Is Clothing Rental a Good Idea?

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by Maria

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08.09.2021

Clothing rental used to be a rather rare occurrence for most people. A tuxedo would be rented for a formal wedding or for the high school prom, and a dress might be rented for that prom also. This has all changed lately. The clothing rental business is on track to reach $4.4 billion by 2028, according to Global Data. One of the best-known rental businesses, Rent-the-Runway, has more than 11 million users and is currently valued at $1 billion. What accounts for the growth in this industry? Can clothing rental be beneficial to most people?

Most likely, a lot of the popularity of these businesses comes from two groups of people. One group is obligated to attend formal gatherings, perhaps for business purposes, more or less regularly. If a person is likely to meet some of the same people at these gatherings over and over, of course, wearing the same dress or outfit every time is not going to work. Buying formal clothing is very expensive, especially if each outfit only gets one or two wearings. Of course, the clothing can then be sold, but that gets to be a hassle, and people buying someone’s used things online tend to demand low prices in order to get the items sold.

The other group are the people with lower incomes who aren’t expected to attend charity balls and champagne soirees with regularity. They do, however, like to go to a dance once in a while at the local country club, or company holiday parties. Many times a man can attend these functions with the usual business type suit, but a lady has to have a good dress. It had better not be last year’s either, because you know how the boss’ wife likes to gossip. However, the closet eventually fills with outfits that can’t be worn again, and the hassle of trying to sell them rears its ugly head.

This is where the clothing rental business comes in. Now instead of going from store to store trying to find something for the company dinner or just the right prom dress for the teenage daughter, people can look online to find just the right outfit. It comes to the customer at a fraction of the purchase price, on average 10-20 percent, and afterwards goes back to the company. No need to run to the dry cleaners, either. It’s a great way for customers to wear designer garments they couldn’t afford to buy.

For the higher echelon customer who regularly attends upper class cocktail and business parties, there are subscription plans usually available. These vary in the number of pieces the subscription allows per month. The other business rental model, like Le Tote, ships you a box with a certain number garments and accessories, based on the answers on an intake questionnaire, not individually chosen by the customer. You can keep each shipment as long as you need, but won’t get another until the initial one is returned. Some companies deal only in accessories, such as designer handbags.

Other features many of these companies offer are accessories, included return shipping labels, and even two sizes of a garment in case one just doesn’t fit correctly. One even includes a kit for clothing mishaps. Most offer the opportunity to actually buy a garment at a discount for those you just can’t bear to send back.

As with anything, though, there are some not-so-good things about this process. The one most often cited is the availability of particular garments. Since many companies allow somebody to keep a garment as long as they want, some popular styles are chronically unavailable. Ordering well ahead of time for a particular event is recommended, and even then there is no guarantee you’ll get the one you want on time. Customers have cited problems such as being notified that a garment wasn’t available just four days before it was needed because the previous renter had damaged it too badly. Company stylists will usually help with a different selection in a case like this, but it’s still a stressful situation. Garments always arrive dry cleaned, but some still required some ironing before wearing. Of course, a garment may just not fit correctly, which is always a risk when ordering clothing online.

Whether renting clothing will benefit you will probably depend mostly on your lifestyle and social or business obligations. Even if you attend a “fancy clothes” event once a year, though, it’s something to check out.

Modern Tunics is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

 

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