Life Doesn't Fit in a File Folder

Not Meant to Rent

Okay, so it wasn’t exactly this woman. And it wasn’t exactly this dress. And we weren’t by the ocean. But you get the idea.

A while back, I saw this woman at a party.

She looked like a goddess.

Her dress was one of those long Grecian-inspired things that draped her body perfectly. She was lithe and long, and I’m pretty sure she was a size 00.

Now, I am no shopper, but I had never seen anything like that dress in any store remotely near Rochester, New York. I couldn’t help myself.

I drifted away from my husband and walked right up to The Goddess who was accompanied by a man at least twice her age.

Because I am incredible classy, I introduced myself. We shook hands, and then I stated flat out: “You look freakin’ awesome in that dress!”

The Goddess ran her fingernails through her hair and gave me a pretend blush. Because she knew she looked like Heidi Klum. Then she leaned in as if she was about to tell me the world’s best secret. “People always stare at me in my dresses,” she confided.

I knew she didn’t mean for this to come out as arrogantly as it sounded. She was just gorgeous and stupid and young. Plus, I could tell she was sitting on something big. And I figured if I could tolerate her just listened a little bit longer, then I’d be in on it, too.

“What I mean is lots of times I see people staring at my dresses, and I wish they would just ask me where I got them so I could tell them.”

I knew she wasn’t a total bitch.

“I swear I want to shout it from the rooftops!” she exclaimed.

The build-up was tremendous.

“Have you ever heard of Rent the Runway?” she asked.

I shook my head, clueless.

“Omigosh!” The Goddess grabbed my wrist and did a little pee-pee crouch. “It’s the best thing ever. I’m one of those people who hates wearing the same dress twice, you know what I mean?”

I nodded, but honestly. No. I didn’t know what she meant. I have a closet filled with dresses I wear over and over again.

Image representing Rent the Runway as depicted...
Image via CrunchBase

The Goddess continued, “Rent the Runway is this company that leases designer dresses and accessories for … like…up to 85% off retail.”

I looked at The Goddess and watched her perfectly shaped lips.

“You pick a dress style that you like, choose two sizes — the one that you think is most likely to fit and another size as a backup in case you guessed wrong. They ship the dress to you for four days, and after you are done using it you mail it back. You can rent dresses that would normally be, like $1,000 for between $275 and $400,” she gushed. “And the best part is that you always have a new dress! How awesome is that?”

I looked at this pretty young thing like she had 7 heads.

Talk about coming from totally different worlds.

1. I would never. I can’t even imagine spending between $275-$400 on a new dress, let alone one someone else has already worn. Even my wedding dress was $212 off the rack.

2. The douche-bag factor. I would never admit to spending hundreds of dollars on a rented dress because my friends would think I was the most arrogant snob in the world. Not to get all preachy, but – excuse me while I get on my high horse for a moment – people are being foreclosed upon. I have taught homeless students who have had to sleep in Walmart for lack of a place to go. Families are living in hotel rooms that cost $50 per night. How could I ever, in good conscience, rent a dress that I knew could house them for a week? Or, at least, feed them for a few days?

3. I like re-runs. I have watched The Shawshank Redemption dozens of times. I never get tired of it. Same goes for clothes. If I see an outfit that I actually love, I want it. And I want to wear it again. I wear my party dresses so infrequently that I am actually excited when I pull them out of the closet. They are like old friends that I haven’t seen in a while. And because I shop carefully and try to avoid trends, I generally do fine.

4. I rely on friends. Some of my friends happen to be the same size as I am. I can’t tell you how many times my friend Cindy and I have swapped dresses. I actually met my friend Rachel while trying on dresses. Yes, I invited a total stranger over to my house; then she invited me over to her house. We stripped off our clothes in front of each other and ended up doing a dress swap. Now that’s a “How We Met” story!

5. I’m cheap. I have pretty good luck at Marshall’s. What can I say? Some of us just weren’t made for high fashion.

I tried to appreciate the delicious kernel of awesomeness that The Goddess had bestowed upon me.

I couldn’t get past the idea that standing before me was this young woman who loved fashion so much that she was willing to spend a good portion of money on a dress that she was only going to wear once and then have to return.

“How can you afford this?” I asked. “I don’t get it.”

The Goddess smirked and whispered from behind one manicured hand, “Oh, I get my dates to pay.”

As if on cue, the old man her date beckoned, she waved good-bye, took her escort’s arm (or maybe she was the escort), and together they went off. I watched as the train of her white gown slowly swirled around a corner, kind of like expensive toilet paper does as it disappears down the drain.

What do you think of the idea of renting clothes? Has anyone ever done it? What was your experience like?

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80 thoughts on “Not Meant to Rent

  1. You made my eyes tear up with laughter – I am SO with you on this!!!! Says she, wearing jeans and T-shirt bought at least 10 years ago, and obviously not destined (nor desiring) to look like a prima donna goddess – well at least not most of the time!

  2. I rented a dress. Once. I was seven months pregnant and was a bridesmaid (or matron, but I hate that word) at my sister-in-law’s wedding. I needed to get a champagne-colored dress. I went to wedding shops around here and they wanted between $500-$800 for a dress I would wear once and would make me look like a shiny mini-van. So, I looked online and found this company in Washington State that rents out maternity bridal wear. Yes, there were maternity bridal gowns in their collection. But, within this collection was a beautiful, tasteful champagne maternity dress with just the right amount of beading on the hemline. I rented it for under $100. It was a life saver.

      1. I saw, thanks for stopping by. My youngest just gave me inspiration for my next blog post about roller coasters. He has a hypothesis he’d like to try out. We’ll see how it goes. have a great day!

  3. I am the master of cheap. Get suits from mail order Haband $70. A dozen suits for $800 or so. People think you have a vast wardrobe and since they are all brown, navy, gray or black solid and then pinstripe no one really notices redundancy in men’s suit apparel. Get the polyester/cotton blend and can wash and dry in your washer on gentle and no dry cleaning bills. And they are made in foreign countries(names omitted) which allows you to boast that all your clothing is imported. I never rent anything although renting a husband or wife for short term marriages may be a good idea. No complications.

    1. My dad is Haband’s most devoted customer. He always talks about ordering from there. I have never, ever heard of the place except from him, and I’ve been afraid that, at 84, he was losing it. Thanks for validating and keeping Dad out of assisted living a little longer, Carl.

  4. I am laughing my head off pardner. Um, like Cass I am not a fan of dresses; however, I certainly would never rent a pair of jeans or running shoes. If I like it I wanna keep on wearing it. Still laughing . . .

  5. Wow. Wow. I just don’t know if I can throw any other words together. $400 for a one-time rental? Wow. I guess I’m doomed to a life of mediocre fashion; And I’m really (REALLY) okay with that.

  6. In my world, if an event requires that I dress up, it’s usually a wedding. And usually the only new thing I buy is pantyhose.

    I can’t help but think that this sort of thing is indicative of a deeper issue, societally-speaking….

    1. I know. I tried not to be too preachy, but I think I sounded preachy. It’s hard not to get judgmental. She was a perfectly lovely girl. Probably.

      I don’t know. Coming over to you now. Because it’s all about you today.

  7. Laughing! I too, would not spend that much on a dress I could wear over and over! I hit the sales rack with a coupon at Lord andTaylor if I do buy a new dress. However, my escort is paying for my dress. So that I have in common with your goddess. Oh wait, doesn’t count! It’s my hubby, and he’s not always thrilled that I bought a new dress!

  8. Hmmm, there’s a thought for Tech Support’s bar mitzvah. Probably not. Definately not. It kind of creeps me out to wear a stranger’s clothes. Even if it is a $1000 fancy dress. I’m totally with Rivka – definately more comfortable in my old jeans and t-shirt.

    1. Larisa, can you imagine me spending even $150 for this event? My wedding dress was under $250 off the rack! I don’t like the idea of wearing other people’s clothes either.

      But this woman: seriously, she looked DIVINE!

  9. You are a woman after my own heart, Marshall’s shopper! I would never rent, but I did recently speak to a friend who did. She has very deep pockets, runs a company and doesn’t have time to shop. It is perfect for her!

        1. Omigosh! Can you ask her to share her experience here? I would love the OTHER perspective. Because to me it is so foreign. But there must be something to it.

          I just can’t imagine parting with a dress I love. I’d want to have it. And wear it again and again.

          But I also can’t imagine spending that much.

          On an unrelated note, I LOVED your piece on Trinity. And you looked fabulous as Trinity. It reminded me of when I tried to look like Ingrid Michaelson. 😉 You pulled it off waaaay better. Those pair-ups were brutal. I hope you’ll keep supporting FERRIS. 😉

  10. If you care a lot about designer names and have a lot of disposable income and it’s a priority for you, who am I to judge? Me? I think it’s crazy. I have far better things to do with my money.

    1. Maire: I try so hard not to judge, but I realize did get judge-ishy here. The concept just rubs me the wrong way. I could see renting a dress for a few bucks, but hundreds of dollars? Whaaat?



      she did look fabulous.


      she worked it so she didn’t have to pay for it.


      clearly she knows something that I don’t. And she has those magical powers of youth.

  11. All of that is so far over my head. I just read it with my jaw dropped. The money factor is nuts, but I don’t have that kind of money, so what do I know. But the concept of not wearing the same thing twice. Huh??? Of course, you should see my wardrobe…lot of jeans, shorts (thank you Southern California) and workout clothes. I’m glad you felt compelled to chat it up with the lady in the white dress :).

    1. Oh, I was beyond compelled to talk to her. I HAD to know where she got that dress. My son’s bar mitzvah is coming up, and I am just starting to think about what I might wear. I got excited for a moment thinking – wow – maybe some new shop opened up.

      Not so.

      You just have to pay a zillion dollars and send the thing back. Apparently.

      Not happening.

      Coming over to you.

  12. Ha! I HAVE heard of this, and you’re right, it IS a guilty pleasure! Not of mine, jeezus no, but dang if I’m not impressed with the level of guilty pleasure-ness!

    I’m a Marshall’s gal myself (too), and while I appreciate high fashion and luxurious fabrics, I cannot condone spending a down payment on a car/house/deal with the devil to RENT a dress. That you have to GIVE BACK!

    Also I can’t believe how you met Rachel. Wait. Yes I can. That’s awesome.

    LOVED the line about the toilet paper and “pee-pee crouch”!

  13. Oh dang Renee, that is freakin’ hilarious, and the sad thing is that I know someone that is THAT into fashion!!

    I prefer the L.L. Bean look, and I’m perfectly fine with it. It’s comfortable, classic, and not trendy…. so I’m still wearing the same two flannel shirts that I bought over 20 years ago… AND I’m happy!!!!!

    The only reason that I can imagine renting a gown would be if I was taking a long walk on the red carpet… you know, because I had been nominated for an Academy Award!!!!!!!!!! 🙂 It happens ALL the time with me ~

    Great thought-provoking post; however, the phrase that really knocked it to home-base was your ending (to me), “kind of like expensive toilet paper does as it is disappears down the drain.” Yep, a complete waste when you look around at our world.

    Hey, I have an award to pass on… it just might be coming your way on this one!!!

    1. I didn’t mean to get a judgmental… but I couldn’t help it. That really was the last impression. The money lost on white dress was like toilet paper swirling down the toilet. It amazes me that with so many people suffering from cancer and diseases that people can brag about such luxuries. I imagine if I ever had the chutzpah to rent an expensive dress,I’d be pretty closed-lipped about it.

      But it will never happen. 😉

  14. I see both sides of this. The thought of spending that amount to OWN a dress makes me nervous, let alone renting. I can’t help judging how wasteful it is for all the reasons you gave. And yet, how someone spends their own money is up to them.

    Does expensive toilet paper swirl down the drain differently than cheap?

    1. I see both sides, too.

      A person who earns her own money can spend her money however she likes.

      It would be hard for me to justify using anyone’s money to rent something so superficial.

      But this company is obviously doing very well, so what do I know?

  15. I could see like one or two times (in my entire life) when there *might* possibly be instances where I *might* consider this. I just don’t see the ‘savings’ in regularly renting a dress for nearly 15xs what I could/would pay for a dress to keep and wear over and over and over again…

    Besides — what if I spill my cheap wine cooler on it??!!

    1. Actually, Karla, it’s linking to something called “archertestblog”; you may need to go into your WordPress Dashboard and fix Users “Your Profile”, and add your corrected blog address there.

      And Renée, I don’t fault you at all for feeling a bit shell shocked (and somewhat judgmental). It’s hard to not react a bit off when things as alien to one’s nature jump out at us. The fact that you did find her stunning says a lot as well. And clearly you have been thinking about the effect of her presence by your post here and your comments. I guess I’m a bit neutral myself… if anything, I feel a bit sorry for her and her date. All that, and nothing to show for it. 🙁

  16. This was fascinating. Thanks for the glimpse into the lifestyles of the rich and famous…because neither of those words apply to me. =)

  17. I don’t mind re-wearing a dress, but I’m kind of silly about not re-wearing it with the same crowd. So for example I bought a dress for a Mardi Gras ball, but I would wear it at a military ball and on a cruise also (neither of which are happening this year). Or at an event after we move this summer.

    I love the concept of renting a dress, though. For someone who has the means or inclination to buy designer, it’s a great way to save money–and it creates so much less waste. If I could find one that catered to women of lower means, I would be really interested. Isn’t there a market for $150 dresses that could be rented for $50? I would so do that.

    Personally, I have never spent more than $100 on a dress (which is why the dress in my FB profile is hand-sewn together after I put it on–it was too big but I got it half-price), but I also don’t carry a Coach bag and I buy tons of people-can’t-believe-I-bought-them-for-less-than-$20 at Payless and Kohl’s. You don’t always need labels to be fashionable 🙂

    1. I hope you don’t need labels to be fashionable. Because if you do, I’m in trouble.

      It would be cool if there were a slightly less expensive alternative! I would pay $50 to rent a dress.


      I don’t know.

      I usually do pretty well at Marshall ‘s. Seriously.

      1. I have yet to find something I liked at Marshall’s or Ross’s. Unfortunately. T.J. Maxx isn’t much better, although I once did find a great dress there. Maybe it’s the stock in this particular area, but I’m constantly being disappointed by the selection and quality. But I’m glad you’ve lucked out!

          1. Check out Kohl’s! They have great deals and you can combine them with 20% off coupons so easily. ♥ them!

          2. Hmmmm. I thought the directive was to bring a little plant over to a computer, but what do I know? 😉

            Seriously, though, I don’t know what the level of formality is for bar mitzvahs since I’ve never been. Kohls doesn’t have a whole lot in the way of formal/floor length dresses, but they have a lot of nice afternoon wear or dressy (but not formal) evening 🙂

            (Sorry, I love shopping . . . can you tell? ;))

  18. I am with you, I could not justify spending that kind of money to RENT a dress unless it was for a ONE off, red-carpet type event where I HAD to have something super brand name and expensive for this once-in-a-lifetime thing (which will never happen so….)! I can’t imagine….
    Besides which, if I LOVE it, I’d fall in love with it and want to see it hanging in my closet so I shall just steer clear of the rent-a-dress!

  19. This post could take me in two different directions but they both lead back to the same spot which is NO F’ING WAY would I spend that kind of money on a rented dress. Or a purchased one, for that matter.

    So a part of me laughs at her shallowness and at the poor saps who pay for her dresses. “Silly girl! Silly man!”

    Another part of me weeps for the disparity of wealth in this country. This Sunday I made my husband turn off “Million Dollar Listing” or some show like that on HGTV that he was watching on commercial breaks from basketball.

    The potential buyers invariably bemoaned the fact that there weren’t enough closets for ALLLLL their shoes in multi-million-dollar penthouses. (And let me tell you I am positive these ladies didn’t earn their money through their altruism. Or their brains.)

    Ugh. I’d much rather spend the day talking with your students who slept in Wal-Mart.

    1. My former Wal-Mart sleeper is out of jail.

      He was incarcerated when he was caught sleeping in the store.

      And, yes, he is super interesting.

      Would love to invite them both to dinner and see how their conversations would go.

      On second hand, I’d rather just have him.

      I stopped watching HGTV. I started calling it “Covet TV” because it really does make people feel lousy for having less than perfect homes. It can’t be healthy for Americans to watch. It just can’t. Right?

  20. This is beginning to take off in London too. When I first heard about it I though it was strictly for people with way more money than sense, but I’ve changed my mind. If you’re going to buy a dress/shoes (yes! even shoe rental)/bag/whatever at a high price and despite your best intentions only wear it once or twice – why not rent it for a fraction of the price, wear the same number of times and have more wardrobe space?
    Sure – if you can beg, borrow, alter and rewear outfits – even better. But for that one big occasion – wedding, graduation, whatever – renting for less money a lovelier outfit could be better than buying at a higher price a less lovely outfit.
    …Just as long as you don’t go doing it all the time.
    And does it count as more sustainable environmentally? Because more people are getting use of the same garment rather than just the moths in your closet?

    1. I’m not sure this counts as recycling. It’s still pretty spendy. I suppose if someone has those kind of resources, well…that person can do whatever she wants.

      It just seems awfully wasteful.

      You also have to dry-clean both garments, which costs a fortune.

      Hard to justify.

      1. The London rental people do the dry cleaning for you. But something you might approve of – an old concept made new – the Wonderbag – I was also talking to the woman behind this the other day. It’s at
        Works really well. She made some lovely veggie stew. Good broccoli in it too.

  21. Renee, I am so beyond cheap when it comes to clothes…the only way anything new hits my closet is when one of my besties buys it and brings it over for me to try. If I like it, I write her a check. She LOVES to shop, so she just does mine while she’s out doing hers. IT ROCKS!

    *snort* $240-400 for a dress…I could go to a writers conference for that.

  22. I’ve heard of renting costumes, which makes a great deal of sense to me, but this is totally new! Like you, I can’t imagine spending $200 on an item of clothing I’d wear repeatedly, let alone one I’d wear once.

    I spent $65 on a pair of shoes and felt guilty for weeks. So–count me as in your court generally, although I’m certain this thought’ll gestate in my brain in case there’s ever a special occasion for which I want to try something truly out of my price range!

    1. Renting a costume is something I’d consider for a fancy party, but these clothes rent over $200! Most are closer to the $300 price point. Can’t imagine spending that much only to have to give it back.

      I think we are supposed to feel like we are repurposing things, but really it is just pretty excessively wasteful.

  23. OMG! I was so with you when she dropped the bomb about what it cost to RENT the dresses. Wow! Talk about sponsor a third world child for several years!

    I think you handled it better than I would have. My pet peeve is people who take it for granted and don’t work for what they have. I was raised having to save up my money to get the things I wanted and while it seemed tough, I am so glad now I have that background.

    1. Jess:

      My father once yelled at me for throwing away a penny. So, yes, I understand the value of money and hard work.

      I tried not to sound judgmental in this piece, but I was pretty judgmental in my heart when I learned the woman had gotten her date to pay for her dress. That was a pretty icky moment.

      For me.

      She seemed pretty proud.

  24. One time my sister rented a ball gown for a big “THANG” she had to attend. It smelled like BO. Every time she twirled the smell swirled around her. We still laugh about it.

    As for being an outfit repeater? I`m notorious for wearing my favorite dress, outfit, sweater, whatever to everyone else`s ad nauseam. I like to get my money`s worth -and I wouldn`t have bought it if I didn`t just love it.It`s particularly hard on my daughter.

    1. Hahahaha. I love that the rental gown smelled like BO.

      That makes me smile.

      (Is that cruel?)

      But this woman did not smell bad.

      She smelled and looked delicious.

      I could have eaten her up. IYKWIM.

      I, too, have been busted for wearing things multiple times. But usually i end up embarrassing myself. Whatevs. 😉

  25. I hate dress shopping so I can’t even imagine putting on a dress that came out of the mail. It would be a horror show.
    When/if I ever find a dress that looks good on me…I’m keeping it.
    And really…who am I kidding…it’s not likely to cost $400!

    Funny post, Renee! I snorted a little bit. ssh, don’t tell.

    1. I hate shopping, too. So that IS the other factor. Whenever I have tried to buy something from the mail 85% of the time, it has to go back. What a PITA.

      And as someone else noted, for THAT money, I would rather go to a writers conference. 😉

  26. How funny I should read this today when I had a rare morning shopping and bought a dress! It was so cheap and if I do a thousand salutes to the sun I might even look good in it 😉

    That was funny, I’d wouldn’t want to give it back if I’d spent all that much. Yikes!

  27. This is freakin’ hysterical, Renee!!! I LOVE the image of the “pee pee crouch” and the good t-paper down the drain!! Brilliant writing, girl!!

  28. Ugh. This makes me sick. I’d tell you exactly how I feel about what she said, but you pretty much summed it up perfectly in your points. Great post. Thanks for sharing.

  29. My sister once found a wedding dress at a thrift store for about $30. It fit perfectly and complimented her figure. She’s 18, is single, and (as far as I know) isn’t planning on marriage. She bought it anyway. Prowling thrift stores is the best way to locate cheap clothes that actually fit! I loved your toilet paper simile at the end.

  30. This is so funny! I make my fancy dresses. Rich people admire them and then move away from me like I have an infection when I tell them I made it.

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