Are you like many of my clients — wondering how to reduce your environmental impact when shopping? Have you considered clothing rental?
To save you the process, I thought it would be fun to try out some rental clothing services and share my discoveries with you. I researched, read about and listened to podcasts about this disruption to the retail space. Then, I purchased a box from each service as an individual, so my opinion is wholly my own and not compromised in any way.
Let’s explore the various clothing rental services together! If you want to follow my own testing and rental box trials in real time, join me on Instagram for my #DailyOutfit post.
What is the case for renting clothing?
Did you know that 60% of clothing made ends up in the landfill within a year of production? Staggering.
Eco-Conscious. By re-using clothing instead of buying new items, renting clothing allows us to produce fewer items with higher fabrication and construction value, creating less waste. It reduces the need for low-cost novelty items, which means workers can be paid more and we can invest in more sustainable production methods. Since we have only 10 years to reverse the climate crisis, this is critical.
Budget-Friendly. In terms of our own personal sustainability, renting clothing is budget-conscious. Because it’s a fixed cost we can work into our budgets each month, you can satisfy the need for new clothing without your budget fluctuating. At the same time, there’s no need to spend exorbitant amounts on one-off events like weddings, graduations, reunions or conferences that might hitherto have seemed to require a serious outlay of your cash-flow. Plus: who needs those orphan items taking up space?
On-Trend. Ah, the trends! As you may know, I’m not a big fan of shopping trends for trends’ sake. However, I love trying out trends and do enjoy having new items to play with in my wardrobe. Because I’ve built a great foundation for my wardrobe — and encourage my clients to do the same — I’m in a great place to add fun new items via rental without committing to them long-term.
Making Fashion Accessible. I’ve always loved perusing fashion magazines, but never have felt like anything in them was even close to accessible for me. First of all, I’m way to messy an eater to purchase anything with three zeroes! Honestly, it’s just not me — I wouldn’t be comfortable or feel good in something that cost enough to send a kid to school. However, I love bridge fashion — it’s expensive enough to have the high level of craftsmanship, design and fabrication, without being over-the-top in terms of price or, frankly, function.
Size Fluctuation Many of my clients struggle with size fluctuation. Hitherto, I’ve recommended building a flexible wardrobe with pieces that are stretch, flowy and can accommodate your size changing. When doing wardrobe review, I recommend keeping basics in a size up or size down to everyone — just store them away so they are fresh when you need them. Focus on the size you are now and stay open to looking at the fit of an item vs the number on the inside label that no one can read. Rental is a great way to combat this issue. If you are going through a particularly stressful time and you’ve sized up, just rent the new size. If you’re on a program to get fit and/or get healthy, rent clothing as you size down.
Pregnancy. One of the best use cases for clothing rental is pregnancy. No pregnancy is the same and it’s unlikely you’ll get pregnant at the same time of year, so there’s no case to be made for investing in a full pregnancy wardrobe. Purchasing minimal basics as your body changes makes sense, but renting to add color, pattern and interest to your wardrobe is a brilliant concept.
Clothing rental services are actually doing retailers a favor — instead of having to wink at customers buying and returning clothing for one-time use, clothing rental services have turned this into a lucrative business.
What is the case against renting clothing?
Lack of Sizing. Rent the Runway goes to size 22. Armoire goes to 16W. LeTote goes to 16. To me, that is shocking. Retail brands are so frustratingly slow to adopt size inclusivity — the market is there, people! The CDC considers the average woman to be a size 14, but 67% of women in the US are size 14 or higher. So how can Armoire and LeTote only go to size 16? This is just a stupid business practice.
Wearing Someone Else’s Clothes. You may find yourself getting anxious about the idea of wearing clothing someone else has worn. All the eco-consciousness in the world cannot undo your physical discomfort with this concept. Listen — your feelings are your feelings! That’s okay. You can be eco-conscious in other ways by shopping higher-quality, limiting yourself to only eco- or sustainable brands like Everlane or simply buying less.
Working to Rent. If you don’t enjoy shopping, you likely won’t enjoy renting your clothing easier. It takes some work and time to get the style profile right, the sizing isn’t always on-point and you need to spend your energy choosing your clothes, trying them on and sending them back. It may just not be fun or worth it for you.
Not Travel-Friendly. When you travel a lot, you need your clothing to be ready at a moment’s notice. You need pieces that don’t wrinkle easily, that can be washed instead of dry-cleaned and mix and match easily amongst themselves. While rental can provide you with those one-off pieces that work well for special occasions like a party, conference or quick trip, it takes time, energy and resource to manage, which may not mesh well with your life on the road.
Clothing rental services are nascent in the retail space and have some work to do to make it easy, inclusive and fun.
For more on this topic:
- Shopping: How to Make Shopping A Healthy Self-Care Practice
- Budget Shopping: Budgeting For Your Style
- Impulse Shopping: How to Keep Impulse Shopping At Bay