A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to escape the snow in NYC to attend a good friend’s wedding in Miami. However, when it came to finding a dress for this black tie affair, I found myself in the same bind, real or imagined, that many women find themselves in with a wedding fast approaching: I had absolutely nothing to wear!
I knew I could not bring myself to fork over $200+ for a new dress, especially since I knew the Facebook Factor (not wanting to be photographed in the same dress twice) — prevents me from wearing the same dress more than once a year, which of course, isn’t cool for my wallet or the planet.
It occurred to me how unfair it is that men can easily rent not buy formal wear, but women must buy expensive dresses, that they will likely wear once or twice. Indeed there’s thousands of dollars worth of once-worn prom couture still gathering dust in my parents’ house from my two sisters and me, not to mention a four-figure wedding dress from my recent wedding. All of this thinking inspired me to a quick search for ‘Dress Rentals NYC’ and brought me to the solution: www.renttherunway.com.
Rent Not Buy A Dress: My Rent the Runway Experience
Maybe you’ve already heard of this fast-growing startup that refers to itself as the ‘Netflix of dresses
’. But, if you’ve never used Rent the Runway, founded in 2008 by two classmates at Harvard Business School, I am here to tell you firsthand: they are awesome.
The Rent the Runway website is as easy to navigate as Amazon or Zappos, and nearly every dress is helpfully accompanied by dozens, sometimes hundreds of uber-specific reviews and photos from other women who’ve rented the exact same item. Plus, since Rent The Runway is based in NYC, I was able to go to their Varick Street showroom and check out some dresses in person before placing my order. This really helped ease my anxiety about the dress not fitting properly or not looking as good in person as it did in the photos.
The other thing I love about Rent The Runway is their vast selection of dresses. They have thousands of dresses — and lots of jewelry and shoes, too — all made by designers you’ve actually heard of. After shortlisting several great options, I selected the Badgley Mishka dress pictured here. According to Rent the Runway this gown retails for $850, but I rented it for the long weekend for just $80 (Given that it was my first rental, I received a $25 coupon off what would have been about $15 more for shipping and insurance.)
Although I’ve since seen a few negative reviews on Yelp and other sites about Rent The Runway’s customer service, my experience with them was absolutely perfect. The dress arrived at my apartment via courier more than on time — it was actually a day early! And, when I had some doubts about the fit of the dress, a quick call to Rent The Runway’s customer service line got me two backup dresses delivered free of charge that same day! Talk about above and beyond!
For all of you non-NYC readers out there, never fear! Rent The Runway is just as convenient for women in other places. The only difference is you receive your dress via overnight FedEx delivery, not courier. You also might not be able to get a ‘back-up’ dress the same day you request it like I did, and the Rent The Runway customer service team is still available to help via phone, email or instant message no matter where you live!
I brought all three dresses to Miami, but eventually decided to go with the original pink (pictured here – What do you think, girls?) I could not have been happier with my choice. I got compliments all night, and you don’t have to be that into labels to know that a Badgley Mischka dress looks way nicer than any brand new dress I could have bought for the same money. Honestly, my only regret about the entire experience was not using Rent The Runway for my jewelry and shoes as well.
The morning after the wedding, I slipped all three dresses into the prepaid FedEx envelope provided with my rental, and dropped it off with the hotel concierge at check-out. Mission accomplished for under $100.
Curing My ‘Nothing-to-Wear’ Syndrome Once and for All By Renting Not Buying Dresses in the Future
I’ve shopped at thrift stores, consignment shops and vintage boutiques for years as a way to save money and reduce my environmental footprint, but it always was more trouble than it was worth to find just the right thing, and I even would feel guilty in thrift stores thinking that I’d be taking a dress that someone else more needy than me could use.
My awesome experience with Rent The Runway opened my eyes to the other exciting shopping possibilities the internet has opened up for saving money and saving space in one’s closet, not to mention cutting down on waste and the impact on the environment, by sharing, borrowing and swapping clothes.
Here are a few of the online services I’m planning to try next to keep my ‘nothing-to-wear’ syndrome at bay when it comes to my everyday and fancy occasion wardrobe.
- 99dresses.com – a mobile app that allows users to easily sell, buy and trade clothes, makeup and accessories they no longer want to keep.
- Poshmark.com – an upscale version of 99dresses.com that’s a great place to sell that 5-year old Louis Vuitton bag you never use anymore — or trade it in for newer model.
- ClosetDashShop.com – an NYC-based boutique and website that enables women to swap designer outfits online or off. Full disclosure: Closet Dash is a close friend of WeHateToWaste.com but even if they weren’t I would still think they are awesome!
I wished I had known about the potential to rent not buy dresses before my wedding a few months ago. It sure would have made the planning and budgeting for my dress and my bridesmaids’ dresses all that much simpler and cheaper. As a result of this experience, I now will consider donating and/or selling and swapping my dress and all the others in my childhood home.
How about you? Have you discovered fashion rental and sharing services that can help keep your own wardrobe up-to-date? What companies or websites do you use, and what was your experience? What do you think? Be honest. Is fashion in itself unsustainable and we gals shouldn’t be so concerned about wearing the same thing twice? Who knows — maybe we should all wear female versions of tuxes ourselves. Weigh in.
As a college student on a budget, I would definitely take advantage of a program that allows me to wear expensive, high quality clothes without draining my bank account. I often times find it difficult justifying making expensive purchases for items like formal wear that I know I will only wear once (if the unworn prom dress in my closet is any indication). I think its great that programs like this prove that the green and waste reducing programs can also be the most cost efficient. It would be interesting to see how this program would work with other items, like shoes or accessories (if they don’t already exist). I know it would be something I would consider using.
I love that wehatetowaste has covered the benefits of a novel alternative to purchasing new clothing. Whether shopping or selling my clothes at thrift stores, coordinating clothing swaps with friends, or mending (before tossing) clothing at home, I was thrilled when renttherunway.com launched. It is a brilliant way to please the sustainable fashionista inside me! Having been to over a dozen weddings in the past 2 years (with an additional handful on the horizon for this summer and fall), I agree with the writer’s comments regarding how wasted a 1 dress purchase can feel. No one wants to have pictures with multiple bride and grooms wearing the same dress (or accessories)! I haven’t tried their jewelry rental service but am tempted to check them out for the next wedding I attend.
As a recent graduate, I am very familiar with Rent the Runway because they have a big presence on many college campuses. I love the concept of the service, and do know some women that used it over the years. I am, however, skeptical as to whether it will become the norm, particularly among college-aged women, simply because of the cost and the skepticism associated with ordering a dress that you do not see in person beforehand. I know in my sorority girls would much rather share dresses with each other for an event before spending hundreds of dollars for a dress they would have to return after a few days. I love the idea of the company and if I find myself with the financial ability to spend a fair amount to rent a dress I will, but will definitely look to re-wear an old dress or borrow one from a friend before I look into Rent the Runway.
I attended the Fashion Institute of Technology where the dorms were like huge revolving doors full of clothing. Essentially, I multiplied my wardrobe by 20 at no cost! But post-grad I only have one roommate who isn’t the same size as me and my friends have scattered throughout the country, so Rent the Runway is the next best thing! I’ve never received a dress that didn’t look exactly like the photograph. Plus, a lot of women don’t realize they’ll send two sizes if you don’t have the opportunity to try it on first!
I have one dress for warm weather weddings, and one for cold weather occasions. They were purchased to be classic, not current, and will be used over and over and over again. It really doesn’t matter about the FB photos!
I rented my dress for prom in high school, and I would absolutely do it again! There have been so many times when I buy articles of clothing for specific events that I swear I’m going to wear again, and then never do. I also know people who have begun to rent out their own clothing for people who finally come to this realization. Great idea!
Thanks for pointing out a great resource! If I would have known about Rent the Runway back in high school, I would have used it in a heartbeat! While my four years’ worth of Homecoming and Winterfest dresses might make great souvenirs and memories for my mom, they aren’t really serving any other purpose now and are taking up a lot of closet space. Maybe I can convince her to donate them or something…
Now that I’m living here in NYC, I will definitely keep Rent the Runway in mind. It’s starting to become the engagement/wedding years for a lot of my friends back home, but on my current budget — and with travel expenses to consider — I can’t go around spending a lot on brand new dresses for every single event. This will help ease my mind — and my wallet – a bit.
I recently graduated from the University of St Andrews located in the United Kingdom and had heard about Rent the Runway from all of my friends back home. I looked into the idea of using the service for an event at my school but discovered that Rent the Runway does not ship to the UK. I was disappointed that I was unable to utilize the sustainable, affordable and fashionable service but found a similar company called Girl Meets Dress. I find it inspiring that it has become an international phenomenon that is not focused solely on fashion but how it provides environmental value and benefits as well.
This is such a great idea! I am getting to the age where it feels like everyone I have ever known is getting married and unfortunately I have a little bit of this Facebook Factor. I try not to go crazy with buying clothes because it is so wasteful, by wearing different jewelry or shoes. This is such a great alternative. I definitely be checking this place out for dresses this summer!
The female version of a tux sounds pretty appealing to me though. The same black tux just a different tie for each event, pants and flats? I’ll take it!
This is so awesome. All I could think about the whole time was my high school experience with homecoming and prom dresses. It was always so difficult for me to get new dresses. As a teen it was so important (so I thought), but for my family the money just wasn’t there. Eventually the girls all started trading dresses, which was a good idea, but something like this is also awesome! I haven’t been to many dresses yet, but the time is coming, and I’ll definitely look into these websites. Thanks!
Like Adrian, I have had great experiences with Rent the Runway. The site saved my parents from purchasing nearly a dozen dresses between me and my sisters. Though, I do question just how environmentally sound this service is. After all, the dresses had to be shipped to me and then back to the store again, Then both the backup dress size and used dress had to be dry-cleaned for the next wearer.
It’s pretty neat to consider the number of products that have become part of the sharing economy. Formal wear has transformed from trading dresses among other girls in your dorm to sharing a designer closet with anyone with computer access. Along with businesses like CitiBike, ZipCar and AirBnB, these sharing companies have established the new frontier of these pay-as-you-use lending systems.
Love the concept but in my experience Rent the Runway can be expensive for college students on a budget. Anyone know of a similar, but cheaper, website in the states?
We provide you dress on rent for every occasion and festival. Our dress are according to new trend and on demand of market. We further provide service again continuously till you need.