With a business trip covering the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on the horizon and nary a sparkle or fun party dress in my wardrobe, I figured I’d use the cool coupon I received in my monthly BirchBox subscription and give Rent the Runway a test ride.
I’ve heard a few awesome success stories about this website that allows you to rent designer dresses, shoes, jewelry and accessories for a fraction of the purchase price, and I figured Las Vegas nightlife would be the perfect test. So I ordered two dresses to be delivered to my hotel room and the rest, well… here’s how it all worked out.
When I first visited the Rent the Runway website I admit that I was completely overwhelmed. Because holy cow they have a lot of dresses! Beautiful designer dresses, oh my!
Now even if you aren’t sure that you’ll try the service out just yet, it’s worth creating a free account so you can favorite dresses you like, and create a closet (like mine, above) based on a possibe event name–whether it’s “Mom’s Surprise Party,” “Jenny’s Wedding,” or “If I ever take that trip to Paris.”
Trust me, it’s worth doing because with so many choices, you may otherwise completely lose that gorgeous green number you loved a few weeks back.
Finding your dress
At first, I used search limits to find cool dresses for my needs, which is extremely helpful. You can search based on everything from price and size to skirt length, as well as neckline, color, sleeve style, yes even age. My advice: Use as many limits as possible because otherwise you’ll be perusing hundreds and hundreds of dresses. I also definitely recommend setting your price guidelines, because it’s easy to get sucked into “OMG a Badgley Mishka dress!” until you realize it’s $250 to rent which is waaaaay out of your budget.
Another cool feature that they’ve recently added is “Our Runway,” which gives you the ability to search user photos and reviews (like above) based on factors like height, size, bust, body shape. Initially, it seemed a little weird since well, some of the photos people share don’t give your great sense of the dress and a few of the reviews aren’t particularly helpful. However, if you’ve got a particular feature you’re working with, like an hourglass figure or in my case, my height (5′ 11″), I found it to be super helpful to see the dress on an actual person and not the gorgeous, super skinny tall model. (Sorry gorgeous skinny model person).
You can also poll your friends on Facebook, which can be cool or complicated depending on how well your friends know you and and your taste. So, you might skip this part and maybe ask one or two trusted girlfriends for opinions.
Ordering your dress
Once you find a dress you like, you can check whether it’s available in your area (or the hotel where you’re staying, in my case) and the dates you need it. The brilliant part: you can get a second size free, just in case you’re not sure about the 8 or the 10.
You can also check the photos and reviews, which I find to be extremely helpful, mostly because users offer smart tidbits like: “It had absolutely no stretch” or “I’m usually a 10 and even the 12 didn’t fit me.” I loved the review for a dress I was considering that said “Great for standing up but don’t plan on trying to walk anywhere because it’s tight at the knees.”
The standard rental is 4 days, but you can pay extra for 8 days. And prices range anywhere from $40 (for a $300-400 dress) to way more expensive, but that’s generally for dresses and gowns that are thousands of dollars and still a bargain if you’re shopping for a bridesmaid’s dress that you’d never wear again anyway, or a prom dress for your teen.
How well it worked
I rented two dresses, both of which arrived in garment bags at my hotel, ready for me to wear. No smells, no stains, both in perfect condition. And even better, both of my dresses fit like a glove, which I owe to the helpful reviews–but also knowing my body and which designers and dress styles tend to flatter me. Trust me — it’s easy to get sucked into all the fabulous styles and designers you’ve always dreamed of wearing, so pick wisely!
When I was done, I just popped them (unwashed) in the prepaid envelope and dropped it off at the concierge desk for mailing. But even if the dress hadn’t worked, no worries–return it within 24 hours and you’ll get your money back minus the shipping costs.
I think this is a fabulous service for special occasions but I’m pretty sure I’ll be using it again for more than that. It’s smart for date nights, conference parties, speaking engagements–I can think of a lot of times I want something special or trendy but don’t want to spend $800 or the time to find it in a store! Between the convenience, the service, and the gorgeous dresses, I’d say Rent the Runway is a great way to go. -Kristen
To try Rent the Runway yourself, head over to their site. Don’t blame me for all the hours you’re about to lose.