Are Clothing Rentals the Wave of the Future?

I recently read an article during New York Fashion Week on the emergence of clothing rentals. I’m not talking about the services that have “stylists” hand pick clothes for you and then you decide if you want to purchase them or not. That’s a different topic for a different day. I’m talking about clothes you select and rent.

The concept of renting clothes has been around for several years, but is just recently taking shape and gaining more interest in the realm of everyday style. Many stores are now offering clothing rentals for a monthly fee for a set number of clothes or unlimited number of options for a different fee.

How does clothing rental work?

You sign up for a membership first, either monthly or unlimited, for a set fee. The typical transaction is that you choose a certain number of items from either a store you love to shop or a company that works with several designers and/or stores. You browse through all of the inventory they have for rental, put them in your virtual cart, and then check-out. The items are shipped to you. You then keep them for as long as you wish or until the set time designated in your membership. At that time you then return the items and choose your next grouping of clothes to be shipped. This can also be done at businesses that have these rental companies so you can essentially walk in, select what you wish to wear for the day to rent, and then return it when fished. This is typical in bigger cities though.

It’s that simple.

For women who love experimenting with various designers and styles, this is a dream come true! For example, you can rent $1,200 worth of clothes from top designers for only $88/month. Some even give you the option to purchase if you decide.

I personally enjoy clothing rental services as it has helped me spend less money on a substantial wardrobe. I also love to be able to try new things I might not try if I had to purchase them. And getting to wear a designer dress that costs $900 plus for such a small fee is amazing in itself. For working women, this will allow you to have a rotating work wardrobe without spending a ton of money on clothes.

So what’s the catch?

Department stores are feeling the competition of this newer market and declining sales. So recently, Nordstrom teamed up with Rent the Runway (a clothing rental company who works with several stores and designers) where renters can scan and return their items within the Nordstrom store. The idea for Nordstrom is to get people into the store.

Many of the everyday mall stores are launching clothing rentals as well as they see this as an opportunity to move and adapt to the changes. With the option to purchase rentals for a lot of these stores, it not only brings business back to them but creates excitement about what they have to offer.

What’s the take home message?

Before you start to dive into the clothing rental word, be sure to do these things first to assess if this is something that would be beneficial for you:

  1. Do you like to be adventurous with your wardrobe selections? Meaning, have you always wanted to try new clothing styles or high end designers without the cost of purchasing the items?

  2. Do you like the idea of having a membership and paying a flat fee each month to wear clothes that you wear and then return?

  3. Are you willing to take the responsibility to select the styles and ship them back when required by your membership?

  4. If you decided this is something you really want to do, be sure to read all of the fine print in your agreement before you sign up. Some people have been surprised by some companies charging substantial fees if a piece was lost by the mail service, stolen, or significantly damaged. Before you decide to do it, make sure you are aware of what you are signing up for.

  5. Be sure your subscription allows you to cancel at anytime so you are not tied to a certain number of months or years of commitment.

  6. Research several different rental service companies and choose one, two, or three that best match your authentic style, your lifestyle, and your style personality.

  7. This really should go without saying but never, ever rent undergarments. No serious, don’t ever.

My experiences have been directly with Rent the Runway and most recently Nuuly. I plan to experiment with more but since Nuuly is mostly vintage lines, such as Anthropologie, Free People, LoveShackFancy, Gal Meets Glam, Paige Denim, and others, it has become my dream clothing rental company to date. My experience has been really awesome and I’m looking forward to more. As a stylist, I like to experiment but I am also cognizant of my style personality. And that is important when selecting a rental company.

I want to note that I still enjoy having a closet full of clothes. The rental of clothing just allows me to enjoy some styles that are out of my purchasing price range, to be more experimental with styles within my style personality, to wear that fancy designer dress to a wedding, and to have some items that I am ok with only wearing a couple of times and returning.

So to answer the question- are clothing rentals the wave of the future? I believe we are going to continue to see this trend upwards for years to come with more and more retailers coming on board as well as more and more women looking to dress for everyday wear.

Have a beautiful weekend!