At Hitched we do a flat fee for alterations but different stores handle these things differently.

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Preserving my veil: I used my mother's confirmation veil for my wedding veil. It's silk lace and over 60 years old. I currently have it stored in an acid-free box in a closet. Anything else I should do?

Carin Rosenberg Levine: I would contact Parkway Cleaners in Chevy Chase for a suggestion on how best to take care of the veil!

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Washington, DC: Newly engaged and I'm not spending a lot of money on a dress, most of the money will go towards our celebration party of a wedding. Anywho, I've seen some places online where you send them your measurements and they make the dress for you (beautiful dress) and send it to, but it's from China or someplace. What's up with that -- is that legit? The dress I saw looks beautiful and not sure if I can find that pattern and get someone local to make it? What's a bride on a budget to do?

Thanks so much!

Carin Rosenberg Levine: I don't know anything about these online companies...but I would be wary. And generally, we would recommend trying on gowns before you purchase one sight unseen. That said there are stores in town that sell gowns in all different price points so you should be able to find something you love in a price point that makes sense for you. Having a gown made just for you is an option - but can often be a costly venture.

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Alexandria, Va.: It seems to me that 90 percent of all bridal gowns today are strapless! I don't think these look good on heavy women, but that's their decision. My problem is the opposite: I'm a size 4-6 with boney shoulders I prefer not to have exposed. Plus, I just like form-fitting dresses w/sleeves. Surely I'm not the only one! Can you help? Thanks.

Julia Lichtman Kepniss: You are right - there are a lot of strapless dresses out there. But there are many amazing gowns with straps also. Since all of our gowns are custom ordered, many of our designers can build dresses up and be made with sleeves of varying lengths. There are several ways to cover your shoulders, with the gown or with a bolero or wrap.

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Washington, D.C.: I'm the Maid of Honor for a friend who needs a maternity wedding dress. She's getting hitched in later this fall and will be about five months pregnant at the time. Any suggestions on cuts (other than empire waist) that will be flattering? She doesn't want anything too "bridal." She's most concerned about trying to figure out what will fit that far out. Help!

Julia Lichtman Kepniss:

There are lots of great options for brides who are expecting. We have a few designers that can produce gowns on a very short time frame, allowing us to have a more accurate and comfortable fit. While empire gowns do work really well, for obvious reasons, there are other silhouettes that can work as well. We've done ball gowns and a-lines, in addition to empire waist gowns, for brides who are expecting.

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Washington, D.C.: Do you think that bridal fashions are seasonal? What would be the best time to shop for a gown for June 2011 wedding? When is the best time to shop for a deal for a gown to wear to a summer (casual elegance) wedding? Some of this is in response to a recent listing I saw for the Filene's Basement Running of the Brides at the end of the summer. Are there any similar events/large sample sales planned in the D.C.-area that you know of between now and next spring?

Julia Lichtman Kepniss: Bridal gowns are not really seasonal. At Hitched, we always carry a range of silhouettes and fabrications because at any given time someone could be getting married in the Bahamas or at Willard. Most of time, these brides are looking for very different things : ) Start shopping once you have selected a venue and then choose the gown when you are ready. As for deals, look for trunk shows, as stores often offer a 10% discount for purchasing during the show.

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Julia Lichtman Kepniss: Thank you for having us!! We had so much fun. Please feel free to direct any further questions to us at Hitched.

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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