I first started using Rent the Runway (RTR)
for formal events like galas when my pictures started making their way out to the internet via local magazines, Culture Map, etc. since I didn’t want to be caught wearing the same thing over and over again. Now days, we all have our pictures out there through social media and who wants to be seen in the same dress year after year. I didn’t want to resort to buying cheap throw away dresses and I didn’t want to spend a fortune on an expensive dress that I was only going to wear once or twice either. I also found that with some themed galas (like the Deacons of Deadwood galas I frequently attend with the “biker chic” dress code), I’m unlikely to wear the dress again anyway.
RTR probably comes to mind when you think of young ladies in high school and college who often attend formals, but I’ve found that more and more older women are taking advantage of some of the lovely options there. At this point, I doubt I’ll be going in another direction anytime soon for a black tie event.
Less Formal Events
Somewhere over the course of the last couple of years, I noticed that RTR also has less formal dresses more appropriate for cocktail attire or even business events. At that point I started using the service for things like weddings and other semi-formal events. When I realized last spring that I had several of those events in a row (formal wedding, conference cocktail party, son’s graduation and pre-dinner party, boyfriend’s niece’s graduation, Mother’s Day, etc.), I stumbled upon RTR Unlimited.
RTR Unlimited allows you to rent and keep up to 4 items at any given time as long as you pay a monthly fee. For the first month it only costs $99 which was less than I was going to pay for only one of the four day rentals I was looking at for an upcoming event. It made perfect sense to try it out at that point and I ended up wearing two of the formal dresses that I rented for events that Spring and swapping out the other two for different items – for no additional cost. Pretty good deal!
As in the example above (late Spring), there are some parts of the year where you tend to need more formal attire such as graduation season, winter holiday party season, high holidays, etc. RTR Unlimited makes a lot of sense for those seasons especially because you will get a much better deal renting 4 items that can be quickly swapped out for others than renting individually. And again, you don’t appear in the family albums or online in the same outfit over and over again.
Dresses in General
As I started using RTR for less formal events where I normally wore my own dresses, I realized that I never do get that much wear out of those types of dresses. These are usually the special dresses with memorable patterns (think floral or in the past geometric) and once I’ve worn them, I don’t feel like I can wear them again anytime soon. And then stylist and image consultant Natalie Weakly (see Wardrobe Planning Volume 1 – Week 16) commented to me that one of my dresses which was only about 4 years old is dated. I doubt I’ve worn that dress 10 times.
When you consider that RTR Unlimited picks up the tab for dry cleaning, it starts to make a lot more sense to just rent work and special event dresses than to buy. Seems like a great way to get to wear quality designer outfits that are on trend and you don’t have to worry about them going out of style before you can get your money’s worth out of them.
That said, I’ll always have staples like a warm and cold weather version of the little black dress. I don’t mind investing in those because if you pick the right style they can potentially serve you for many years.
Distinctive Patterned Blouses
I’ve found over the years that I don’t like buying blouses with distinctive colors, patterns or structure because with those as well I felt I couldn’t wear them too often because it would look like I was wearing the same thing all the time. As a result, my closet was taken over by black, white, navy, brown and tan with almost no color. Stylist Steph Hobbs noticed it right away when she walked in my closet (see Styled for Mom 2.0). Dionne Peters and I had to go on a last minute discount store shopping trip to find a little color for our wardrobe planning session (see Wardrobe Planning Hits & Misses Volume 1 – Week 9).
RTR Unlimited has proven to be a great solution since I can order blouses that have very distinctive patterns, wear them once or twice around different crowds, and then send them back. If I really like a blouse (like this Black Flared Top by Galvan), I can just order it again. I’ve also found that RTR Unlimited allows me to wear much higher quality blouses that are trendy – I would never splurge on a super expensive blouse that I could only wear one or two seasons, yet I’ve gotten to wear this one (retails for $725) on 3 occasions.
RTR encourages members to try styles and brands they would not ordinarily think to wear. I’ve found this opportunity very helpful both in finding new styles that work for me and also brands that don’t. For example, I love the look of Diane von Furstenberg clothes, but they really don’t fit me very well. Sure, I could try new brands out in stores, but it’s nice being in my own home without the pressure of a sales person or bad dressing room lighting, and with all my own accessories readily available.
Dry Cleaning & Clothing Care
How many times have the dry cleaners ruined or lost one of your favorite pieces? Even the really expensive dry cleaners do that from time to time. On the other hand, how many times have you ruined one of your favorite sweaters or blouses through inappropriate home cleaning? RTR Unlimited takes care of dry cleaning for you so you don’t have the hassle, the worry or the expense.
I probably haven’t gotten quite good enough at cycling my RTR Unlimited shipments to realize the greatest potential benefit from dry cleaning bills, but they are definitely trending downward. One stylist at RTR Unlimited recommended that I send back items as soon as I’ve worn them in order to get the replacement more quickly. I’ll keep experimenting with that to see if I can get my shipments to pay for themselves in dry cleaning savings and report back.
There are other rental services and renting is not necessarily for everyone depending on your lifestyle and financial situation. But, for at least the past few months, I’ve found it very useful. I’d love to hear your stories about rentals and in the meantime, please check back on Monday for last week’s wardrobe planning hits and misses post. Please also check out the Closet Reboot YouTube channel tomorrow for another wardrobe planning session this time with my friend and estate attorney Thais Amaral Tellawi.
Have a great weekend!