Dress for Less: Where to Rent Party Clothes
Ugly sweater parties aside, the holidays are filled with dinners and soirees that demand formal attire. What with wish lists in one hand and travel bills in the other, there's precious little left in the budget for guys and gals who want to show off new duds. The solution may lie in a rental. Renting designer clothing for a special evening is an easy way to save a buck and/or dress like a million. We identified several businesses that cater to such aspirations.
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There are pros and cons to renting eveningwear. On the plus side, past users say they've enjoyed the experience of wearing something they'd never be able to afford, the knowledge that they're being a little "green" by reusing clothing, and the absence of closet clutter created by items worn just once or twice. Moreover, dresses arrive cleaned and pressed, and renters in a hurry can usually choose one- or two-day shipping. Dianna Baros of The Budget Babe also notes in a post that appears on the Oprah site that renting coddles to fashionistas' fickle tendencies. But she cautions about the downsides. Getting starry-eyed over high-end labels can lead to spending more than seems reasonable, she points out, and the available frocks may not be sufficiently on trend. Moreover, sizing varies by designer, making the number on the label somewhat unreliable.
The online rental options for high-end party clothes are geared more towards women than men. Rent the Runway is one of the better-known clothing and accessory rental services. It offers dresses in a variety of colors, styles, and sizes for $30 to $450 for a four-day period, or eight days for 1.6 times the starting rate. The high end may seem like a lot for a short-term rental, but the gowns going at that rate typically retail for $3,500 to $6,000. There are scores of dresses and gowns to sort through, and if that seems unmanageable, clients can take pictures of clothing (or even just a color swatch) they like using the Rent the Runway app and the service will find similar garments to rent. As for sizing, Rent the Runway provides a little wiggle room by offering a back-up size free of charge and store credit (minus the cost of shipping) for dresses that do not fit. It also rents jewelry ($5 to $225) and handbags ($10 to $400) to complement the evening's outfit. Rent the Runway's newest offering is a subscription service that allows members ($49/month) to borrow up to three pieces of jewelry, outerwear, handbags, or seasonal items at a time.
Lending Luxury follows a similar business model but generally charges lower rental fees. Garments can be sorted by size, length, price, occasion, color, or designer and are priced from $50 to $195 for five-day rentals, although there are also options for 10- and 15-day rentals. Lending Luxury carries tops and bottoms and sells all of its inventory as well as new versions of items if shoppers wish to buy rather than rent. This garment rental service charges renters for return shipping and doesn't include a second differently-sized item when you rent. It will ship a second item of equal or lesser value if your rental doesn't fit, but you are responsible for shipping fees.
A new site called Vow to be Chic has also surfaced, trying to tackle the problem commonly known as "the bridesmaid's dress." A variety of styles and colors are offered, all priced at $95, $110, or $125. After submitting your measurements and picking a dress, the site sends two sizes to try on. You return the one that doesn't fit right away and the one that does after the wedding using prepaid shipping labels.
Frugal fashionistas looking for designer bags to match the borrowed dress can turn to Bag Borrow or Steal, of Sex and the City fame. The bags are rented by the month, with fees ranging from $50 to $600 per month and most falling in the $100 to $199 bucket. Bag Borrow or Steal also cleans and repairs handbags, sells used merchandise and new jewelry, and buys handbags.
Men seeking online rental options for the big night out can turn to The Black Tux, which rents tuxedos, suits, vests, and even shirts, ties, cufflinks, shoes, and more. They can also visit one of the many brick-and-mortar retailers, such as Men's Wearhouse, that rent suits and tuxedos. And of course, men can check out their own closets. Except for the most fashion-forward, they rarely object to donning a suit that's been hanging around for years.