Why I’m Obsessed with Rent the Runway

The sparkly dress I was happy to wear, and even happier to not own.
The sparkly dress I was happy to wear, and even happier to not own.

If you visit Hey Eleanor often, you’ve probably noticed I’m trying to embrace the ‘less is more’ attitude. From paring down my wardrobe to roughly 40 items and getting rid of as much crap as possible, I’ve found having less makes me feel awesome.

Though to be fair, I still have a lot of crap.

Anyhow, I’m in the midst of yet another big closet purge. And as I hold each and every item of clothing, asking myself if it sparks joy, I’ve noticed there’s a little voice in the back of my head telling me to save things “for a special occasion.”

The past five or so years have been very wedding-heavy. Even though I have a few tried and true dresses, I always at least consider buying something new for a wedding. You don’t want to wear the same thing to the wedding this month because you’ll see the same people from last month’s wedding. And then there’s showers, bachelorette parties, and…. well, a lot of reasons to dress up. There’s a lot of nice things in my closet I’ve only worn once or twice. That’s just dumb.

I’d thought a lot about trying Rent the Runway, but was too nervous about doing it for an actual wedding. So when my future sister-in-law’s bachelorette party had a “champagne” theme (read: we were supposed to wear a sparkly cocktail dress), I’d found the perfect opportunity to try RTR. I’m not really a sparkly/sequins person, so no sense in buying something for a one-and-done.

Here’s how it works:

You go online to RTR, and search for dresses like you would on any online store. Once you pick out your dress, they’ll send it to you in two sizes. You can keep the dress for four or eight days. When it’s time to return, simply put your dress in a pre-paid shipping bag and pop it in any UPS box. They take care of the dry cleaning.

I after perusing hundreds of dresses, I settled on this super sparkly number. It looked a little short on the model, but I assume she’s probably 5′ 10″ and I’m only 5′ 4″, so I figured I’d be good. I browsed through RTR’s user-submitted photos and reviews and most people had excellent things to report. The dress retails for $335, but rents for $30. I’d spend at least that much cash on a tacky rag from Forever 21, and I’d give that dress a 50-50 chance of disintegrating by the night’s end.

Plus, I wouldn’t have to look at a ridiculous sequin dress hanging in my closet for years until I finally got rid of it.

When the RTR box arrived, I tore it open and threw it on.

It was so not my style.

Sequins, low back... right in my wheelhouse. 
Sequins, low back… right in my wheelhouse.

But hey, it was perfect for the party. And who cares if it’s not my style… I’m only borrowing it! For $30!

Here’s what a champagne themed bachelorette party looks like:

Here's what people wear when a party theme is
Here’s what people wear when a party theme is “champagne.” Totally get it.

I fit right in! And you know what’s funny? Once I put the dress on at the hotel, I didn’t just like it.

I loved it!

I got tons of compliments and for whatever reason, I felt extra confident. Maybe wearing a dress I’d normally shy away from had a ‘costume effect’– you know, how you feel especially bold on Halloween when you’re dressed as someone or something else?

Yeah, I felt that.

Oh hey, Minneapolis!
Oh hey, Minneapolis!
I feel like we all look three inches tall.
I feel like we all look three inches tall.
Crappy lighting. Deal with it.
Crappy lighting. Deal with it.

I will definitely be Renting the Runway again. Even if I were to spend $150-200 a year renting a handful of dresses (which is about what you’d pay for a dress from Anthropologie… my go-to dress shop), I’d still feel like I got my money’s worth. You can give new styles a whirl without much investment and if it sucks, who cares! It’s just a dress.

Seeing something “special” collecting dust in my closet makes me feel like junk. I know it sounds extreme, but really, it makes me feel like a failure and wasteful and stupid with my finances. Rent the Runway made me feel amazing. I think that’s a pretty awesome tradeoff.

* * *

Have you tried RTR? How’d it go? Would you do it again?

Oh and PS, I rented a purse for my wedding from them. $20 vs buying some ridiculously expensive clutch. Consider it, brides and bridesmaids!

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