When I say "I haven't been anywhere in 3 years," I don't mean I haven't been anywhere. I've been spending a great deal of time with my kids at my vacation home, more commonly known as the playground. I've been living a life of great mystery lingering in shadowy corners of my local museums to breastfeed my baby. I've frolicked in my yard a whole bunch. If you're picturing me doing all of these things in bike shorts and a T-shirt you would be correct.
Naturally, it felt like a big deal when my cousin's wedding invitation arrived. A cousin who has been wearing cute outfits this whole time. I have full certainty that she and all her adorable mid-twenties friends will be dressed to the nines, and I equally have full desperation to establish my identity as something other than a tie-dye mom with ketchup in her hair—not for their sake but for mine.
So I tried nuuly. I've dipped my toes in clothing subscription boxes before, but mostly the ones that send you items to keep. I wanted to find a dress that fits my current body and makes me feel fun and excited and that isn't another hanger to squeeze in among the closetful of dresses I already own.
Here's how it went.
What I'm Wearing to a Wedding: nuuly
Have you seen my colleague Mary's "What I'm Wearing This Week" series? I decided to orient this review how she does. For more info on the fine details of how this subscription works, visit our nuuly page.
For sizing reference, I am 5'3", weigh 140 pounds, and have a 28" inseam.
nuuly is a clothing rental subscription from the folks behind Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, and Free People. The program features the same style of dresses, denim, separates, and even vintage pieces you'd expect to see in their stores. For $88 per month, you can rent your choice of six clothing items and wear them like they were your own. Return your set by the end of the month or hold on to them a little longer. You'll unlock the ability to pick your next set every time your billing date rolls around.
This is a review of nuuly rent, which costs $88/month to rent 6 items at a time.
My Subscription Addiction paid for this box. (Check out our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we review boxes.)
I have, like, a dozen dresses in my closet that I love. I pondered them and stressed over them and invested in them knowing I would covet and wear them for years and years to come. And then two pregnancies imparted upon me an expanded ribcage and diastasis recti and a body shape biologically designed to hoard its resources to nourish a giant baby, and all of my cherished dresses most certainly do not fit me at this juncture.
I have been increasingly hovering around the slow fashion movement over the last decade, and honestly can't remember the last time I had to go out hunting for an article of clothing, as opposed to buying something that was already on my radar just waiting for the right moment to become mine. So it was important to me that whatever dress I found for this wedding wouldn't be one I had to keep (unless I wanted to). I love the sustainable aspect of clothing rentals.
I also couldn't fathom spending time bopping around stores (or—gasp—the mall) to find a dress that'll work for this occasion. I couldn't get on board with placing 6 orders on various websites only to return half of them, or worse, to convince myself that even if it didn't work this time it might come in handy down the line and end up keeping hundreds of dollars worth of dresses I have no use for.
So, having most of my favorite brands' styles all together under one "roof" was a big draw to nuuly for me. That's the background.
The specific goals I have are:
- Find something that fits my body as it is right now.
- Have fun with a silhouette or color I might not choose if were buying.
- Try something that would otherwise be out of my price range.
- Be honest with myself.
My nuuly Delivery
All six items I chose were folded neatly and zipped into a reusable fabric case. I am thrilled that there's no plastic involved in this scenario whatsoever. The lid has a mesh pouch that contains my return label for when it's time to send everything back.
What I Chose
When you sign up for a nuuly account, before you even enter your credit card info in to subscribe, you can start adding items you like to your "Closet." While nuuly has thousands of styles ranging from casual, everyday clothes to cocktail and going-out attire to fancier styles, some of it is out there in the world being worn by others. So, as I was "shopping" for something well-suited to my upcoming occasion I made sure to set the filters not only to my preferred size range, but also to switch on the "Available Now" toggle.
Here are the wedding guest dresses I chose:
Maison Armory Ruffle Romance Dress — Retail Value $299, Cost to Keep $143.51
How I styled it: I kept the styling simple for all of the dresses I tried on this day because that is just my way, but here I have some of my favorite fiber-wrapped knotted earrings and these blue crisscross, buckled, stacked wedges that are remarkably versatile and have been worn to many weddings over the years!
Size and fit: Earlier in my postpartum experience I was squarely a size L on both top and bottom, but I'm slowly returning to occasional size M. This dress was rated by other renters as running a tad small, so I opted for size L. I figured if this dress was a bit too big on me its ample silhouette would allow for a roomy fit without looking too big. I think I chose right.
Honest review: This dress is the first one I chose and it is so incredibly outside my usual in all ways. I don't think I've ever in my life reached for something so pastel nor so accentuating of all the parts of me that are already voluminous. Going outside my norm was one of my goals – I just wanted to open myself up to potentially liking something unexpected, and in this case, I thought the dress felt really fun. The shoulder ruffles and the low back are such a statement. My husband absolutely hated this dress but is such a kind person that he didn't admit it until I said this dress felt like a little too much for me.
P.S. Say hi to my tiny companion! My daughter wanted to get fancy with me, so you'll see her modeling her own dress throughout this review.
Maeve by Anthropologie Bernadette Sequined Midi Dress — Retail Value $228, Cost to Keep $66.12
How I styled it: A sequin dress as a concept has a very strong New Years Eve or otherwise party girl association for me, but I liked how this one is updated with sleeves, a swingy silhouette, and a houndstooth pattern. I wanted to further balance its flashiness with huge olive green clay earrings from Sigfus Designs and chunky black flatform sandals.
Size and fit: Again referencing reviewers' suggestions on fit, I saw this one runs a little large and so I felt comfortable trying a M. I also indicated on the filters that I'm open to petite sizes. I don't normally shop for petites, but at 5'3" I believe I qualify. This one felt like the right length and size. The fit was boxy as designed.
Honest review: This dress actually arrived feeling a little damp around the neckline. My guess is that the very thick, very-not-breathable material didn't dry fully after being cleaned. It did not have an odor and it dried overnight on a hanger. I really like the way this dress is a detour from the usual, closer-fitting silhouettes you'd typically find sequined dresses in. I think I could find a way to like it for the right occasion. But in this silhouette it feels oddly casual, despite being so completely sparkly. I do want to feel great at this wedding, but I don't want to compete for attention, so I ended up setting this one into the "no" pile.
Anthropologie Floral Lace Maxi Dress, Size 10 — Retail Value $298, Cost to Keep $101.32
How I styled it: I think I forgot to put earrings in with this dress! I again played with balancing its delicateness with my black flatforms, but I think this dress would lend itself to something more sweet.
Size and fit: This one was indicated as running small, especially in the bust area. I have had small breasts my whole life prior to pregnancy and breastfeeding, but am now fuller. I went for the size L to be safe.
Honest review: This dress's soft blue color, textured florals, and detailed trim are really gorgeous. Pulling it out of the delivery case I felt immediately drawn to its quality. I thought that the neckline was flattering, and from behind it fit nicely on my hips, then fell into a beautiful hemline. And while I would probably obsess over how this dress looked on someone else with an identical body to mine, I'm just not comfortable enough in my postpartum shape yet to wear something that accentuates my torso. My husband said he thinks it's lovely, and that it celebrates my current body nicely. That felt good, but I still decided against this dress for the wedding in hopes I'd find something I felt more confident in.
Farm Rio Floral Maxi Dress — Retail Value $248, Cost to Keep $66.95
How I styled it: With golden chain-fringe earrings that I received years ago from Joya (back when it was a subscription) and my strappy blue wedges. I liked how these shoes brought out some of the greys and blues in the dress.
Size and fit: This dress seemed pretty forgiving with its elastic waistband so I chose a size M in hopes that the length would be a better fit for me.
Honest review: This dress is so my speed. The colors are rich and in my wheelhouse. The combo of patterns are interesting. The bit of volume in the sleeve is flattering, and the V-neckline is shallow enough that I can wear a regular bra with it. The double elastic on the waistband elevates it a little above just one band. And the hemline is what my dreams are made of. I just absolutely love this dress, and my husband adored this one too—to the point that he suggested I buy it. My only qualm is that it doesn't feel that dressy. The wedding isn't formal, so it doesn't need to be a ballgown. But I can't decide if I would feel like I'm wearing something I'd reach for on a Saturday or if it's more than that.
Naya Rea Dance All Night Midi Dress — Retail Value $405, Cost to Keep $263.25
How I styled it: I am all about blue and green together this summer, so my trusty blues are going strong!
Size and fit: I chose size UK 12 (US 8). The overlayer is roomy and flexible on sizing. The slip is tiny. I could barely fit it over my hips. It's also attached at the shoulders, so it was really confusing to get on.
Honest review: I didn't have high hopes for this dress, because I noticed in the model photos that the waistline is wavy, and a drop waist doesn't work for me. But I also saw in the photos that it can be worn backwards, with the bow in the front, so I thought I'd give it a try. It's another one that I would pass right by in a normal store, but the color and layers of tulle seemed like something new for me. In reality, with the very slender slip being attached to the outer layer, it can't be worn reversed. I didn't feel great about separating them, even though I would if I owned it. (There's also a tag inside the back of the slip that would be uncomfortable against my chest.) It's cute in theory, but I think it would work better on someone with a straighter shape.
Alice McCall Mysteria Ruffled Midi Dress — Retail Value $495, Cost to Keep $123.75
How I styled it: With some coveted Alchemilla earrings and low block heels from Aldo that I bought when I was pregnant and couldn't wear anything too high.
Size and fit: I chose size AU 12 (US 8).
Honest review: This dress is witchy magic. I wish my photographer (husband) had also been my stylist and told me that my tiers were sticking! In the nuuly photos I thought this dress looked light and fluffy on the model, but it was a bit limp and staticky on me. Perhaps I could've found a way to spruce it up. I felt my sass really turning on when wearing this dress, which was like a buried part of me re-emerging after being latent for several years, but in the end this dress felt better suited to a different occasion—perhaps even a different wedding, or a different season.
Did They Deliver?
- Did these items meet my goal of finding something *amazing* that suits my body as it currently is? Sort of! I explored a lot of new (and old) sides of myself through trying on dresses outside my norm. That felt good and important. In the end I landed on the deep burgundy Farm Rio dress, which instantly felt at once like home and like something fresh.
- Did the dresses meet or exceed expectations? All these dresses came in very good condition. I would say the only thing holding them back from an "excellent" rating is that they weren't crisply steamed the way I'm used to meeting a fancy dress in a store, but everything was clean and nothing had damages or signs of wear. The one dress that was less than "very good" was the sequin dress, which arrived a bit damp.
- What’s the return process like? Super easy, all I have to do is pop that included return label on the top and drop this case off at a UPS drop-off.
They say to treat these clothes like they're your own and, well, busted—this modeling session created a heap not unlike the ones all over my bedroom.
I was really happy with my wedding guest dress try-on extravaganza with nuuly. In the end I chose a dress that was less of a reach for me than I expected, but I'm pleased with my decision, knowing I'll feel confident in what I'm wearing. I'm also curious to fill up a future nuuly order with trendy clothes I can wear for day-to-day. It'll be a fun way to participate in trends without having to commit to a size I'm not sure will fit me long-term.
Can you still get this box if you sign up today? Most of these pieces are currently available to rent in some sizes, but not necessarily the sizes I am wearing. But check back often! Subscribers are exchanging which items they rent all the time.
Value Breakdown: A nuuly delivery costs $88 to keep six items for six weeks. That breaks down to $14.67 per item, whereas the total retail value of the box is $1,973 total for all the items new, or $764.90 if I were to buy all the items through nuuly.
Do you subscribe to nuuly? Let us know what you think down below!