I have never rented a wardrobe item, but have thought about the service from time to time. My knowledge of this wardrobe strategy is limited, so I’d love to hear about your thoughts and experiences. 

As Inge mentioned in a recent Link Love post, renting wardrobe items is becoming a lot more popular. Urban Outfitters, for example, are about to launch a service that allows you to rent clothing from across their brands as well as another 100 third-party brands. Shoppers can rent six items at a time for a monthly fee of $88. They can trade the items in for six more when the month is through. The cost of postage is included in the rental, and clothing is laundered before it’s sent out. You also have the option to purchase the items after you’ve rented them. It’s like Netflix for your wardrobe.

Rentals make sense for occasion wear and items you won’t wear often. The tuxedo rental service for men has been around forever, and makes a lot of sense. Why not do the same for women’s attire? That’s how Rent the Runway (RTR) was born and the company is currently valued at a $1 billion. A large portion of the street style at the world’s major fashion weeks is rented or borrowed. Celebrities often rent outfits for events. And loads of outfit bloggers rent or borrow wardrobe items for fashion shoots. It’s no wonder that Rent the Runway is as successful as it is.

If you crave newness and are looking for a more sustainable way to shop, renting your clothes is one way to go. It also seems like a safe way to road-test a wild card or new-to-you style without committing to it permanently. Renting occasion wear for a once-a-year formal event seems sensible too.

Some of my clients use RTR for occasion wear, with very mixed results. Sometimes the outfit works out, and sometimes not at all. Usually the need arises from running out of time to shop for an occasion outfit, so out of desperation they use RTR. Since it’s hard enough finding formal attire that fits perfectly and makes you happy when you shop diligently for it, it makes sense that you have to be lucky for RTR items to work out.

A gorgeous 30-something friend of mine rents 75% of her clothing. She wears dresses 95% of the time, so she rotates through the rental frock inventory of a few services to satisfy her needs. Dresses are easier to style so I get that a style rich in dresses is more rentable. Our friend says she rents her wardrobe because it allows her to wear new stuff all the time, and she doesn’t have to deal with dry cleaning. She also said that fits can be problematic because sizing is off, that items are not as they are pictured, and that she runs out of items that she wants to rent because inventories are not sufficiently stocked with dresses she wants to wear.

There are a few things that hold me back from personally embracing wardrobe rental.

  • As far as I know, you cannot have rented clothing altered to fit perfectly. Occassion wear often needs a little nip, tuck or hem, especially when you’re petite. Same goes for bottoms when you’re curvy or have a swayback.
  • I do not want to rent clothing unless it looks pristine and new. I’ve seen the inventory of Armoire at an Amazon fashion event and noticed that some of the items looked worn. Especially the knitwear.
  • Although I do wear regular sizes, I don’t think that rental services offer a large enough assortment of extended sizes, like petite, tall, and plus. I hope that changes over time.

Perhaps these three issues will be addressed in future. Even if that were to happen, my entire approach to my wardrobe would have to change, because it is so curated today. Each item is a piece in a puzzle that has its deserving place. I know the inventory of my wardrobe like the back of my hand, and I enjoy being in complete control. Items deliberately work together so that I can create complete looks that work for my lifestyle. I also frequently repeat my favourite outfits. Each item is familiar and has a memorable history that I enjoy.

I can’t help but think shifting to a rental model would upset the highly effective system that I’ve created. But I might experiment with the strategy and expand it over time based on what works for me. 

Over to you. What are your thoughts on renting wardrobe items?