A bevy of bridesmaids in white suits. A bride and a groom, both in black tuxes. The groom’s sister in a blue suit to match the groomsmen. Over the last six years, SuitShop has seen it all.
The startup was founded by Jeanne Foley and Diana Ganz in 2016 as a menswear brand called The Groomsman Suit. But since launch, they have seen demand for women’s suits soar. They spent two years prototyping wedding tuxes and suits for women, and last year, took the risk of changing the brand’s name to SuitShop to be more gender-inclusive. The bet paid off, with revenues growing almost sevenfold over the past two years to $20 million. It’s a sign of how cultural norms are changing and fashion is evolving, even in the most traditional of settings.
Foley and Ganz, best friends since fourth grade, came up with the idea for The Groomsman Suit when Foley was preparing for her wedding in 2013. Getting tuxes for the groomsmen was an unpleasant process: Rentals cost upwards of $150 a person, and the suits rarely fit well. Foley, who previously worked as a designer for Under Armor, and Ganz, who worked in an e-commerce startup, felt they had the skills to come up with a better way to suit men up for weddings.
Three years later, The Groomsman Suit was born. With an online, direct-to-consumer model and a streamlined supply chain, the brand was able to sell tuxes and suits for under $200. Rather than using more expensive fabrics like wool or linen, the brand makes it suits out of polyester and other synthetics—the same materials used by brands like Bonobos and Banana Republic. It also keeps a lot of inventory on hand to outfit an entire wedding party quickly and accommodate last minute changes before the big day. “Our value proposition was that for not much more money, someone could own a well-fitting suit,” says Foley.
What they didn’t expect, however, was that women began emailing the brand or reaching out on Instagram asking for suits that would fit them as well. Initially, requests tended to come from the LGBTQ community or non-binary people. Sometimes it was a bride looking for a tux, or an entire bridal party looking for suits. Since the brand didn’t make women’s suits, the team would dress these customers in their men’s suits, tailoring them for a better fit. “They felt uncomfortable going a retail store specializing in menswear,” says Ganz. “Many said they were frustrated by the fact that the industry assumed that everyone on the bride’s side wanted to wear a dress.”
But then, straight women began asking for suits, too. Women in a groom’s party, who sometimes go by ‘groomswomen,’ wanted to wear a suit alongside the other groomsmen. Brides wanted to wear a tux for the rehearsal dinner or the reception—and very occasionally, even for the ceremony, alongside the groom.
This trend marks a departure from mainstream wedding fashion for nearly two centuries. Scholars believe that the white wedding dress first came into fashion in 1840, when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in a white silk and lace dress in a widely publicized wedding. Almost immediately, brides began wearing white dresses, and this is still the norm. In some ways, it’s odd that women’s wedding fashion hasn’t changed more, given how dramatically womenswear has evolved over the past century, including the normalization of women wearing pants. Ganz says that the wedding industry tends to be very slow to change. “Weddings are highly traditional, so they are the last place you see a fashion trend hit,” she says.
But over the past five years, the woman’s pantsuit has become increasingly popular. The suit has historically been a symbol of masculinity, evolving from military garb of the 17th century, eventually becoming the businessman’s uniform for the next three centuries. Women’s pantsuits had a moment in the 1920s and the 1980s, when women were fighting for equality in suffrage and the workplace respectively, and used this garment to project strength. More recently, in an interesting twist, men have been opting out of suits, preferring to wear more casual clothes to work, and while women’s suiting has come back into vogue, partly thanks to political figures like Hilary Clinton and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. And to cater to this new demand for women’s suiting, startups like Argent, M.M. Lafleur, and Dai have emerged, specializing in pantsuits tailored to women.
Now, Foley and Ganz believe women’s suits have broken into the world of weddings. In 2017, the founders set up a sample room to began prototyping suits and tuxes for women, and invited female and non-binary customers to come in to be fitted for suits. Men’s suits are typically too broad in the shoulders and too wide in the arms for women, so they made these proportions smaller on women’s suits. And in general, they found that female customers prefer tighter fitting pants that look more like leggings. But despite these changes, women wanted the suits to look visually similar to the men’s version, so the entire bridal party would look cohesive. With this in mind, the brand’s designers ensured they used the same colors and materials in the women’s collection. In 2019, they began selling the pantsuits on their website and demand for them kept growing.
It quickly became clear that the brand’s name–The Groomsman Suit–didn’t align with their product offering. Changing the name was a risky proposition for a young startup, since it could potentially confuse customers. But they also believed that women’s suiting at weddings was not a passing trend, so last March, they rebranded to become SuitShop. As feared, sales initially went down. The founders think that this is largely because the brand no longer came up as prominently in searches that included the word “groomsman.” But within months, sales began to grow explosively. This was partly because weddings made a comeback after the early months of the pandemic, but it was also because women began to discover the website in their search for wedding suits. Between 2020 and 2022, revenues jumped from $3 million to $20 million.
To keep up with demand, SuitShop has expanded its manufacturing capabilities, partnering with factories in China, Vietnam, and Italy. When there are supply chain disruptions in one country, the brand is able to quickly shift orders in another factory to meet customers needs. They also have tens of thousands of suits in their New Jersey warehouse ready to ship, so outfits can get to wedding parties quickly.
And now, the founders are prototyping new suit designs as consumers demand more options. For instance, they’re finding that many women want suits that are boxier, like men’s suits. Meanwhile, some men are asking for more fitted styles. The brand is now working to perfect the fit on these new silhouettes. “A lot of customers are asking for a more androgynous look,” says Foley. “That’s the beauty of the moment we’re in. Weddings are such special events and people want to express their identities in all their fluidity.”