Rent The Runway is a clothing rental service the freshest dressed women swear by. It's particularly great when you need a bangin' dress for a wedding or big event.
Rent The Runway (RTR) Unlimited is their subscription service, which allows you to rent as many as three items at a time. You can cycle through as many outfits as you can stand for a flat fee of $139 (or $30 off for first time customers). (The exact number of outfits you can rent depends on how quickly you can drop off your return and choose your next order.) As an added bonus, they dry clean everything for you.
My hot sister wouldn't shut up about how much she loved the service, so I finally decided to try RTR Unlimited during wedding season, when I knew it would be worth it.
If renting one dress could cost me $150, why not wear 15 different dresses for the same price?
My first order showed up on my doorstep three days later in a suit bag.
It's pretty simple to return RTR items. You put the return shipping label on the outside and lock the zippers with a white piece of plastic, both of which are provided with the rental.
But enough about the packaging. Let's get to what we're all here for: the clothes.
My rental period started with two weddings that made the cost of the plan worth it.
To rent individually, the floral gown was priced at $150. I paid less than that and got more, which always feels good. I did realize, however, that not all of the dresses on the site are available to rent under Unlimited. It's a little sneaky, but the large Unlimited selection more than made up for the underhandedness.
These "fancy" outfits aren't things I would wear on the reg, but I loved having something chic for a wedding or weekend night out.
I also got a ton of compliments. The matron of honor said, "Now that's a dress" when I wore the pink number. When I posted my RTR outfits on Instagram, people would comment asking where I got them. Nobody EVER asked me that before. It felt like I was suddenly the popular girl in high school after spending years as a mathlete, all because my cool aunt died and left me her Ferrari.
For someone who often out-casuals casual Fridays, I loved stepping up my fashion game.
These were some of my favorite outfits. Very casual couture. Out of everything I wore, these are the six I would want to rent again, and maybe someday buy (when they are discounted to shit). Unlike the fancy, I wouldn't rent these outfits individually because they wouldn't work for weddings or proms. But these outfits were all super comfortable and made me feel happy.
Sadly, not everything was perfect.
Some stuff will be wrinkly... very wrinkly.
It depends on the fabric, and how it was shipped. While testing the shipping, I sent a dress to my mom in Florida. The dress did not travel well so she had to iron and steam it. One dress I picked up from the store was also very wrinkly — which was surprising since it wasn't being shoved into a mailbox. I still liked the dress, so I wiped the dust off my iron and made it work.
My worst experience was the Halston Heritage jumpsuit. The belt was completely broken — the clasp was hanging on by a thread. Fortunately, RTR customer service was awesome. They allowed me to choose another rental even before I had returned the jumpsuit. I still wanted to try it out, so I wore a belt OVER the claspless belt that was attached to the jumpsuit. It was janky but it worked.
Study the reviews like you are cramming for a final. They will be your saving grace.
As opposed to regular rentals, for the subscription service you don't get to choose a backup size. You only get one chance. One opportunity.
To maximize your chances of getting the right size, trust the users who have left reviews. For example, I was close to renting one romper when I saw someone say it was best for girls with short torsos. That means it’s a no for my body.
You're also able to search items by body type, which helps a lot. But even if you do those things, sometimes you'll make the wrong call. After receiving a few outfits that were surprisingly too small, I concluded you should ALWAYS round up. When I did order too small, I still shoved my body and tried to wear it. It just felt like such a waste to return them unworn. In the end, some stuff is just not made with your body in mind. The Garden Shift was way too short; it showed off my vagina-flower. The two rompers rode up into my crotch, injuring my vagina-flower. I let future renters know that those items are only good for people with short torsos.
Some stuff was too fancy for everyday wear.
I made several attempts to turn fancy into casual by adding denim. Jean shorts, jean shirt. Clearly, it did not work, and I walked around for an entire day feeling very silly. If you don't have a place to wear it, just don't rent it. Trust me on this.
RTR isn't just dresses and rompers. You can also rent t-shirts, necklaces, bags, and other accessories.
More often than not, though, using one of your precious three rentals on a t-shirt or accessory is NOT worth it.
The necklace didn't really add anything to my dress, and if I hadn't wasted a rental on it, I could have had another outfit.
Renting the black MIchi t-shirt, which was $145 to buy, led me to realize renting overpriced t-shirts is goddamn stupid. With rompers and dresses, you're getting a full outfit. With a t-shirt, you're only getting half an outfit, and even then you're wearing A T-SHIRT YOU COULD BUY FOR $5 AT TARGET. I got no compliments because no one compliments plain black t-shirts.
For the most part, I avoided shirts and accessories, since getting a full outfit felt like so much more worth it. But if you are a girl that loves bags, get a bag! If you're like me, stick with full outfits.
RTR Unlimited is an amazing deal if you live near NYC.
When I dropped a dress off at the NYC location, I was able to pick out a new dress immediately. That new dress would arrive at the store the next day, where I could pick it up. If you play it right, you can definitely wear a new outfit everyday. I averaged 13 outfits a month, and I wasn't trying that hard.
Sadly, most people don't live in NYC, and for them, RTR Unlimited means shipping. Even though I didn't have to do it, I tested shipping for you. You are welcome. When dresses were sent to the Jersey Shore or Brooklyn, they arrived two days after they shipped. That's not too surprising since the company is based in Secaucus. If I was really going to review the shipping, I had to send an outfit farther.
That's why I shipped a few dresses to my Mom in Florida.
Here's where RTR Unlimited becomes way less worth it. The dress took 4 days to arrive, and when it did, it was very wrinkly, possibly because it was SHOVED into a mailbox.
I spoke with AJ Nicholas, VP of Brand Marketing, about the shipping times. She estimated that the amount of time from when the customer drops her item with UPS to when she receives her next item ranges from 4-6 days. In my Florida experience, the process took much longer. If I was continuously having outfits shipped there, the turnaround time would have been closer to 8 days.
Fortunately, AJ mentioned that RTR is in the process of switching all orders to UPS to cut down on shipping time. With UPS, all orders should arrive in 1-2 days. Currently, if it's shipped via USPS, it will take longer.
It depends on how much you typically spend.
It's not hard to find out. I recommend checking your bank account and actually adding up what you spend on clothes and accessories. It's a good idea to be more aware of your spending activity anyway. Do that, then ask yourself:
- Do I spend more than $250 on clothes and accessories in two months?
- Are there parties/weddings scheduled soon that will require me to buy or rent a new outfit?
- Do I buy new clothes when I'm feeling sad or bored?
If you answered "yes" to 2/3 of those questions, RTR could definitely save you money.
Personally, I wasn't confident that the subscription was saving me money if I didn't have an event to attend.
So I compared my spending on clothes and accessories over the same time period in 2015 to my spending while using the subscription service in 2016. I also took a look at how much each of the items I rented would cost to buy or rent individually.
Here's what I found:
Obviously, I was never at risk of buying $12,747 worth of clothes because I need to eat and have a place to sleep.
But it is still pretty cool to know that I was able to wear outfits worth that amount, and I didn't have to worry about spilling wine all over myself while I wore them. For me, the savings really show up when I compare the cost of the subscription to what I spent last year. I was honestly shocked when I added the receipts up and saw $748. Almost half of that was an insane splurge on a leather backpack, but that number was still way higher than what I expected. If nothing else, doing this has made me realize I need to keep better control on my spending.
As someone who could show up to work in a t-shirt and jean shorts, I don’t regularly have a need for dressier clothes. But that doesn't mean there weren't lots of benefits to this type of subscription service.
While using RTR Unlimited, I didn’t buy a bunch of clothes when I was depressed or bored. Instead of checking websites for sales and feeling pressured to purchase before the deal ends, I found myself going to the RTR site and favoriting outfits to rent later. If you're a shopaholic, you're in it for the thrill of wearing something new. Renting definitely curbed this addiction.
Not having to keep or clean the outfit was also a great way to offset my hoarding tendencies. You’re looking at a woman who only just let go of a shirt she's had since ninth grade. It’s real bad. It’s both emotionally and spatially freeing to not get attached to these clothes.
I got a shit ton of compliments. Who doesn’t love that? Sure, I kept parroting back, “it’s not really mine,” but that’s just because I’m horrible at taking a compliment without somehow degrading it. But looking put together made me feel better. It's almost therapeutic.
I apparently saved money, although I am just so ashamed of the amount of money I spent one year ago.
Overall, the customer service and outfit selection was excellent, and I'll continue using the service while I still have weddings on my calendar.
I'm planning on stopping the service in the winter and picking it back up next spring. If you dress up for work, or just like to dress up, this is a great service. It's even better if you're located near one of the RTR stores.
However, if you're frugal woman with a casual sense of style, pass on this subscription service and instead email me with all your money-saving secrets. I clearly need them.