This week I answer a question about Clothing Rental Services, and whether or not they’re a good deal. Listen to the episode to find out when I think they’re absolutely a good idea, when they’re absolutely not a good idea, and when it depends.
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Read the full episode transcript below! – Ep 36 Office Hours Are Clothing Rental Services a Good Idea?
Today’s episode of Office Hours is sponsored by Holding Hangers. One way I love using my holding hangers is to line dry my jeans. You know I talk about not putting jeans with stretch in the dryer, and holding hangers are strong enough to even hold up wet denim, but they don’t stretch anything out. They also don’t leave marks or creases as traditional hangers do. If you’ve invested in good denim, why not invest in good hangers to try them properly.
Everyday Style listeners can take 15% off their first purchase by going to holdinghangers.com and using code STYLE15. That’s STYLE15 in all caps.
Welcome back to Office Hours–the weekly show of the Everyday Style School podcast, where we answer one question, submitted by you, to help make style easier, and getting dressed more fun.
I recently got an email from Heather, who wrote “Hi Jen, I’ve been seeing a lot of ads for different clothing rental companies on my Facebook page, and I’m thinking about trying it out. Do you think this is a good way to experiment with new styles without spending a lot of money? Thanks!”
Great question, Heather, especially since new clothing rental services are cropping up all the time.
I think most people are familiar with companies like Rent the Runway, that, at first, just focused on formalwear or Bag Borrow or Steal, that primarily rented high-end handbags.
These companies dealt with items you didn’t need every day, or maybe couldn’t afford, so it was a way to get a great piece for a while without a huge financial outlay.
But now, there are independent companies focusing on everyday wear, workwear, denim, you name it. You can rent a few pieces at a time, and send them back when you want new ones.
Major clothing retailers are also hopping on the clothing rental train, letting you use a few pieces of their collection at a time and then trade them for new ones when you’re ready. Stores like American Eagle, Express, and even Bloomingdales are offering clothing rental.
But the question is, are they a good idea. And as always, the answer is, that depends.
Let me say first of all that renting formalwear, and special occasion pieces from places like Rent the Runway is always a good idea in my opinion. If you’re not someone who needs that type of clothing very often, it’s a very economical way to dress for an event.
If you are someone who needs that kind of clothing a lot, and you don’t want to wear the same dress over and over, it’s a great way to change up your look without filling your closet with one-off pieces.
But, in regards to everyday clothes, I’m just not sure. I kind of look at this like leasing a car. Yes, you’ll probably have a newer or nicer car than you might normally be able to afford, but in the end, you have nothing to show for it.
There are people who swear to lease a car is the only way to go, and people who swear that it’s the worst idea ever. You’ve got to figure out what’s important to you.
I did a little research into a few of the big rental services, and what I came up with, is that it might not be as affordable as you think.
Let’s take Gwinnie B, for example. They were an early pioneer of clothing rental and started out serving plus sizes only, but now they’ve expanded to serve sizes 0-32.
Their website only lets you look at one plan for some reason, which is 2 items out at a time, for $69 per month. However, I called the company and found their other plans, which include 1 item out at a time for $49 each month, 3 items for $95 per month and going up to 10 items out at a time for $199. Included in that is free exchanges.
So, while you can only have a couple of items out at a time, you could get fresh items every couple of weeks if you wanted.
If you wanted clothing rental to be a significant part of your everyday wardrobe, 1, 2 or 3 items isn’t going to cut it. You’re going to need to spend $200 a month, and even that’s not going to be everything you need.
I also did some digging on the pieces they offer. I found a pair of jeans that I’ve put dozens of clients in, which usually retail for around $70. I searched for a top they’re offering for rental, that you could buy in a lower end department store for $17.
Now, they do have a few higher-end options, jeans that retail for around 120, dresses that retail for $150 or so, but for the most part, the brands they’re offering can be found in every mall, and at places like Steinmart, Nordstrom rack, etc. To me, that’s a lot of money for clothes that aren’t necessarily high value.
I also looked at Ann Taylor Infinite Style. Their standard plan is 3 items out at a time, for $95 each month. Loft offers Infinitely Loft at 3 items at a time, $65 a month.
Just a side note, the website interfaces for Ann Taylor Infinite Style, GwinnieB, and Infinetly Loft look exactly the same. I mean, exactly. Same layout, same icons, so clearly one company is running all three programs, and probably more brands I didn’t look at.
I also looked at nuuly, which offers 6 items out at a time, for $88 per month. This one is from the people behind Free People, Anthropologie, and Urban Outfitters. They offer free shipping, but no exchanges throughout the month, so if you don’t like something, you’re stuck with it for the whole 30 days.
Finally, I looked at Le Tote, which is kind of a clothing rental/stitch fix hybrid, For $70 a month, they send you one box with 5 pieces of clothing and three accessories, or 2 boxes per month, with 3 clothing items and 2 accessories. You wear whatever you want from the boxes for the month, and then purchase the pieces you like at a discount, and return the rest.
It differs from stitch fix in that you get to pick the items they send you, but unlike all the other rental services, it wasn’t as easy to find their catalog until you sign up. I did find it though and found brands I recognized from Nordstrom, Bloomingdales, and a few boutique brands.
All of the clothing rental services I looked at offer the ability to buy favorite pieces at a reduced rate if you find something you love, which is nice since independent-clothing services offer some wholesale brands you may not be able to find easily.
But, again, Heather’s question is “is this a good idea” and my answer would be, absolutely not for wardrobe basics. There’s no good reason to spend $35 dollars a month to rent a pair of jeans you’ll wear for years to come. Save that money for a few months, and buy yourself the jeans.
One place I could see it being a good idea is for a couple of seasonal items that really add value and style to your basics, but even then, at loft, you’d be paying $195 over the course of 3 months, and the way retail sale cycles go, you could probably buy a lot of what you rent for that money.
The other benefit it could have is to keep from building a one-off, fast fashion, end up in a landfill wardrobe. Clothing rental services do let you stay current without adding a lot of items you may not want after a couple of months to your closet.
So bottom line–are they a good idea? Always for formal or special occasion events, never for everyday basics, and maybe for adding statement pieces to your closet. It really comes down to your budget. All of the companies I looked at let you cancel anytime, so it might be worth picking one, giving it a try for a couple of months, and seeing if you feel you got your money’s worth.
There are services out there for every size, and every style, and even accessories and bag.
If you’ve tried a clothing rental service, come share your experience in the Everyday Style Lounge–we want to hear all about it!
Thank you to Heather for sending in the question, and If you’re listening, and have a question you’d like me to cover in Office Hours, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
That’s all for today–see you next week!