Every time the LGBT community celebrates the legalization of same-sex marriage (Illinois passed a bill last week; Hawaii votes on the issue in the Senate this Friday), the wedding business gets a fresh boost. It may not be the first thing people think about as cultural paradigms evolve, but as the face of nuptials in America changes so too does the wedding-apparel industry.
The womenswear industry, for example, is adapting nicely to suit the needs of its clientele: Brands like Fourteen by Coveney Smith and The Butch Clothing Company have already taken the lead in the lesbian community with their bridal tuxes. But the choices for grooms seem to be developing at a much slower pace.
Options are limited for men who don't have the budget for bespoke. While guys can always pick up two suits from their go-to shop and call it a day, there's something a little lackluster about collecting your wedding outfit from the same place where you buy your business attire.
So same-sex couples improvise. When Harry [last name omitted for privacy] and his partner tied the knot in 2002, there were no specialty shops catering to gay weddings. Opting to visit a brick-and-mortar formalwear store in Ridgewood, New Jersey, they made certain everyone knew what they were celebrating. "When we shopped for matching tuxedoes, tuxedo shirts, and bow ties," he explains, "we went out of our way to let the sales clerks know they were for our wedding."
Fashion designers are taking note of the gap in the market too. "I think it'll be really interesting to see stylistically how gay marriage defines itself," Zac Posen told Fashionista. "It's still an open book, it's an open chapter. As a community that has had to have their relationships alternative for so long, not being accepted by the mainstream, it's going to be really interesting to see now how people want to dress or represent themselves for their weddings."
With growing interest in the area and existing designers failing to take the reigns, there's a void for emerging designers to fill. Madeline Gruen, winner of the Pratt Fashion Entrepreneurship Award, dreams of one day opening a wedding salon catering to gay men.
And while it should be obvious that most couples want a special shopping experience for their once-in-a-lifetime day, the current selection tends to scream novelty, not nuptials. "Some venues have maintained their biases, but others make up for that by exceeding their hospitality," Harry says. When established businesses catch on and embrace advertising double-breasted suits for the grooms, we'll know the sartorial sea change has finally taken place. Meantime, we continue to ask: What's taking so long?
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