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Should You Try Renting Your Clothes?

posted: 04/07/16
by: Ashley Lauretta
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If you saw the "Sex and the City" movie, you'll remember the scene where Carrie's assistant Louise, played by Jennifer Hudson, admits that she rents her high-end purses. If you were like me, you immediately asked yourself why you never thought to do that.

Now, eight years later, you can rent a whole lot more than just a purse. Accessories, dresses, pants, dresses--you can easily rent an entire wardrobe--and there are even companies that allow you to rent for special occasions. Just as men can rent tuxedos and suits, now women can easily rent bridesmaid dresses and wedding dresses. Here's what's out there:

For those who love designs but can't necessarily afford them

Perhaps the biggest company in the clothing rental space is Rent the Runway. First offering just dresses, the company has expanded into bags, accessories and clothes made to be worn everyday--still all designer brands--and offers different membership tiers including Unlimited, where you pay a flat fee per month to rent as many outfits as you choose.

The actual process is simple; you look through the dresses on their website and search by size, color, size, date available--dresses can be rented for either 4 or 8 days at a time-- and more. Once you choose a dress--prices range as low as $25 and go up depending on the full retail price--you are able to select the dress in two sizes, so you have a backup size available should the size you order not fit. You can even include a second dress at a discounted price! Should a dress not fit, however, Rent the Runway will, if possible, usually try to overnight you a new style so you aren't left empty-handed. Once you have worn the dress, you simply put it in the return envelope and put the dress into a UPS mailbox by the date you selected the dress would be returned.

For brides and bridesmaids

A similar company, called Union Station, occupies the bridal market, allowing you to rent bridesmaid dresses. You simply choose a color and style--or you can allow bridesmaids to each choose their own style in your chosen color for an eclectic look--and much like Rent the Runway, they receive two sizes and can rent for as low as $50.

For consistent wardrobe updates

Looking for more regular wardrobe update? For $59 per month, Le Tote will send you three pieces of clothing and two accessories that you can rock for as long as you want before receiving a new set of clothes. Love something? You can buy it!

For those looking for a wider range of sizes

Gwynnie Bee specializes in clothing for women sizes 10 through 32. With several monthly plans, you can rent anywhere from one to 10 garments per month, from a variety of brands, and even set up time to chat with a personalized stylist. And, like Le Tote, you have the to option to buy anything you love.

For those interested in more than renting

Swapdom is a site dedicated to helping you swap out your clothing. It's free to use, and though it offers home goods, too, there are plenty of fashion steals. You simply connect with the user who is offering something you want and offer a proposal to ensure both parties get what they need. This is especially great if you've recently gone up or down a few sizes and need to rework your wardrobe.

So should you start renting?

Renting offers a lot of pros, including the ability to avoid shopping (doesn't everyone hate dressing rooms) and test out the latest trends. With detailed reviews from users, often including photos, and fit notes from the stylists at the company, most sites make it easy to choose the proper size. The main downside, though, is even with all this information, it's hard to gauge how the dress makes you feel, which is an important aspect to factor in when choosing a dress for a big event.

But should you rent for every occasion? With formal dresses often costing hundreds of dollars, this is an easy way to look fabulous for a fraction of the cost. Especially if you're making the rounds at weddings where most of the same friends will be in attendance, it's a great way to change up your look. That being said, it can add up. Think about it: If you spend $50 to rent a dress for every event you attend during the year, that can add up to the original price of a designer gown.

Our recommendation? Invest in a few classic pieces -- a LBD (and an LWD, for that matter), a floral sundress, and perhaps a solid color midi skirt -- that you can dress up or down with jewelry and accessories. Use rental companies for trendy cocktail dresses for big events. It's the best of both worlds!

The only time that you may not want to take a chance on is a wedding dress. Though reviews of many white dresses on Rent the Runway suggest that women have done just that and all turned out fine, it puts a lot of pressure on your big day.

The bottom line: You have nothing to lose, especially as most rental companies will refund you should the dress not fit and you not have time to receive a backup. Happy renting!