Andrea Tran, 59, a registered nurse and lactation consultant in Bloomfield, Colorado, is the first to admit she loves the ritual of shopping for clothes in a brick-and-mortar store.
"I enjoy the event of shopping,” says Tran. “It wasn't until I wasn't really allowed to shop [with the pandemic] that I considered clothing rental services as an option.”
The online clothing rental market — you select clothes on a website and they're sent to you to wear before you return them and receive a new selection — has been booming for years. Rent the Runway, a designer clothing rental service started by two Harvard graduates that launched back in 2009, is valued above the billion-dollar mark. And start-up clothing rental company Le Tote acquired Lord & Taylor for $100 million last year.
But if you think renting clothes to keep an ever-changing wardrobe rotating through the hangers on your closet is just for millennials, think again.
For someone used to the ritual of browsing actual store racks, Tran says the online rental experience pushes her outside of her comfort zone, in a good way. She mostly uses the services for finding clothes for work ("I'm lucky to not have to work in scrubs,” she says) and to have a changing array of dresses for fancier dinners.
"A rental service is great because it allows you to add variety and depth to your wardrobe.”
Add in other perks like being able to try on clothes in the comfort of your home (and, let's not forget, the benefit of natural lighting), not having to get in a car to go store to store and having intel from a virtual stylist of sorts (in most cases, the site's savvy algorithm) in the form of suggestions for what looks work best with your personal preferences, and there's a lot to love.
"You go, ‘Huh, I wonder what this would be like?'” Tran says about her experience perusing the clothing selections on Rent the Runway that include everything from designer gowns for black-tie events to brand-name sunglasses and handbags. “And you're just committing to renting, not buying. So you can wear more trendy things and not invest the money.”
With most of us working from home or staying at home more often these days, you might wonder if investing in your wardrobe is worth it right now. But in addition to offering resort and office wear, many rental companies, including Le Tote, have vast athleisure sections and casual garments (think: flowing sundresses and capri pants) that might offer just the pep in your step you need right now. And you may even find wardrobe staples to purchase and keep for years.
"A rental service is great because it allows you to add variety and depth to your wardrobe,” says Denver-based celebrity stylist Amber Alexandria. “Ideally, we should have the foundation of our wardrobe up to date with the ‘essentials’ — good-quality, classic pieces that withstand the test of time."