Renting Garments: A Sustainable Practice. Plus, My Review of Rent the Runway.

If you looked in your closet right now, how many special occasion garments could you find that have only been worn once or twice? Or maybe a fancy clutch purse that can only be used sparingly?

On average, dresses at Rent the Runway get worn 30 times before they are sold at a discounted price. Thirty times. Thirty times! Now think back to that dress in your closet that’s only been worn once…So many things go into creating a garment from worker’s labor, to natural resource consumption, to pollution and greenhouse gas emissions…that’s why it’s so crucial to get as many wears out of a garment as possible.

But on the other hand, if I’m being honest, I don’t want to be caught wearing the same garment for all special occasions. In those instances, I would rather have more options that I could wear once, than one option that I could wear many times. But when I consider the true cost, I can’t justify it. Until Rent the Runway entered the picture.

The idea of renting clothing or accessories is still a bit strange to me. Not because I’m worried about cleanliness or the quality of the clothing. Simply because my whole life, the fashion industry has been about owning garments, not renting them. Rent the Runway is flipping that philosophy upside down.

Special occasions can be stressful enough without stressing over buying something new to wear. You could also end up spending well over $100+ for a garment you can only wear a few times, at best. The environmental (and financial!) implications of that are less than stellar.

With summer being wedding season, I thought it would be the perfect time for me to try out renting a dress. If you don’t have anything to wear for an upcoming special occasion, I urge you to consider renting instead of buying.

Renting clothing is a surprisingly sustainable and easy option. While the process is certainly not perfect (there is plenty of room for improvement! See more discussion below my review of the dresses), overall I was delighted by my recent experience with Rent the Runway.

Now, onto my review of what I rented!

Shoshanna Pink Floral Halter Dress x Rebecca Minkoff Sky Blue Leo Clutch

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I wore this dress to a pre-wedding event. It’s a soft pink with a navy floral pattern. The tie-waist is a must to add shape. I was pleasantly surprised by the halter fit – it was comfortable and different. The dress overall was very breathable and light-weight, which is great for the hot summer weddings. You can rent the dress here for $70. RTR also sold me on the extras. I don’t have any clutches, so I decided to rent something. RTR actually made the recommendation for me, so it was an easy add-on. Shown above is the Sky Blue Leo Clutch by Rebecca Minkoff. You can rent it here for $15. My wedges are the Sienna wedge from Toms, which you can purchase here for $63.

Shoshanna Blue Floral Bell Dress x Rebecca Minkoff Sky Blue Leo Clutch

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I wore this blue floral dress to the wedding itself. This dress is gor-gee! The two-toned blue lace truly stands out – I’ve never worn a dress quite like it. The added length (it’s midi length) and ruffle flare at the bottom give it a polished, unique look. This dress was not as light-weight as the first, but it is still manageable for a summer wedding. You can rent it here for $70. I should note that price may change depending on the date you need the dress for. I paired it with the Rebecca Minkoff clutch (again) as well as my trusty Toms wedges (again). Reuse at it’s finest, am I right? 🙂

Rent the Runway Process

The process was very easy. If you need a short-term rental, you can select your size and the dates you need the dress for. The site will pre-filter the options for you so that you only see dresses that are available in your size, during your time frame. Pretty convenient! As part of your rental, you can select a backup size which will be included as well in case your usual size doesn’t work. RTR ships you a reusable garment bag, which remarkably kept my dresses wrinkle-free. They will include email instructions on when you need to ship the garment back. It comes with a pre-paid label, so you only need to drop it off at a UPS store when you’re done!

Pros and Cons of Renting

I would love to see a life cycle impact analysis comparing a dress that is purchased but only worn once or twice versus a dress that is rented out many times. Here are a few pros and cons of renting, in my opinion:

Pros to Renting

  • The full useful life of the dress is realized. It saves natural resources and greenhouse gas emissions, because a smaller overall number of garments can be shared between more people.
  • It’s cheaper for you!

Cons to Renting

  • Dry cleaning can be a dirty, toxic process. I reached out to Rent the Runway for comment to learn more about their dry cleaning process, but they did not provide a response.
  • Greenhouse gases are emitted for shipping each garment to the customer and back ~30 times.

So, what do you think? Would you give renting a try? Let me know in the comments below!

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