Fashion Revolution 2016 #haulternative: renting dresses for special occasions

It’s Fashion Revolution Week, a movement all about turning fashion into a force for good. I’m taking part by writing about my #haulternative. A haulternative is a way of refreshing your wardrobe without buying new clothes.

Fashion is the fifth most polluting industry in the world, after the oil industry. Thanks to fast fashion stores giving us cheap access to the latest trends, and societal pressures to wear new outfits all the time, clothes—often barely worn clothes—are filling up our landfills.

My haulternative is to rent dresses for special occasions. Celebrities borrow clothes all the time for red carpet events and public appearances, so why can’t we? Recently I was in New York for a couple of events, one being a wedding, so this was the perfect time to try two dress renting services: StyleLend and Rent the Runway.

I’d ordered my outfits online in Toronto, so by the time I got to my New York hotel, the dresses were already waiting for me at the concierge. I didn’t have to worry about dry cleaning and renting saved me a lot of space in my luggage. So easy.

It’s common for people to feel the need to dress to impress, and buy new outfits for weddings and other special events. The dress is most likely to be worn once or twice, while it’s still in fashion, then spend its remaining days in the back of a closet.

Instead of investing hundreds—or thousands— of dollars on a designer dress that you’re going to wear less than a handful of times, or grabbing something cheap and disposable from one of the fast fashion stores, why not rent? In our sharing economy, this service is only going to get more popular. My closet is full of clothes in neutral colours, so renting allowed me to have fun with fashion and try statement dresses that I would typically think twice about buying.

StyleLend

StyleLend is a company based in New York that provides same-day delivery in NYC and also ships to the rest of the US. Lenders, who are stylish women from New York and San Francisco, offer great designer pieces that they don’t wear often, and StyleLend takes care of the renting, delivery and dry cleaning. The price to rent each piece is usually 5-10% of the retail price.

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I rented their popular Self Portrait Short-Sleeve Guipure-Lace Midi Dress. Self Portrait dresses are gorgeous. They will definitely get you noticed, which is why I probably wouldn’t wear this dress all too often if I actually owned it. Unlike the versatile little black dress, people will remember this one.

I’m a fan of Self-Portrait and had looked into buying something from them a few months ago, but ultimately decided against it because I don’t know how ethical they are. I wish more brands would be transparent about who makes their clothes and how. Most companies don’t offer that information, but hopefully things will change soon.

Since I don’t own any fancy clutches or handbags at the moment, (I only brought a backpack on my trip!) I decided to rent this Saint Laurent Classic Burgundy Handbag. I thought it would transition well from day to night. I’d wear it cross body with a casual outfit for a stroll in Central Park, and as a shoulder bag for nights out.

Get $10 off on your first StyleLend order with this code: ANNIZ8286D

Rent the Runway

Rent the Runway is a pioneer in the dress renting business. While StyleLend is a peer-to-peer model, RTR buys directly from designers, so they offer different sizes and have thousands of pieces in stock. The great thing about them is that they offer a backup size for free.

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I chose this Jay Godfrey Sunflower Thompson Dress. It’s very Rachel from Friends. Yellow is not a colour I wear often, so I wanted to give it a whirl. The shade looked subtle in the pictures, but turned out very bright in real life.

I received so many compliments for both dresses. Literally being stopped in the washroom and asked what I’m wearing. I’d definitely rent dresses from either company again when I go back to the US. They don’t ship to Canada or abroad. If I lived in the US, I think it would be fun to try Rent the Runway Unlimited, and have access to different designer clothes and accessories all the time.

In Canada, we have Rent Frock Repeat, which I might try. Dress renting (or “hiring” as they say in the UK) is starting to take off around the globe, especially in Australia and the UK. This service great for those who travel because you don’t have to worry about packing cocktail dresses for nights out.

Things to consider when renting outfits

♣ Sizing varies from designer to designer, so find out as much as you can about the fit. Rent the Runway’s customer reviews are very helpful.

♣ Know your body and what flatters you when choosing the pieces.

♣ Have a backup dress in mind if you don’t love the dress you get. If you’re traveling, bring a backup outfit if you think time will be too tight to exchange for a new dress in time for your special occasion.

What do you think about renting outfits? Let me know in the comments below.

Photos by Alden Wicker and Sarah Menbari

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Learn more about Fashion Revolution Week from my friends at Sustaining LifeThe PeahenGreen or DieSotelaEcocultStyle WiseKamea World – Leotie LovelyMy Kind Closet – Let’s Be FairThese Native GoodsWalking With Cake.