This past weekend I wore a $500 Tibi dress that only cost me $40. I kinda wish I had a crazy story in which I knocked out an innocent bystander who got in my way at a sample sale, but in truth it was really easy and non-violent. I rented it!
Rent The Runway is a dress and accessory rental website based in New York, the same concept as Bag Borrow or Steal. The selection does not disappoint and has grown immensely since the website launched two years ago. Big labels like DVF, Vera Wang, Catherine Malandrino, Missoni and Moschino are mixed with fun, young labels like Rachel Roy, Doo.ri, Alice + Olivia, Tibi, Milly, See by Choé and Christian Siriano.
The price for rent is about 10% of the retail value of the dress, with the majority priced $50-$150.
Almost a year ago, I bought one of those Groupon-like deals for RTR: $40 for $100 worth of rentals. I had a holiday party coming up with my college girlfriends and decided to scour the website to find something. Normally I might save renting for a bigger occasion like a wedding, but I took my sweet time cashing in and my deal was about to expire.
I’m really into lace right now and wanted something with sleeves, so after debating a few styles I went with this navy Tibi dress:
Isn’t she lovely? When my box arrived two days before my party, I found this inside:
My dress came inside a garment bag (That you get to keep! This was news to me and a little more exciting to me than it probably should have been) as well as a pre-paid return envelope, fashion tape (not needed, but appreciated) and a note with the date I needed to return my dress.
The rental period is 4 days (or you can pay more for 8 days) and its recommend you have your dress delivered a day or two prior to your event. To return, all you do is put the dress in the padded envelope and stick in in a regular ‘ole blue USPS mailbox. So simple! If I had to take the package to a physical post office or UPS location, this would have been a total pain and a deal-breaker.
When I opened up my garment bag, I was very happy with the quality of the dress. It looked brand new with no sign of being worn before. The dress had obviously been dry cleaned because it smelled nice. Yeah, I smelled my dress.
Ordering was easy, but renting for the first time can be a little scary. Here are a few tips:
1. Read the “size and fit” details (very helpful) and the reviews written by other renters (extremely helpful). They send you two sizes and this will help you determine if you should size up or down. Usually up, since many designer labels run small.
2. Google your dress. You might find more pictures and more reviews that could be helpful and give more insight into the fit of the dress. I wish RTR would invest in video the way ASOS does, which would really be above and beyond.
3. Don’t make this stressful; have a backup. If you want, you can add a second dress to your order for just $25. The bigger tip here is that this would be a great deal for a week when you have back-to-back events or are renting with a friend.
5. Place your order as far in advance as you can for the best selection, but know you have the option for last-minute rentals. I placed mine the week before my party and the smaller of the two sizes I wanted was out of stock. This was disappointing but landed up not being a big deal to me. If the dress landed up not working for any reason, I could return it and receive my money back.
Renting dresses, when men have been renting tuxes for, I don’t know, always, is one of those “why didn’t I think of that?” ideas. Here’s the back story: RTR was founded by two women who met in Harvard business school. They went from not knowing a soul in the fashion industry to creating relationships with big-name designers and have secured millions (and millions) from investors. Keeping their stock fresh and on-trend has to be their biggest challenge–but from what I’ve read, the company started turning a profit a year after launching. If the growth of their website is any indication of how well they’re doing, I would say very.
I loved this dress and was a little sad to return it, but it’s all about progression. I’m on to the next one, on to the next. Would you rent, or have you rented before?