Rent-Wear-Save: The Pros and Cons of Clothing Rental Services

by Joanne Guidoccio
Pros and Cons of Clothing Rental Services photo

Do you have clothes in your closet that you’ve only worn once? Perhaps your wallet could benefit from renting some of your clothing rather than buying it. Here are the pros and cons to consider,

When I decluttered my closet last month, I gave away five dresses that had only been worn once apiece. I recall spending weeks shopping, paying full price and hoping to get more wear out of each dress. Instead, I ended up relegating the outfits to the back of the closet and forgetting about them.

This “one and done” approach is expensive and wasteful, a definite affront to our sharing economy where accessibility is more important than ownership.

I am ready and willing to consider clothing rental services, an alternative that is gaining popularity across North America and Europe.

The stats for the clothing rental industry are mind-boggling.

In the United States, Rent-the-Runaway has more than 11 million users and is now valued at $1 billion. According to GlobalData, the U.S. clothing rental market could reach $4.4 billion by 2028.

Not sure if renting clothing is right for you and your budget? Read on for some pros and cons to consider.

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The Pros of Clothing Rental Services

Rent-the-Runway and other retailers such as Armoire, Ann Taylor, and Anthropologie offer ready-to-wear pieces from luxury labels such as Victoria Beckham, Proenza Schouler, and Phillip Lim. You can expect to pay 10 to 20 percent of the retail price, considerably less than those hefty retail purchase prices. And you don’t have to worry about dry cleaning afterward. That cost is included in the price.

Monthly deals and subscriptions are available. At Rent-the-Runaway, you can obtain four pieces at a time for $89. An unlimited monthly subscription of $159 is also available. Nuuly, the online rental service offered by Urban Outfitters, gives customers the opportunity to rent six pieces of clothing per month for $89.

Buying fewer clothes frees up space in closets, an important consideration for anyone living in downtown condos or shared accommodations. Money saved can be used to buy classic pieces like coats and suits that will last for years.

Renting saves you time. Instead of visiting dozens of stores in the mall, you can take advantage of one-stop shopping online and browse through outfits for every occasion.

Experimenting with trends can be expensive. A rental allows you to try the outfit or accessory and then decide if you wish to incorporate the trend into your wardrobe.

The outfits are well-packaged and include return shipping labels. Nuuly adds a “clothing mishap kit” to the box.

Some stores offer a 24-hour try-on period. If you don’t like the item, you can return it and get a refund.

The Cons of Clothing Rental Services

While the subscription options, especially the unlimited ones, sound attractive, they can be too tempting for impulsive fashionistas on tight budgets.

Size charts are helpful but not 100 percent reliable, an important consideration if you are renting an outfit for a wedding, anniversary, theme party, photoshoot or other special occasion. If possible, visit the brick-and-mortar store and try out different outfits to determine your size. Or consider a “trial” rental well before the event to ensure proper fit.

While outfits are clean when shipped, they don’t always arrive in the best of shape. Some special-occasion dresses may require additional pressing and attention from a dry cleaning service.

Reviewed February 2020

About the Author

For 31 years, Joanne Guidoccio taught mathematics, computer science, business and career education courses in secondary schools throughout Ontario. Her articles, book reviews, and short stories have been published in Canadian newspapers and online. She has bachelor's degrees in mathematics and education and a Career Development Practitioner diploma.

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