Subscription clothing rentals provide a sustainable alternative to fast fashion, allowing you to rent a number of clothing articles and then return them to be cleaned. You get a new slew of items to try on, a constantly updated and refreshed wardrobe, and fewer items to discard at the end of a season.
Two companies that want to share their massive closets with you are Rent the Runway and Nuuly. Each one offers a clothing rental subscription service where you pay a monthly fee and receive new clothes every month. Then you send the clothes back (or, in some locations, drop them off) when you’re done, and receive a fresh batch.
With RTR, you even get access to designer brands – like truly luxe stuff.
So, which is a better fit for your fits? Rent the Runway or Nuuly? Let’s find out.
Rent the Runway vs. Nuuly summary
Both Rent the Runway and Nuuly deliver trendy clothes to your doorstep for a set monthly fee. They each use sustainable, reusable bags to ship their clothing and let you skip, pause, and cancel your subscription at any time. Both companies offer a wide variety of designers, styles, and sizes, and they each let you buy pieces if you just can’t bear to return them.
But the two companies differ in other ways.
|Rent the Runway
|Number of pieces
|4-16 depending on plan
|Shipping & returns
|Free Fedex 2-day shipping, in-store drop boxes in certain major cities (NYC, Miami, DC, LA, Chicago, SF)
|Free UPS shipping
|Laundering & dry cleaning
About Rent the Runway
Rent the Runway was started in 2009 as a way for people to rent special occasion designer dresses – a concept much like tuxedo rentals.
Launched by two friends and Harvard Business School alumnae, RTR was created to solve the problem of having a closet full of items you wear once and never again. By renting instead, they gave women a way to wear beautiful clothes at a fraction of the price.
In 2016, the company expanded to offering regular clothing subscriptions, which allow for a regular rotation of new items to be delivered to your doorstep as often as you like – not just for special occasions. This lets more people try brand-new designers, styles, fits, and fabrics that they otherwise might never have ventured.
Nuuly is owned by URBN, the clothing company behind popular brands Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, and Free People. In fact, Free People has been around since it was created in West Philadelphia in the 1970s, with the other two brands following close behind. URBN’s specialty is capturing a certain zeitgeist of adventurous, beautiful, and down-to-earth fashion – the same aesthetics you’ll see on Nuuly.
The subscription service has been in operation since the summer of 2019, offering popular brands and casual styles at a lower cost than retail. So if you fall in love with a $400 sweater, don’t despair – rent it, instead.
Rent the Runway rental options
With Rent the Runway, you have several different rental options to choose from.
First, there’s the one-time rental option, called RTR Reserve. This is perfect if you need a dress for a special occasion, or you just want to test the RTR process. Browse the site to find your faves, then reserve the outfit for when you need it. RTR will mail you the piece, you wear it, then send it back with a prepaid label in the reusable garment bag provided. You choose a four-day rental or eight-day rental with this option.
For regular subscriptions, there are several membership tiers:
- 4 pieces per month, $89.
- 8 pieces per month, $135.
- 16 pieces per month, $199.
Nuuly rental options
For the most part, Nuuly offers one subscription tier, and that’s a six-piece subscription for $88.
However, for those months when you need a little upgrade, you can add on bonus items for $18, up to a max of two extra items per month.
With the bonus options, you’d get eight items per month for $124.
Rent the Runway vs. Nuuly pros
Rent the Runway pros:
- Beloved and up-and-coming designers. Proenza Schouler, Tory Burch, Derek Lam, and hundreds of others are yours for the choosing.
- A variety of service tiers offer customization. Get just 4 pieces a month, or crank it up to 16 – it’s your decision.
- Fast shipping and drop-off options. Two-day FedEx shipping plus tons of drop points make it easy to receive and return items.
- You can also buy a piece if you really like it (or any other piece that catches your eye). RTR lets you make purchases, too, not just rentals.
- Iconic brands you know and love. URBN brands Free People, Anthropologie, and Urban Outfitters anchor this collection of hundreds of brands.
- Lower price point. Just $88 a month gets you six pieces to wear as much as you want.
- Petite and plus-size options. More inclusive sizing begins at 00 and goes up to 40W.
- Add “bonus items”. If you need more than the six pieces standard with your subscription, you can add them on for $18 each.
- You can buy the pieces you love for a discount. Rent something and fall in love? You can buy it and keep it forever – and get a discount on the price.
- You can also rent vintage pieces. With so many 90s looks dominating the runway (and everywhere else), now you can actually wear the real thing.
Rent the Runway vs. Nuuly cons
Rent the Runway cons:
- More expensive per rental. The lowest tier costs $99 and gets you just 4 items per month.
- Unlimited service has been discontinued. Widely beloved Unlimited Swaps program has ended, replaced by the 8-piece or 16-piece tier.
- It May be tough to find styles in higher size brackets. There are mid-size and plus-size options, but don’t expect a ton of them.
- When you’re done with your items, you have to wait for the next month’s subscription to unlock. Keep the pieces as long as you like, but if you want something new, you have to wait until the month is up.
- Availability can be scarce. For popular pieces, you might have to find an alternative or be prepared to wait.
- Some users have complained of some pieces looking more used. After all, it’s clothing rental – other people will have worn the garments before you get them.
Why choose Rent the Runway
Expensive clothes for less
Rent the Runway is best known for giving you access to high-end pieces and up-and-coming new designers that you might not be able to (or want to) buy outright. Rather than sinking hundreds into a dress you might wear once, simply rent, enjoy, and return.
Multiple rental tiers
Choose the subscription service tier that fits you best. You can start with 4 pieces/1 shipment for $89 a month, which gives access to the “Basic Closet.” The next level up is eight pieces/two shipments for $135 with “Full Closet” access. Then there are 16 pieces/4 shipments for $199.
Note: there used to be an Unlimited Swaps option for $159, which gave you as many pieces as you could rent and return in one month, but that level is phased out as of May 2021. Existing Unlimited Swap memberships will be converted to the eight-piece plan unless a different plan is chosen.
Quick shipping & returns
Many clothing subscription services struggle to nail down the shipping component of the service. Rent the Runway offers fast two-day FedEx shipping both to and from their warehouse. Plus, if you live in a major city, you may be able to use an alternative drop-off method, like the RTR Flagship store in NYC, an RTR Drop Box, Swap Stop, certain West Elm locations, and certain Nordstrom locations.
Why choose Nuuly
Nuuly’s known for its iconic brands under the URBN umbrella: Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, and Free People. These brands offer looks that are effortlessly cool, casual, and wearable, always on trend but with a warm and welcoming feel. But those aren’t the only brands you’ll find at Nuuly – there are hundreds of others, from AGOLDE to Zadig & Voltaire.
While Rent the Runway and other subscription services may offer some petite and plus sizing, there’s a more extensive range of fits at Nuuly.
For example, with the Universal Standard brand available at Nuuly, you’ll find pieces in sizes from 00 to 40W. Other brands at Nuuly offer extended sizes as well, which is a godsend if you have a tough-to-fit figure that resists typical designer sizing.
Lower price point
When weighing your rental cost-per-piece, you’ll get a better value at Nuuly; you can get six pieces for $88, compared to four pieces for $99 at Rent the Runway. It does depend on whether you value price-per-piece or the retail cost per item; RTR items themselves are often at higher price points, so you may choose to value your rental expenditures that way.
If you’d like to streamline your closet but still have an ever-changing variety of clothes to wear, a clothing subscription might be just the ticket. Both Rent the Runway and Nuuly offer a sustainable way to try on world-famous designers, have something new to wear every month, and score tons of compliments on your latest look.
Choosing between these two services is a matter of refining based on your budget, personal style, and how often you’d like to wear something new to you. Go with Rent the Runway if you want to show out in a blazing hot new designer look; go with Nuuly if you want more of a laid-back, pretty-without-trying vibe. Either way, you’ll enjoy a constant rotation of fresh fits for one monthly price.