Wedding Gown Chat with Carine Halabi, Thursday, January 22 at 11 AM

Got dress questions? This gown guru has answers.

Carine Halabi began her career in fashion more than ten years ago when she moved to New York City to join the design team at Aeffe, the parent company of Moschino, John Paul Gaultier, and Alberta Ferretti. She later returned home to Washington, where she specialized in bridal fashion at Vera Wang, Priscilla of Boston, and Saks Fifth Avenue in Tysons Galleria. While at the salons, she continued to work with New York designers twice a year for bridal-fashion week.

Halabi developed a knack for hand-picking dresses off the New York runway that would be instant bestsellers in the Washington bridal market and decided it was time to open a store of her own. In November 2006, Carine’s Bridal Atelier (1726 Wisconsin Ave., NW; 202-965-4696) opened its doors in Georgetown, offering wedding-gown expertise and tailored bridal fashion for every body type, personality, and style. The shop’s long list of designers includes Angel Sanchez, Carolina Herrera, Christian Lacroix, Karl Lagerfeld, Melissa Sweet, and Monique Lhuillier.

Carine’s Bridal Atelier is the fashion sponsor of Sunday’s Washingtonian Bride & Groom: Unveiled wedding showcase, where Halabi will present mother-of-the-bride evening wear and bridal gowns by Monique Lhuillier. Want to see her hand-picked gowns but don’t have a ticket yet? Buy yours today, and don’t miss Sunday’s event with Halabi, Mindy Weiss, cuisine from Blue Duck Tavern’s chef Brian McBride, and luxury door prizes including an overnight stay in the Park Hyatt’s Park Suite and a $150 gift certificate for Blue Duck Tavern.

When it comes to getting Halabi’s expertise this week, we at The Washingtonian are twice as lucky! Not only will she be at Sunday’s spectacular show, but we’ll also have one-on-one time with her during a live Bridal Party chat on Thursday. In addition to her background in gown design, she’s a wedding expert from personal experience—she got married in September, so she knows every step of the planning process. Want the inside scoop on fashions for Sunday’s bridal event? Need tips for finding the perfect gown for your body type? Submit questions now and Halabi will answer them from 11 to noon on Thursday.

Bethesda, MD
I'm getting married this fall and would love to wear my mother's wedding dress. She was married in the late 60's and her gown certainly looks the style, with a very high neck and elbow length sleeves. Can old dresses be updated to look more current? How do I find a good seamstress who I can trust with such an important family dress? Thanks, Jessica
Congratulations on your upcoming wedding.  You can definitely wear your mothers gown.  Depending on what type of fabric the gown is and how damaged it has become throughout the years, it definitely can be redesigned to work with the new styles.  The best thing to do it to take your gown have a consultation with a seamstress. At my store we love to do redesigning and have done many of them.  We strive on our alterations and would be happy to take a look at your gown to see what can and can not be done.  Hope this helps…. 
alexandria, va
I am a little nervous.. thinking that I would lose weight, I bought my dress too small. It's a Melissa Sweet Dora, and I got it two sizes too small.. was this really stupid? I have 5.5 more months until my wedding date and I am eating right, but I'm also wondering if it's even possible to lose 6 inches from my hips, which is what I'll have to do. What would you suggest if, God forbid, I don't fit into my dress???

Have you tried to call the store that you bought the gown from to see is Melissa Sweet has even cut your gown yet?  If not, you might be able to change the size…I would try that immediately.  But trying to lose weight or tone for your wedding is what almost every bride tries to do, so you are not stupid, you just had high goals.  You do have 5.5 months to go and as you workout everyday and stick to your plan, you will see your body start to tone. 

The gown "Dora" is a modified a-line, so it does fit at the hips.  If the salon cannot change the size for you and you do not reach your goal, if you have a lot of extra hem that needs to be cut…then maybe the seamstress can cut a seam underneath the sash and move the bottom of the gown up to the new seamline.  That might work but it might make the price of your alterations a little bit higher.   

Olney, MD
Where can I find a mother of the bride gown? I need a plus size and, as I have flabby upper arms, I would like to have some sort of sleeve. It will be a summer wedding, so it needs to be lightweight as well.
The places I always suggest for mother of the bride gowns at boutiques are Saks Jandel and Harriett Kassman.  If you wanted to look at the department stores, I would call ahead and make an appointment with a personal shopper at that location.  It doesn't cost anything and they will listen to what you are looking and pull all the styles for you after listening to your description.  Those stores are Saks Fifth, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales in Chevy Chase and Nordstorm has a great selection…Good Luck…hope this helps.
Washington, DC
I know your showing some new Monique Lhuillier gowns on Sunday – so exciting! What new trends are in this year that have surprised you or that you've fallen in love with?
The new styles that have surprised me for fall 09 are the beautiful big pearls and stones that are cascading down many designers dresses.  Another old look that looks like it might be making a comeback is tulle…you can see that in a layered look, a wave cut or just an overskirt.  One of my favorite styles that I was so happy to see was how many short dresses we saw on the runway for fall 09.  I think every designer had one or two in every line.  
Washington, DC
I have a big chest but I'd really like to wear a strapless gown. Is it workable and how?
Having a full bust should not stop you from wearing a strapless gown.  If your bust size is above a size "D" cup, you most likely have to have a custom cup done to your gown.  That means that the salon will be measuring above, mid and below your bust and then the designers might ask for a muslin bodice to be made for you or just cut from the measurements that were given to them. You should check to see if the designer of the gown that you fall in love with does custom measurements, you might find a price increase by having to do this change. And after you receive the gown in from the designer, it is all about the alterations, some extra boning and waistbands inside the gown will also help….But never feel that strapless is not an option for you.    
Washington, DC
Are more wedding dresses typically bright white or off-white? Is there an advantage or disadvantage to either? Thanks!
Actually you will see more brides wearing ivory, instead of white tones. Yet when you are starting your wedding gown search, don't focus on the color, focus on the gown and when you have found it, then start to look into the different color options it comes in. Every designer has their own selection of whites, off-whites and ivory…so don't think that every one color will look the same. Its so much easier if you take the gown search one section at a time…
Washington, DC
It seems like for so long the trend in wedding gowns has been strapless. That's not my style – but does that mean finding a gown with straps is going to be hard?
I guess strapless is going to be a "classic" look for bridal.  I have a lot of brides that are looking for different strap options and the designers had heard all the requests, so you will be seeing some gowns with straps and with asymmetrical straps from the fall 09 collections.  We always tell our brides not to ignore all the strapless gowns either, because there are a lot of options to remake the neckline with straps or cap sleeves or what ever your dream gown might be. Definitely always ask the salon that you visit if they are able to do custom changes on a strapless gown.   
Washington DC
Carine, What type of dress to you suggest for someone who is petite?

Petite brides have a very wide selection to select from.  But some of the tricks to follow to give you length are:  

-look for an empire or natural waistline before you look for a dropped waist or any seam that is below that line.

-if you do find a gown that has a lot of design elements at the bottom, ignore it and just move on, because with you have added those design touches to the hem of the gown, such as heavy lace or a one to two inch satin border, have basically framed your height.

-if you find a gown that has fabric that is continuous from the top of the gown to the bottom, such as all lace or beadwork, that would look great on you as well.

Hope this helps and don't forget these are just options, if you see a gown that you have to try on that doesn't fall into the above guidelines, try it on…you will never know unless you try it…good luck.

Washington DC
I am having a summer wedding at night, and I don't want to wear a white or cream colored dress. What are some alternative dress colors that you can suggest for a night summer wedding.
There are so many color options nowadays for wedding gowns.  You can look into a soft platinum, champagne, beige color gown for a summer wedding. Yet it does depend on your skin tone which color will look best on it, for example if you are tanner in the summer, a soft champagne will work well, or if your skin color has a olive tone to it, softer and bright colors will look best. I would find the gown first and then ask to see all the swatch color options are available with that gown.
Bethesda, MD
What did your wedding gown look like? And how did you know it was the one for you?

I wore Monique Lhuillier for my wedding gown…I was looking for texture and depth in my gown and I knew I wanted the antique look and color.  Knowing that, my gown was made with four layers of lace and re-embroidered lace, so I layers the colors from the inside out to create the antique look that I was looking for, starting with white to off-white to ivory on the top layers.  As for the cut of my gown, I knew that I was going to try to tone up for my wedding so I selected a trumpet cut…but my mom had always dreamed of seeing me in a ballgown, so for my mom, I wore a custom styled ballgown skirt over my main gown for the ceremony with a large belt to hide the waistband and for the reception I took the skirt off and wore the slimmer gown with a smaller belt….Accessories are always a great new add on to any gown, just by throwing on a belt or a bolero or beautiful chandelier earrings, during or the beginning of your reception can add a new element to your gown….

How did I know my gown was the one…I have been working in the bridal industry many, many years before I got married in September 08 and I had seen so many brides get "that feeling"…I never knew if it was true if you get the butterfly feels or that teary eye feeling but I have to say it is there…it does happen and you will know when you put it on.  Basically don't let anyone pressure you into thinking it is your gown, if you don't know just yet, leave the store go home and think about it.  Mostly brides visit between 4 to 5 shops before they find "the" gown.  Having seen so many gowns you will be exhausted and overwhelmed, so go home and think about everything you have seen and if there are a few gowns that are always on your mind visit them again on the same day and then you will know which one it is…Its out there and you will find it.

This is all the time I have to answer questions…if i have missed yours please feel free to email me at and I will definitely try my best to help you out.  It has been a pleasure and congratulations on your upcoming wedding…