The Pros and Cons of 5 Fashion Rental Services

Rent the Runway Chicago

Fashion rental services are an enticing prospect: Pay a fraction of the retail price for fabulous, haute couture pieces that you can wear for a single event and then return, or spice up your closet on a rotating basis — no strings attached. Agencies like Rent the Runway and The Ms. Collection are becoming household names. But with so many options to choose from, do all fashion rental services make the cut?

Rent the Runway

How it works: Arguably the best known of all fashion rental services, RTR allows you to own a fabulous, designer dress (or pantsuit, coat, handbag or jewelry — you name it) for four to eight days. The site offers collections for everything from black-tie events to fashion trends such as “Modern Edge” and “Victorian Details.” A second size is included free with your rental (prices vary) and you have the option to rent a second dress (of equal or lesser value) for $32.50.

The Raves: If you’re a clotheshorse, RTR gives you the option to join the waitlist for their Unlimited membership: pay $99 a month to rent three pieces at a time that you can return whenever. With more than 3,000 pieces, there’s an outfit for every style.

The Rants: Plan well in advance of the event to make sure your dress will be available. Author’s note: I rented a dress for a wedding and was told four days before the event it would not be available, as a previous user had damaged it beyond repair. While the stylists did work with me to find a new dress, it was a stressful situation.

Le Tote

How it works: For one flat price ($49 a month), Le Tote sends you three garments and two accessories in each package with the option to purchase any of them at up to a 50 percent discount. There’s no return date for the clothes so you can keep the box as long as you please; as soon as you ship each box, your next is immediately on the way.

The Raves: You can receive an unlimited number of totes each month, depending on how long you keep each shipment. Additionally, the team of Le Tote stylists can help select clothes for you based on an intake questionnaire. The service now has an option for you to edit your tote before it is shipped; removing and swapping pieces that aren’t your style.

The Rants: The site has mixed reviews from bloggers and users alike — some claim that they didn’t receive any of the clothes they selected out of their online “closets.” There were also rumors of cheap-quality clothing and one blogger even claimed the clothes she was sent were not dry-cleaned as promised.

Gwynnie Bee

How it works: Gwynnie Bee offers the option to ship one to 10 garments (available in sizes 10–32) at a time ($35 to $159), which you can keep as long as you want. Fill your closet with picks from the site; the garments ship based on availability. Like other sites, it gives you the option to purchase the clothes at a significant discount.

The Raves: Women all over the Internet love the freedom of size swapping (“Great if you’re losing weight and don’t want to spend a bunch of money on clothes that won’t fit you for long,” one reviewer notes).

The Rants: Too many dresses. Some users complained of long wait times for items being shipped. Quality of the garments may vary as well.

Bag Borrow or Steal

How it works: Rent a fabulous designer handbag on a monthly basis, no strings attached. Prices vary based on the bag, but standard shipping is always free. Haute couture names such as 3.1 Philip Lim and Céline feature prominently on the site, but the selection of brands is very diverse. Rental bags are not available for purchase but other bags are — ranging from vintage to new to “pre-loved.” You can also sell a designer bag (in good condition) to the site.

The Raves: All bags are certified authentic — a worry when dealing with designer apparel on the Internet. The variety of styles and brands available is a big draw.

The Rants: The most popular styles can sometimes stay out of stock for months on end since the rental period is unlimited. When it comes to selling your bag, reviews are very mixed — Bag Borrow or Steal does not give a reason for rejecting a bag and some women claim they underpay for designers. Whispers of poor customer service dot review websites, but there are an almost equal number of satisfied buyers. Additionally, some bags require a credit check due to their high value. 

The Ms. Collection

How it works: Fill out a style profile and choose from the casual Ms. Play ($39 a month), the office-friendly Ms. Business ($45 a month) or the accessories-only Ms. Details ($35 a month) and get three to five pieces sent directly to you. All packages are sent out on the 15th of each month; choose to keep renting for another month, trade in for a new box or purchase any of the pieces for a discounted price.

The Raves: The clothes are easy to incorporate into your existing closet and have recognizable brands such as Banana Republic and Ralph Lauren. Users rave about customer service.

The Rants: Prices for the clothes aren’t included in the box so you have to contact a customer representative if you’re interested in purchasing a piece. And be careful to ship the box back before the 11th of each month or you’ll be charged for a second round of renting.