As far back as he could recall, Brian Thompson had entertained grand plans for his sister’s wedding dress.
“I remember being five or six years old,” said Britney Short, Brian’s sister. “And (Brian) telling me I need to pick the venue, so he could design the dress.”
As soon as Drew Short proposed to Britney, the long-awaited prototypes for a gown were on Brian’s drawing board.
“The moment she got engaged, I started stitching,” Brian said.
Britney selected the silhouette – a 1930s-style mermaid dress. She also chose an ivory silk fabric for the skirt and elaborate lace trim to line the strapless top.
The production process commenced the day of Drew’s proposal. For the next two years, the dress was crafted to contour to the bride as effortlessly as Cinderella’s shoe.
“The person that’s wearing the dress is the only thing that matters to me,” Brian explained. “It could be the most beautiful garment in the world, but if it doesn’t fit right, I haven’t done my job.”
Brian’s eye for elegance has left brides beaming before. In the past two years, the 32-year-old has sewn two wedding gowns, one for a Peters Township High School cafeteria worker who married at age 67, and another for a friend who held to her promise from more than a decade ago to let Brian design her dress.
The 2000 Peters Township High School graduate began developing his design techniques in high school while receiving prom dress bids.
By prom night, Brian’s satisfied customers would say, “When I get married, you’re going to make my wedding dress.”
He recently completed the first of his requests and is now looking forward to another family affair.
Josh Echement proposed to Dana Thompson, Brian’s other sister, last December. The couple is still searching for a venue and scheduling a fall wedding date, but one detail Dana knows for certain is that her wedding dress will be Brian’s creation.
Dana’s dress will likely be lace-free.
“There’s a big difference between my sister and I,” Dana said, referring to her much simpler taste.
Despite Brian’s naturally full-blown approach, a versatile design career has prepared him for any style request. He pursued his place in the Pittsburgh fashion industry eight years ago.
“It’s nepotistic, but it isn’t,” Brian said, referring to the competitive dynamics of the style market.
Although Brian never studied fashion collegiately, he attributes his education to techniques he cultivated during six years at Kros Tyme Studio in Pittsburgh.
Brian has designed costumes for large-scale operations such as Pittsburgh CLO.
He also tried out for Lifetime’s “Project Runway” and recruited Britney to model in his upcoming audition for Pittsburgh Fashion Week in September.
Britney’s wedding dress was Brian’s earliest and most meaningful project.
“I always knew it was going to be the big one,” Brian said. “All of my life it was in the back of my head.”
Although the flowing frock fell perfectly, on Britney’s wedding day last month, stress did ensue.
Not only did Brian stich Britney’s gown for the ceremony, he also crafted her reception cocktail dress, and the mother of the bride’s blue, bejeweled maxi dress.
Beneath the surface, the wedding dress is composed of three separate gowns – all constructed by Brian.
The innermost dress is a simple slip-style undergarment. Layered over top was Britney’s reception dress, which fans at the bottom to establish the mermaid look of her wedding dress
The three-in-one dress design made for maneuverable access through her hectic day.
“Instead of changing the (wedding) whole dress, we just unzipped it,” Britney explained. “The saddest thing about it is that nobody could really see all the work he put into (the dress) to make it look so simple and effortless.”
To accentuate the natural flow of the fabric, Brian assembled an elaborate structure beneath the dress’s floor-length skirt.
“(Britney) could have worn the dress inside out,” Vicky Thompson, Brian’s mother, said.
If the gown’s framework were not complicated enough, the fabric Brian ordered from a New York provider initially was lost.
“Everybody at work would say, ‘How could you be so calm?’” Vicky said.
Britney defied the expectations of family and co-workers by remaining completely collected.
“I knew how quickly he could put together a dress, so I really wasn’t worried about him getting it done – but everybody else was,” Britney said. “I trust him.”
Brian was careful to sew each of the three dresses separately to save the sight of the completed ensemble for the wedding day.
He still had to sew for the mother of the bride.
“(My dress) was done the Friday before the rehearsal dinner,” Vicky said. “The wedding was Saturday.”
On May 5, the dresses were worn to the George Washington Hotel for a lovely navy and white-clad ceremony.
“He put more of himself into that dress than I think anything else he’s ever done – really,” Britney said.
Brian indulged in a well-deserved sigh of relief on the eve of the wedding.
“I was like, ‘OK, I get a chance to breathe,’” Brian said. “There’s so much stress that goes into it – because you only get one chance to get it right.”