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.