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I’ve Been Using Rent the Runway For 10 Years—Here’s Why I’ll Never Give it Up

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I’m a compulsive shopper. It’s not something I like to admit, but I spend an embarrassing amount of time scrolling Shopbop, Zara, and The Real Real. And don’t get me started on special events and vacations. To me, they’re just excuses to buy new outfits. The problem is shopping requires money. And if you prefer higher-end items, lots of it. As I’ve become a “grown-up” (ugh, hate that word), I’ve realized that buying a new dress for every girl’s night out means I may feel squeezed when I go out to eat or have to get something in my apartment fixed. Lucky for me, there is no shortage of fashion rental services that let you have your cake and eat it, too.

About 10 years ago, I started using Rent The Runway (RTR) when I wanted something extra special for a birthday celebration or event. I always really liked the one-offs I’d rented, so when a bunch of my friends started talking about how great their monthly subscriptions were, I was intrigued. The subscriptions were far more cost-effective than renting items à la carte, so in 2019, I decided to sign up for a membership that allowed me to rent four items at a time. (I’ve since upgraded to a nine-item subscription.)

As someone that hates outfit repeating for big social events and always feels like they have “nothing to wear,” having a constant rotation of new tops, purses, dresses, and coats at my disposal is really helpful. (RTR has over 750 designs, so there is no shortage of options to choose from.) Plus, since I never have to worry about how much any item in particular costs, I’ve taken more fashion risks over the years—and always get a ton of compliments on my rented looks. There was one really cute Mackage coat I wound up renting for an entire winter because people would ask me where I got it whenever I walked out the door. It was somehow plaid, metallic, and chevron without looking totally insane and over the top. Sending that coat back was heartbreaking.

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Rent the Runway Review

This dress was the perfect rental for a birthday outing with my husband. Image: Dana Leigh Smith

On that note, I should say that one of my favorite aspects of RTR is that you can buy any item that you fall in love with. While some are on the pricier side (like that Mackage coat), some are really affordable, no-brainer purchases that are far less expensive than buying items new. Some of my favorite breezy summer dresses and cozy winter sweaters were RTR items I just couldn’t imagine living without, so I pulled the trigger and bought them.

While buying things from RTR doesn’t exactly help my argument that it helps combat my shopping habit, I will say in the 6 years I’ve had a RTR monthly subscription, I have purchased fewer items for single-wear use and am more easily able to fight the urge to do big online shopping hauls. Instead, I just rent a new batch of clothes. So, if you’re a shopping addict like me and are trying to spend less, want to cut back on buying single-wear items, or just want to have new items rotating through your wardrobe, I can’t recommend RTR enough.

Here’s everything you need to know about the subscriptions, pros and cons, and what’s available for rent.

Rent the Runway Review

I wound up purchasing this Parker dress after wearing it a million times to work and social events. Image: Dana Leigh Smith

How Rent the Runway Works & The Subscription Options

What are the subscription options, and what do they cost?

There are three basic Rent the Runway memberships that allow you to get either 5, 10, or 15 items per month. You can also tack on additional items à la carte. For example, if you have a five-item plan but see six things you want to get, you can just pay to rent a sixth item. You can maintain a six-item membership or downgrade after you return an item and go back to a five-item plan. Membership rates start at just $79 a month, and right now, you can use code GETDRESSED for 2 months of a 10-item subscription for just $99 a month.

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Does renting fancy items cost more than cheaper ones?

No matter what subscription you get, you can rent anything you want from the site. Whether you want $100 denim shorts or a $600 glitzy gown, the choice is always yours, and you’ll always pay the same membership rate.

How long can I keep my items?

One of my favorite things about RTR: There are no deadlines for returns. That means you can keep an item for a week, a month, or a year. (And yes, I’ve had a few items well beyond a year!) When you’re ready to return your pieces, you just request a pick-up through the app and simply pick the new items you want to rent. Generally, they arrive in about 2 to 3 business days.

What if I want to pause or cancel my membership?

You can pause or cancel your membership anytime, so it’s really a low-risk situation, which I love. While I didn’t pause my membership during the pandemic, many of my friends did. Once social events started to pick up again, many of them unpaused their memberships and are now back to renting.

Pros & Cons of Rent The Runway

Pros:

  • The community. RTR customers are always leaving reviews of the items they rent, and the RTR app makes it easy to see what other members who are your height, weight, and size think of the items you’re thinking of renting. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found a great piece to try because another 5’1 30-something said the item worked really well for her.
  • You can buy preloved items—with or without a membership. Want to keep something you rented? No problem. Want to buy something you’ve never rented? You can do that, too!
  • Everything arrives professionally dry-cleaned. Some people may get the ick from wearing things others have worn, but honestly, everything always arrives very clean. I’ve never had an issue.
  • You can treat RTR as a low-risk try-before-you-buy service. Not sure if you’re into the flare-leg trend or feel comfortable in low-rise shorts? Rent ‘em and find out.
  • RTR is perfect for things you know you’ll only use once or twice. Think: Accessories for a bridesmaid dress. I’ve rented fancy clutches and sparkly earrings for special events time and time again. I love that I don’t have to spend money on those kinda things unless I really want to.
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Cons:

  • I’m only 5’1, so renting pants and long dresses is basically impossible for me since I almost always need to get bottoms tailored. While RTR does carry some petite dresses, I’d love to see a bigger selection of petite items, including trousers, jeans, and leggings. (I could see very tall customers having a similar problem, too.)
  • I understand supply and demand, but there are items I have been wanting to rent forever, and they never seem to be available. That said, occasionally, it can take me a while to find items I’m excited to rent.

What Can You Get on Rent The Runway

RTR carries everything from Reformation, Levis, Farm Rio, and Staud to Veronica Beard, A.L.C., and Ulla Johnson. Here are some of the tops, bottoms, dresses, and accessories we love the most: