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High Fashion Designer Dress & Handbag Rentals – Worth the Money?

By Jacqueline Curtis

natalie portman dressI was completely glued to my TV during the broadcast of the most recent Oscars. No, I don’t really care who won “Best Makeup” or “Best Cinematography.” I was actually watching to see what everyone would wear. My favorite frock of the night was worn by Natalie Portman, who donned a vintage Christian Dior. Later, the dress sold for $50,000 on an online luxury goods site.

I don’t know about you, but if I had $50,000 to spend, it would be on a down payment for a house or a college fund for my children. The vast majority of Americans don’t have the cash to spend on the designer duds that stars get to wear weekly. But have you ever had an event where you wanted to knock the socks off of everyone in attendance? You know it’s time to bring out the fashion “big guns,” but sometimes, mall-bought or thrift store items just don’t cut it.

When you’re yearning for something designer, but can’t justify the hefty price tag, you can score the best of both worlds by using a fashion borrowing service.

Borrowing Fashion

Fashion borrowing services let you snag designer clothing and accessories for a few days. You wear the item, send it back, and get all of the jaw-dropping looks that you want. While it might sound strange at first, spending major money on designer clothes you can’t afford is just downright crazy. Fashion borrowing services, however, let you live stylishly on a tight budget.

How Does It Work?

To decide whether or not this service is for you, you’ll need to understand how it works:

Fashion Rental Websites and Brands
A couple of the websites that offer rental or borrowing services include Rent The Runway, Bag Borrow Or Steal, and Love Me & Leave Me. All of the websites deal in high-end and designer clothing, so you’ll get to pick from brands like Gucci, Diane Von Furstenburg, Prada, Jason Wu, Cristian Siriano, Valentino, Proenza Schouler, and Miu Miu. All of the rental websites require you to create an account. Based on the personal information you provide, you will receive recommendations, dibs on new product, and items geared to your size and body type.

Terms
When you rent fashion and accessories, you pay for the right to use the item for several days. The current standard is four days, but you can extend the amount of time for additional fees. You promise to essentially treat the piece of clothing or accessory as if it were your own, or risk paying extra fees for rips, tears, or other damages. Since high-end fashion items are often not meant to be laundered, you must send the piece back unwashed so the service can take care of it properly.

get a "red carpet look" at a fraction of the price

Insurance
Usually, an automatic insurance fee is added (approximately $5) which covers wear and tear, stains, and popped buttons or broken zippers. If you ruin a piece beyond repair, you’ll be responsible for the full cost of the item, so take care!

Price
Prices for renting fashion definitely vary from service to service, but in general, you can expect to pay about 10% of the piece’s actual retail value to borrow it. For instance, a $2,000 Fendi bag will cost $200 bucks for you to use for the weekend. It might not sound like a great deal, but if you have a budget that allows for luxury items, it might be worth the cost for you.

Of course, lesser-known brands definitely cost much less, so it’s worth it to browse the website to see what type of fashion could be within your budget.

Perks
First of all, the best perk is getting to wear sumptuous designer fashion that you couldn’t afford otherwise. It’s a perfect way to spruce up for a major event: weddings, anniversaries, holiday parties, high school reunions, or work events where you want to look completely amazing. It might also be worth it to “test drive” a large purchase. For instance, if you have your eyes on an extremely pricey Hermes tote, rent it first before you make a serious financial commitment.

Purchases
What happens to all of those pieces that have been rented out and go out of style or out of season? Most fashion rental services slash the retail prices and sell them on their websites. If you borrowed something that you loved and wished you owned, or you just want an amazing deal on an extremely expensive item, you can score high-end pieces at a deep discount simply because they’ve been gently used. Since fashion rental services take great care of their items, you’ll get a high-quality piece without the designer price.

Final Word

Some people simply can’t get over the idea of wearing or using a piece that has already been used by someone else. However, you wouldn’t hesitate to borrow a dress out of your friend’s closet, would you? Think of fashion rental services as access to the world’s biggest “girlfriend’s closet.” Doing so could give you the chance to wear the same fashions seen on the red carpet without all the dishy celeb gossip the next day.

Have you ever tried a fashion rental service, or is it simply not your style?

(photo credit: Helga Esteb, Shutterstock)

Jacqueline Curtis
Jacqueline Curtis is an experienced style expert, and she focuses on getting high fashion on a tight budget. She writes for several online publications, including her own fashion blog, How Not to Dress Like a Mom, and specializes in fashion, finance, health and fitness, and parenting. Jae grew up in Toronto, Canada, but now resides in Utah with her husband, two kids, and prized shoe collection.

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