Rent the Runway is a designer clothing and accessories rental service. Think something like Le Tote, but with higher-end brands like Diane Von Furstenberg, Missoni, Tory Burch, Hervé Léger, and more. Once you're done with your pieces, you simply return them in good condition using the clever garment-bag-slash-mailing-envelope in which they arrived.
I love experimenting with fashion, but you'd never know it looking at my closet. My day-to-day uniform is a gray sweater, black leggings, and sneakers, and while I have some dresses, they fall into the same neutral color scheme and casual aesthetic. So when I got invited to a friend's afternoon wedding, I found myself struggling to figure out what I'd wear. When occasions like this pop up, I have a habit of just rushing out to buy something... and then donating or consigning what I get shortly thereafter. I'll either get something that's so on trend and adventurous that its novelty is lost by the time I need a fancy dress again, or I'll settle for something I don't actually like, just because I'm in a pinch.
I'd heard of Rent the Runway through friends and coworkers who had been in my same situation (fun wedding to attend, nothing fun to wear). Browsing the dresses on the website, I was getting pretty giddy. As someone who always feels underdressed and out of place walking into a Nordstrom, it was wild to think that these gorgeous dresses (and even bejeweled ballgowns) could be within my reach.
There are two ways to enjoy Rent the Runway. The first way is to do a one-off rental of up to three items for either 4 or 8 days. The other way is to sign up for their the Unlimited subscription—pay a monthly fee, and choose up to 3 items that you can either hold on to or swap out with something new whenever you'd like.
This is a review of the Unlimited subscription ($139 per month).
This box was sent to us at no cost for review. (Check out the review process post to learn more about how we review boxes.)
The Subscription Box: Rent the Runway Unlimited
The Cost: The Unlimited subscription is $139 a month. If choose to do a one-off rental, wherein you rent items for a specified number of days, you pay the cost of the items. Returns are free for both options.
COUPON: Coupons do not apply to subscriptions, but you can save 20% off your first regular RTR order with code FIRSTRTR20P
The Products: Up to 3 items of high-end designer clothing and accessories
Ships to: U.S.
Good to know: Returns are free and can be dropped off or scheduled through UPS
Keep Track of Your Subscriptions: Add this box to your subscription list or wishlist!
After you sign up for the Unlimited subscription, you'll be able to add up to three items into your bag and have them shipped to you. When browsing items, make sure the "Unlimited" option under the "Rental Type" section of the left sidebar. Most items on Rent the Runway work with Unlimited subscriptions, but there are some items (super-expensive dresses, bridal pieces, etc.) that don't.
That said, there are TONS of items to pick from with your Unlimited subscription. Having lots of options is awesome, but finding the perfect piece can be a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack. Take my advice:
- Use the filters on the side of the page! It'll help you from getting overwhelmed (or in my case, instantly distracted from my wedding dress mission because SUNGLASSES).
- In particular, use those size filters, because not everything will be available in every size (either because they don't offer that size, or because that size is already being rented out).
- Read the customer reviews! I'm always skittish about ordering clothes online, but I was especially worried that my shorter, broader body wasn't going to work with brands I've only seen on waify models in magazines. Seeing reviews (and photos) from people with measurements similar to mine helped me get a better idea of what pieces would work and what wouldn't.
- Use the heart icon next to each product to mark the items you love. Then, you can go back and see all of those pieces in one place by clicking the heart at the very top right of the page.
- When in doubt, contact the Rent the Runway stylists for advice. I didn't do that this time around, but after spending, like, an hour looking at dresses, I realized I might've benefitted from having some expert recommendations to guide me.
Why is all of this important? Once you put an item in your shopping bag, Rent the Runway only holds it there for 20 minutes before making it available for other customers to rent. If you know exactly what you want, that's plenty of time. If you're like me and not super limited in what you're shopping for, then it's easy to lose track of time (and your items).
Shortly after I placed my order, the clothes arrived at my door packaged neatly inside their garment bag/shipping package hybrid. The dresses were on hangers and in pretty good condition, too! Just a little bit of steaming, and they were good to go. Ready for a little fashion show?
Milly Purple Tie Dress, Size 8 - Unlimited Price: $0, Rental Price: $75, Retail Price: $465
[DISCLAIMER: I know, I know, the shoes don't really go—they were just the first pair of heels I had handy. I think this dress deserves something with a little more pizzazz, don't you agree?] I fell in love with this dress when I saw it online, but I was worried as to whether its sheath silhouette would work with my hourglass body. I was relieved by the stretchiness of the fabric—it's incredibly forgiving while still retaining its flattering structure. It's a little too short on me, and I noticed that the whole dress, from shoulder to hem, likes to lift up when I raise my arms. This dress would work during the wedding ceremony but would be a little restrictive during the dance party.
I'm also not a huge fan of how the sleeves pull the fabric around the bust out wide when I lift my arms. It adds some width that I don't feel is flattering to my already broader shoulders.
The bows are so cute. Usually, I'm not a fan of the whole "cold-shoulder" trend (it gets a little too California boho beach babe for me), but this interpretation was so structured, crisp, and fresh. And, hello, that lilac color is a dream!
Here are the sleeves from the back. The sleeves were roomy enough for my athletic arms.
The back has a keyhole detail up by the neckline, too. I love this dress so much, I just wish my arms didn't have to stay flush with my sides for it to stay put!
ADEAM Black Printed Plisse Dress, Size Large - Unlimited Price: $0, Rental Price: $160, Retail Price: $945
Uh, hello dream dress! This look is so me, it's ridiculous. I chose it as my "safety" dress. If the lilac look didn't work with my hips, then I at least knew this loose-fitting dress would fit me. But I didn't expect it to flatter me as much as it did!
The star of the show here is the long ruffle that cuts across the chest and down in front of my left leg. I love the way it sort of emerges from the flowing short sleeves and spills down the front of the dress. It's such a simple detail, but it adds such a fun, effortless elegance and softness to the look. The colors on the accordion-pleated white detail of the skirt looked a bit cold online, but in real life, they're warm and fun. It's a little Nickelodeon and a little jazzy-'90s-paper-cup-design, and I couldn't love it more.
The whole thing just hits me in all the right places. The sleeves are a great length, the ruffle swings in perfectly above my waist, the hem hits just above my knees...
And most importantly, the airy fabric and free silhouette are exactly what I need for an afternoon wedding in the sun!
Tom Tom Solar Eclipse Collar, One Size - Unlimited Price: $0, Rental Price: $70, Retail Price: $353
I figured I'd nab an accessory, too. This collar is so my style, though it's a little tough to wriggle around my neck. It has such a warm gold tone to it. And how snazzy is this box that it comes packaged inside?
I love how it looks on, though it doesn't quite work with either dress I got. The good news is that thanks to the Unlimited subscription, I can just hang onto it and wear it to a special dinner or night out!
Okay, so let's cover the most important part of this subscription. The return! Rent the Runway gives you everything you need to make your (free!) return, including a shipping label, instructions on how to pack everything up, and a "lock" to use to secure the bag.
Obviously, you can't return things that are super damaged without being charged. Drink white wine, put your napkin on your lap, wash your hands after you put makeup on or handle any kind of messiness (a.k.a. hors d'oeuvres)... be on your best behavior, but also don't stress out too much. Rent the Runway works cleaning and mending costs into the price of your subscription, so you can... y'know... be a living, breathing, dancing human in your outfit and not have to worry about being penalized. You don't even have to wash your look before you return it—just wear it and return it as is, sweat and all. And once you've sent your items back in, you can pick the next items to rent in their place!
Verdict: I was so happy with Rent the Runway Unlimited! $139 per month sounds like a lot, but I can say I have at least one fancy event a month (especially with summer wedding season coming up) that would otherwise see me buying something new. My tastes change frequently enough that I love the idea of getting a fresh look whenever I need it. Plus, wow is the process easy. And since you're not buying new clothes (and wearing it once), it's environmentally friendly, too! Between the simplicity of the process and the utter joy of wearing higher-quality clothing that both looks and feels good (no weird, misshapen mall sizing here), I feel like Rent the Runway is the best thing that's happened to my closet!
What do you think about Rent the Runway?