Saturday, October 22, 2011

Dressing Two Grooms For A Same-Sex Wedding

Fashion, Life: 
(New York Times) -- On the evening of June 24, in Paris, men’s fashion writers sat down for the spring Givenchy show at the Pompidou Center. Chairs had been arranged in the street-level lobby, and by the time the show began — an arrow of scowling men in bird of paradise prints — an audience had formed outside the windows as well.

Splashed across the white T-shirts and suits, the jungle green spikes looked like torture instruments, though the sheer abundance of prints took some of the edge off. The editors seemed charged by what Riccardo Tisci had boiled down from a 10-cent surfer theme, and declared it one of the season’s best shows.

We mention all of this because that day a lot of us were following, on Twitter, the passage of the same-sex marriage bill in New York. Little else was discussed between the shows. The vote had huge meaning for the fashion community, both for individuals who wished to marry and the industry that stands to profit eventually from a change in attitudes.

For instance, since the bill passed, J. Crew has outfitted many lesbian couples at its Madison Avenue wedding shop, said Jenna Lyons, the company’s president and creative director. Based on feedback, she said, there was a need for simpler dresses, as a way for a woman to differentiate herself if her partner decides to go the princess bride route. Ms. Lyons is also thinking of offering a white pantsuit. “It’s not necessarily for a lesbian,” she said. No, but the company now has a greater incentive to add the style.

A gay aesthetic has long informed fashion, but it’s going to be interesting to see how quickly retailers respond to gay people as a segment of the wedding market. That will depend, of course, on how fast other states legalize same-sex marriage. Ms. Lyons said her boss, Millard Drexler, wanted to see same-sex couples in J. Crew’s catalog. “We talked about it as soon it happened,” she said of the vote. At that stage, she added, Mr. Drexler wasn’t thinking strategy. “It was a show of solidarity and support.”
That’s exactly how we felt in Paris. Boosted by Givenchy’s joyful attack of prints and the vote in New York, we put 1 and 1 together. Referring to the printed suits, Bruce said, “I immediately pictured them on a beach with two dudes.”

From the outset, we believed that same-sex couples had a unique set of considerations when choosing their wedding attire. “Do we coordinate? Do we mismatch? Do we not care about that all?” Bruce asked. As the comic Sandra Bernhard put it recently in a telephone conversation: “Let’s be honest, you can’t recreate what a typical wedding is with a gay couple. You are the same as that person.” Also, many people who in the 1970s and ’80s escaped their family dynamic have settled into lives. In terms of a wedding, Ms. Bernhard said, “They want something that is lasting, smart and represents continuity in their lives.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the three couples photographed for this article — all of whom are talking marriage within the next year or two — have fairly traditional views. Blake Glover, 30, a stylist, said that he and his partner, Austen Sydara, 23, a retail buyer, imagined a wedding with a “Brideshead Revisited” theme, because they loved the movie. “We’re going vintage traditional — we’re from the South,” said Mr. Glover, who was raised in Fort Mitchell, Ala.

Yet, like the other couples, the two men recognized the need for wedding attire that, as Mr. Glover, who favors bow ties and shorts, said, “takes you out of your everyday.”

David Straube, 46, director of investor relations at Accenture, a management and outsourcing company, has been with Jim Kloiber, 44, a public relations executive, for 16 years, and as Mr. Kloiber wryly noted, their styles have merged. “I think we have 12 blue-checked shirts between us,” he said. For their ideal wedding they want to look elegant but not identical. Mr. Straube described the effect: “It’s more than a business meeting, less than a formal event, and it’s a special moment. That’s the intersection you’re trying to define.”

[Images: Daniel King, NY Times; Article: Cathy HorynBruce Pask]

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