I can deny it all I want, but my bank statement speaks the truth: I love to shop.
Unfortunately, my income doesn’t allow frequent and spontaneous shopping excursions, and it’s a good thing too. Studies show that the average American tosses around 81 pounds of clothing every year, perpetuating serious issues like industrial water pollution and carbon emissions.
The good news is wardrobe rental services offer an opportunity to save money and skirt the fast fashion culture without quitting our shopping habits.
Read on to learn more about this innovative way to shop and see if a wardrobe rental service is right for you.
1. You can try before you buy
At the beginning of last May, I purchased a new pair of leggings. They were a little tight, but I thought they might stretch out a bit and figured it was worth the risk. By the end of the month, I dropped those leggings off at a donation site.
Perhaps the greatest perk you’ll find in a wardrobe rental subscription is the fact that you can test out items before you commit to buying them. What if your new blazer doesn’t match your work tops or that sweater always catches on your purse? Not to worry! Send them back!
2. You pay one monthly fee for new clothes
If you’ve ever walked into Target for toothpaste and left with two new tops, a ceramic vase, a set of scrunchies, and a festive candle, you understand how easy it is to blow your “fun money” in one fell swoop. With a wardrobe rental subscription, shoppers can anticipate the same charge each month and budget accordingly, as opposed to splurging on spontaneous trips to the outlet mall.
3. You can budget for pieces you intend to buy
While the premise of wardrobe rental subscriptions is that shoppers can rent designer clothing rather than buying, subscribers do have the option of purchasing the items they love. Fortunately, you’ll see the price tag long before your item arrives, so you’ll have plenty of time to budget for the piece.
If you do want to keep an item after testing it out, you can purchase it for a fraction of what you’d spend to buy the same item new!
4. You can limit your shopping trips
For those who are quick to select the “buy both” option, a wardrobe rental subscription may help you limit purchases to a specific number of items each month. Instead of adding new items to your already overcrowded closet, you can simply cycle through new, quality items every month for an affordable price.
Not only does limiting your shopping trips keep you from spending more money, but it also helps save you on expenses like gas and public transportation! If you are a frequent shopper, these seemingly small costs add up fast.
5. They make you think critically about what you want and what you can afford
Many wardrobe rental services provide users with a personal online closet, where customers can save items they’re interested in. This feature allows you to spend more time thinking about what items you want before adding them to your physical closet.
This additional time not only helps you decide whether or not you want an item, but whether or not you can afford it.
How do wardrobe rental services work?
Rent the Runway was among the first wardrobe rental services to arrive on the scene in 2009. Founders Jenn Hyman and Jenny Fleiss thought up the idea when Jenn’s younger sister purchased a $2,000 designer dress for a wedding. There has to be a better way! They thought — and there was!
Today, Rent the Runway has clothes from more than 700 designers available for rent, and they’re not the only ones. Here’s how these subscription services typically work:
- In exchange for a monthly fee, you select a set number of new styles every month. For instance, with wardrobe rental service Nuuly, users can choose six items for a fee of $88 per month. After browsing Nuuly’s ever-changing inventory, you might pick a floral blouse, a flirty skirt, and two pairs of shoes, as well as a bold bomber jacket and a pair of dress pants for work.
- You have 30 days (or more) to wear these items to your heart’s content! At the end of the month, send everything back in the company’s reusable garment bag and select a new set of six items. If, however, you can’t part with that darling skirt or stylish bomber jacket, buy ‘em!
When it makes more sense to rent clothing
You need a specific outfit for a specific event
Sometimes you need a specific outfit for a specific event, but that’s it, you don’t want to add it to your wardrobe’s regular rotation. Perhaps you’re headed to a wedding in a few weeks or maybe you’re job hunting and need a suit or a pair of slacks for upcoming interviews. Whether you’re a frugal fashionista or a secondhand shopper, in these circumstances clothing rental services have got your back.
You want to try new outfits often
What’s great about these subscriptions is that they allow shoppers to act like their shopping for new clothes every week or month without actually making all of the purchases. For those who like to change up their outfits frequently, rental services allow you to do just that without breaking the bank.
When is buying preferable to renting?
The garments are essential
Nevertheless, there are also occasions where buying is preferable. For instance, I live in the Pacific Northwest where raincoats and down jackets (“puffys,” as we call them) are essential.
You want to wear a garment over and over again
Functionality aside, there are also those times when you simply find something unique and can’t bear the thought of parting with it.
Every item you purchase fits a unique purpose, some of which may warrant a brief visit to your closet, while others deserve a permanent place in your wardrobe.
Who should use a wardrobe rental service?
Frugal fashionistas who love to change up their wardrobe
Wardrobe rental services cater to what I like to call “frugal fashionistas.”
It’s not hard for frequent shoppers to blow hundreds, even thousands, of dollars on clothes in the span of a few weeks. Companies like Rent the Runway and Nuuly recognized this habit and designed an alternative to help satisfy a consumer’s craving, offering new and trending clothes for a consistent, and manageable, monthly fee.
If you get tired of new items quickly and like to stay on-trend, rented clothing may be worth the expense.
Rented clothes are also an ideal option for sustainably-minded shoppers who don’t want to contribute to a growing culture of fast fashion. Instead of buying and donating — or worse, tossing — shoppers can simply rent and return. Easy peasy!
Who shouldn’t use a wardrobe rental service?
Those who don’t like to dress in high-end clothing
First of all, wardrobe rental services generally offer primarily high-end, designer clothes, so the folks who prefer Old Navy to Anthropologie may not fit the target demographic.
Those who can’t afford the fees
Additionally, these subscriptions typically cost $100 or less each month, but if you want to buy any of the items, it’ll multiply the expense for that month. So, if you’re not already spending at least $100 on clothes and accessories each month, it can be hard to justify adding a clothing rental subscription to your budget.
Those who prefer to shop in person
When I first discovered Nuuly, I was very tempted to subscribe. But as someone who enjoys spending $20 at a thrift store for an entire “new” outfit, I realized quickly that a wardrobe rental service wouldn’t be the best fit for me.
If you’re like me and would rather browse the cluttered racks of a local thrift store than splurge on designer clothes, best stick with what you know and like.
How to decide if a wardrobe rental service is worth the cost
Before you subscribe to a service like Rent the Runway or Nuuly, take some time to evaluate your current shopping habits.
If you are already spending hundreds of dollars on clothes (and have the income to do so), you may find that a service like Rent the Runway makes shopping more affordable.
Every shopper is different, and whether or not a wardrobe rental subscription is right for you depends on your unique habits and circumstances. Consider questions like the following to determine whether or not rented clothing fits well in your life and budget:
- Did you spend more or less than $100 on clothes alone in the past 30 days? Is that more or less than you’d like to spend (or can afford to spend)?
- Do you purchase five or more new items each month? Is that more or less than you’d like (or need) to buy?
- Do you wear new items regularly? Or do you get tired of them quickly?
- Do you care more about looking trendy? Or are you just looking to find a good deal?
- How much does the brand(s) of your clothing matter to you? Or, do you care more about comfort and functionality?
- Would you spend more on clothes if you knew the company was using and promoting sustainable practices?
For those of us who can’t quite keep up with the fashion trends of the day, wardrobe rental services are here to help!
Just as the name implies, these companies let you rent clothes for a period, generally a month, rather than buying. For a simple monthly fee, you can try new, trending styles as they emerge; but instead of dropping those items at a donation site when you’re done, some other lucky fashionista can give them a whirl!