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Rent The Runway Review - I Tried The Most Expensive Pieces

Rent The Runway Review

My Everyday Style, But Better

Rent The Runway is a rental service specializing in designer brand clothing, accessories, and handbags. They offer two plans: ‘Update’ is $89/month for 4 items at a time which you can swap out once a month, while ‘Unlimited’ is $159/month for 4 items at a time with unlimited swapping within the month. Sizes range from 0-22 and they offer kids and maternity options as well.

I’ve tried quite a few rental services in the past like Vince Unfold, Infinitely LOFT, Haverdash, and Le Tote. I even recently used Rent The Runway with my fellow reviewer Megan specifically to “go big” for the holiday season. But what about the rest of the year? I thought I’d try the Unlimited plan from RTR (which many may think of as a special occasion service) and give it a whirl for everyday clothing. I dress pretty casually most of the time, so my goal was to keep my style… BUT MAKE IT FASHION.

COUPON: Use code RTRMSA to save $100 off your 60 day trial of Rent the Runway‘s Unlimited subscription service! ($50 Off Month 1 and $50 Off Month 2).

by Marne Orenich, MSA Reviewer, Secretly Bougie
September 2, 2020| 40 comments

About Rent The Runway

The Subscription: Rent The Runway

The Cost: $89/month for four items at a time which you can swap out once a month (Update), or $159/month for four items at a time with unlimited swapping within the month (Unlimited).

What You Get: Four clothing or accessories at a time with two or unlimited deliveries a month, depending on the plan.

Ships to: The U.S. only, including Hawaii and Alaska.

Learn more at a glance >>

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.)

Pros & Cons

The Pros
  • Wear styles you couldn’t normally afford to own.
  • Return any number of items at a time.
  • Add (or remove) extra spots at any time (for a fee).
The Cons
  • Styles or sizes can be unavailable on popular items.
  • On rare occasions, clothing can look overworn.
Is It Worth It?
  • From a cost standpoint, yes. If wearing designer name clothing and accessories is important to you, then renting can offer you a ridiculously large discount to get the same look as owning.
I’d Recommend Rent The Runway If You
  • Want to dress to impress.
  • Like to keep your wardrobe fresh.
  • Have a taste for designer clothes but not the budget for them.

 

How It Works

Rent The Runway allows you to rent four pieces at a time with the ability to add more for a fee. You can choose from a large selection of dresses, pants, outerwear, tops, sweaters, handbags, sunglasses, jewelry and more. In this article, I’ll explore their ‘Unlimited’ plan (normally $159/mo) which allows you to rent four pieces at a time with unlimited deliveries within the month. That means you can wear and return clothing and accessories as much as you want with free shipping both ways.

Getting Started

The first step to subscribing to Rent The Runway is choosing a plan. The main difference between ‘Unlimited’ and ‘Update’ (besides price) is that with ‘Update’, you can only swap out your four items once in the month, meaning you’ll only get two total deliveries. With Update, you also get a smaller pool of items to choose from and have a dollar amount cap on the retail value of items you rent ($350) as well as a cap on the retail value you’re allowed in a month ($1,400). ‘Unlimited’ has much higher price caps that are $3,000 for a single item or $10,000+ for the month. Basically, the sky is the limit with that one. Once you choose a plan (I went with the higher-priced ‘Unlimited’ for this review), you’ll set up an account with all your needed info and be ready to roll!

They have a short questionnaire regarding preferences. Here, they want my birthday.

Knowing what sizes you wear will help narrow down the pieces in stock that are available to rent. I do find the sizing to be a little too vague since I can wear a small on top, large on the bottom so a single numbered size can be very different depending on the garment.

Then, my height.

And any “deal-breakers.” I will probably never wear off the shoulder styles, strapless tops, or cap sleeves, so I’m opting out of those.

Ok, ok. NOW you’re ready to browse.

Navigating the Website

Here’s what the category pages look like. On the left, you’ll notice some filters like more specific categories, event suggestions, colors, formality, and “hearts” which are your “likes.”

At the top, you may notice these four buttons. They will also filter things out. RTR Unlimited denotes that I can rent higher-priced items, my zip code I think has something to do with how quickly certain items can get to me, my sizes, of course, are filtering out only those available, and the last one is all about availability. Let’s look at that one more closely.

When you click that button, you’ll get the choices above. Basically, to only show items that are available to get in your very next shipment (that’s the date they have), you’ll want to select the top choice. Otherwise, it will include styles that are unavailable at the moment while browsing. It can be helpful to use that filter if you just want to see what’s out there so you can “heart” it and possibly save to rent later. If you only want to see what you can have in your hot little hands ASAP, stick with the delivery date option.

The final thing I’ll point out is what I used for this review, specifically. It’s a sorting tool on the top right corner of the category page while browsing. The default here is “sort by recommended” which is pretty standard on websites with a lot of options. No, thank you. I would like to “sort by price from high to low,” please. I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to pay a higher monthly fee, I’m not going to rent a sweater from J. Crew that I can buy on sale for $30 at the mall. I am here to wear expensive things that I cannot afford!

So, next up we have the product page. This is what you’ll see when you click into an item. On the left, there will be model photos as well as user photos that have been uploaded by subscribers. I find these to be really helpful! On the right, you have all the designer info, the retail value, sizes available, size and fit guides, and product details. You can also “heart” this item which keeps it in a separate section. I like to heart anything I see and like, even if my size is unavailable. That way I can always go back to it later in hopes that it becomes available. You’ll notice to the left of the retail price it says “$39 – 5th spot” which is the price you’ll see if you already have the maximum four items in your cart or at home. I’ll get to that later.

On the product page, you’ll also find ratings, reviews, and sizing comments from other users below. I always look at these when I’m trying to determine my size (you can sort by “Women Like Me”). The users that leave their measurements are SO helpful! Angela (above) has almost the exact same measurements as me so I can get a great idea of how this will fit! Thanks, girl!

The last thing I’ll mention here is one of the downsides I found. While some popular items I love aren’t available at all at the time I am ordering a new batch, some are just simply not available in my size. This is why size filtering is important and why I wish it was more specific. I have sizes 8 & 10 filtered, but that doesn’t really translate to jackets or maybe I’ll need a 10 in a dress but it’s unavailable because it’s showing it has an 8 in stock. There will be a little heartbreak in this process is all I’m saying. But hopefully, those items will become available soon and you’ll be able to find a slew of other items in the meantime.

Adding Extra Spots

Another unique part of Rent The Runway is that you can add an extra spot (or more) at any time in your billing cycle. For ‘Unlimited’ subscribers, it costs $39, but is pro-rated in the month you first add it. As you can see above, since I am nearing the end of my billing cycle, they’ve taken $22.65 off of that price, knowing I can only use that 5th spot I added for a small amount of time this month. You may also notice that they charge a flat one-time fee of $9.95 when you add this extra spot. However, they specify that “To avoid shipping fees, upgrade your plan the next time you have a spot open.” It’s a little confusing, but there is a video here that may explain it better.

IMPORTANT NOTE: When you add an extra spot (or more than one), this is altering your subscription for all future months. Meaning, next month you’ll be charged $159 + the $39 for the extra spot moving forward, every month. You can take this spot away whenever you choose in your Membership Settings. Just be sure to do it 24 hours before your next billing cycle. The only time this doesn’t apply is to the free extra spots that you receive as a reward by making referrals. The free extra spots automatically expire after 30 days.

My First Rent The Runway Delivery

Once you choose the four items you want to rent, you’ll fill up your bag and confirm your shipment. They’ll give you a clear delivery date at that time and you’ll also get an email once it ships. My first shipment actually came a day earlier than the shipping confirmation said. Score!

The Unboxing

 

Your clothing is delivered in a soft black garment bag that you’ll unzip to reveal.

In each delivery, you’ll find a pre-addressed return card to slide back into the garment bag to send the clothing back when you’re done.

The Clothing

As I mentioned earlier, I’m all about trying to find the most expensive clothing to rent since I wouldn’t be able to try them otherwise. Of course, I wanted them to still fit my style. Most of what I chose was high-end designer versions of what I wear in my normal daily wardrobe. Overalls, black jeans, jackets, jumpsuits, and handbags, but FANCY! With a few items, I went a little out of my comfort zone for funsies. Rent The Runway definitely has more expensive items, but I don’t have anywhere to wear a gown in my day-to-day, so I kept it casual. Below, I’ll go through just some of the items I tried out with my Unlimited plan.

 

Current/Elliott Ranch Hand Overalls, size 10 – Retail Value $328.00

I own a pair of black overalls already that I love and wear all the time- but these are $328! I probably could have sized down a little, but boy were these comfy. I also liked the small details like the zipper at the chest and buttoned sides.

Mira Mikati Mr. x Mira Mikati Bomber Jacket, size medium – Retail Value $1,310.00

This was one of my wildcard items. There’s no way I’d purchase something this fun in real life, and it’s also $1,310! I was drawn to the obscene amount of color on this as well as the large embroidered anime face on the back. This jacket was so fun to wear and it made my pal Megan really happy when I did, so it’s worth it. The buttons were really soft rubberized snaps and it had a hood to block some cold wind. This jacket was so fun to sport!

Rag & Bone Walker Convertible Tote – Retail Value $425.00

When I saw the Rag & Bone tote, it looked brand spanking new, complete with stuffing still in it and no scratches or wear to be found. I immediately fell in love and kinda didn’t ever want to send it back (more on that a little further into this article). I used to be handbag crazed but have reeled it in more recently and narrowed my number down. I don’t have anything large like this bag though and since starting school, I’ve wanted a classy tote to haul more stuff around in. This fit the bill perfectly! I was very pleased with this item and its condition.

Rosetta Getty Cross Panel Dress, size medium – Retail Value $890.00

Sadly, the dress didn’t come even close to fitting me. I’m not sure why I ordered a medium, but I guess I did. I couldn’t even get it onto my body. I’ll also note that it looked VERY worn and even had a small tear at the chest from one of its previous temporary owners. Certainly not what I’d expect an $890 retail dress to look like. Luckily, I can let RTR know about this when I rate the item. More on that a little bit later.

 

Anna Sui Hibiscus Islands Jumpsuit, size 8 – Retail Value $653.00

I love jumpsuits as some of you already may know. This floral situation from Anna Sui really grabbed me, especially because it also happens to look a little like pajamas. Sleep is another one of my favorite things, so this is quite a nice marriage. It has a bright reddish-orange piping and the legs are sheer which makes it work for cold and warm weather alike. This piece is so wildly comfortable that I did not want to take it off!

Anya Hindmarch Small Shoelace Drawstring Bag – Retail Value $1,195.00

I wouldn’t normally spend money on a handbag that has such a light color for fear I’d get it all grimy, so this was another of my wildcard items. I couldn’t help but fall for the cute drawstring at the front of this pale mint bag which I think looks super girly and cute. I’ve become accustomed to bucket bags lately for their ease and how much they can hold. This one is really roomy and has not one but two handles so I can wear it on my shoulder or in the bend of my elbow. The leather is super soft and smooth so I can tell it’s high quality.

VINCE. Soft Bomber Jacket, size small – Retail Value $525.00

I am a Vince superfan and I have an affinity for bomber jackets, so I just had to rent this the moment I saw it. This little grey number is so warm and cozy and I love the faux shearling lining inside the body of the coat as well as the hood which makes it extra warm. This jacket is the epitome of my cold-weather style so getting to wear a pricier version of a black Gap jacket I have feels luxurious.

Citizens Of Humanity Grey Olivia High Rise Jeans, size 31 – Retail Value $268.00

The most I’ve ever spent on jeans it probably around $100. It’s hard to find something sturdy and well-made without spending a decent amount. Jeans are my every day go-to so much that I don’t even understand what other pants I’m supposed to wear! I wanted to try a more expensive brand to see if they were worth the extra cash. I was alarmed when these fit because I have such a hard time finding jeans. I’m not sure yet if these are really all that much better than my usual $80 jeans, but they’re incredibly soft and I think the cut is flattering.

Returning Items

Rent the Runway has a great return policy that strikes me as much better than most clothing rental services. Instead of being forced to send an entire delivery back together, you can return one (or two, or three) piece(s) at a time if you’d like. This can be especially helpful if you need a different size or you like some items and want to wear them more, but prefer to swap out the others. This is also a great way to always have something at home without having to wait for a new batch.

To return, simply reuse the garment bag the items came in. Be sure to include the hangers if you can since they are reused and will cut down on waste, along with any bags your accessories came in. Zip everything up and tuck the included return label in the clear outer pocket of the bag.

I was also quite impressed with how fast my return was received which freed up spots for my next shipment. I dropped the garment bag into a UPS dropbox on a Wednesday afternoon and Friday I got an email saying it was received. I chose new pieces that day and received my new delivery of items on Tuesday. I’m sure this will vary depending on where you live, along with holidays and weekends that may interfere with deliveries.

In the event that you live near a Rent The Runway store, you can even return your items there! They also have a ton of drop boxes around major cities in partner locations which allows you to get open spots immediately.

Rating Items and Reporting Quality Issues

After you return items, Rent The Runway really wants you to rate the pieces. They’ll ask how many times you wore it.

When I clicked “Didn’t Wear It” they want to know why.

Once I said that it didn’t fit, they wanted a little more detail.

Here is where you are able to report any issues as well.

I was able to choose that the dress was overworn as well, which I hope triggers quality control to take a look at it and retire the poor old gal.

Making Purchases

Although making a purchase is kind of counterintuitive from a rental service, I am always curious to see the discounts that various companies extend on their gently worn items. I was already loving the bag but then I saw that the discount they were extending on it was 60% off and I was unable to find the bag for sale anywhere else online. I said to myself “YOLO” and snatched it up. Making the purchase was very easy and it also opened up an extra spot that I could’ve have filled with a new rental piece.

Laundering & Damaged Items

No need to launder anything after wearing. Simply send it back in the pre-paid garment bag and they’ll take care of the cleaning.

From Rent The Runway:

The teams in our fulfillment centers use a variety of techniques to ensure that each style is cleaned thoroughly, steamed and pressed, inspected for quality, and packaged with care so that it arrives ready to wear.

As far as normal wear and tear, you’re covered with insurance for small stains and damage. Anything “major” will need to be paid for though.

From Rent The Runway:

We understand that some wear and tear may be inevitable. Insurance is included with our memberships and with any 4 or 8 day Reserve rental we include a $5 insurance fee to cover minor stains and damage. However, significant damage and theft aren’t covered under insurance. If the item is damaged beyond repair or never returned, you will be charged the retail price of the item.

Canceling Rent The Runway

It’s really easy to pause or cancel your Rent The Runway subscription. No matter what you choose to do, you can email or call. I prefer email since I have a slight phone phobia these days. In the past, I got a response via email in less than 24 hours with no hassle telling me that my account had been canceled.

So, is Rent The Runway worth it?

Rent The Runway Unlimited normally costs $159/month and in just my first couple of deliveries, I wore $5,594 worth of designer clothing and handbags. For eight pieces, that’s an average of $699.25 per piece which is still well over the amount I’d ever spend on a single item of clothing (and my month isn’t even over yet). While $159 can seem like a hefty monthly cost, it still pales in comparison to the amount of money you can save if wearing designer names is important to you. I had a lot of fun feeling fancy, and I found most of the clothing to have superior construction and fit compared to my cheaper everyday wardrobe.

COUPON: Use code RTRMSA to save $100 off your 60 day trial of Rent the Runway‘s Unlimited subscription service! ($50 Off Month 1 and $50 Off Month 2).

Rent The Runway

How do subscribers rate Rent The Runway?

Shipping
Customer service
Retail value
Quality of products
Curation
Ease of canceling

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Written by Marne Orenich

Marne Orenich

Marne is a lipstick connoisseur, record collector, and twice over cat mom. She loves discovering new clean beauty brands and has quite the collection of beautifully packaged serums and moisturizers.

Comments (40)

  1. What a wonderful, full review. I could see you doing catalog work. Since I’m not one to buy clothing often/annually, this may be something I try if I know I have an event or business trip.

  2. I use RTR unlimited and have only had a quality issue once – I contacted customer service and they immediately flagged the item on my account to be sent back and fixed/retired and opened a new spot immediately for me to select a new item to be shipped out! So, if you ever had an issue like the torn dress again (quality, not fit) that would be your best option instead of waiting for the return review. 🙂

  3. I have been doing the Unlimited plan for 3-4 months now and I LOVE it! I love always having something new to wear for special events/date nights/work meetings and fresh items for everyday. I just need to plan ahead a little bit and if there is a specific item I want I’ll stalk it for a couple days til I can grab it (the site is real time so I literally refreshed every 30 minutes til the item I wanted was open in my size). I do live in a major city and there is a rental return a few blocks from my office so that is a HUGE advantage- not sure how I’d feel about it if I had to wait extra days.

  4. Why do they need your birthdate? To sell your personal date for more?

  5. I love that Purse! Do they have a list of brands they carry? I’m a big fan of Vince, Theory, Rag & Bone but don’t care much for real trendy items.

    • Hey TK- They have a list of designers that you can browse without signing up, so be sure to check those out!

  6. Thanks for the great review, you answered questions that I didn’t even know I had about the service.

    • Haha- awesome!

  7. Great review! Love the jumpsuit on you and the bag you bought is really nice.

  8. This is a great review! Hopefully run the run way pays attention – items that have been worn too many times should really retire. Do you think the pieces were freshly dry cleaned…?

    • Hi Kate! They all definitely seemed clean. The dress was the only piece that just looked like it had just been worn and laundered too many times.

  9. Thank you so much for this review! I had a fancy event to go to last month and almost used RTR. I would have used it but I didn’t leave myself enough time before the event. My favorite part about it when checking it out was the user uploaded pictures of real people in your size wearIng the items you are considering. So glad you mentioned that. I’ve considered signing up to use it for every day wear since I work in an office and absolutely loathe shopping outside of the internet. This review was so helpful!!!! Everything you got looked great on you and this was a lot of fun to read 😊❤️

    • I’m so happy my review could be helpful, bramlett. I agree- the user photos and reviews are the best!

  10. Thanks for the very thorough review! This answered so many questions I had about the service. All along, I was questioning what would happen if you lost something or if it’s stolen, and I see the info states that insurance covers small damages, but anything that is severely damaged or never returned you are charged the full price. Yikes if it was the $1300 jacket! 😱

    • I’m so glad I answered a lot of questions for you, Laura! Theft would certainly be a nightmare, but I have a feeling that serious damage would be pretty rare.

  11. Loved the overalls outfit on you. And it’s seems I seen an address, may wanna take that down.

    • Thanks for pointing that out, Donna! I missed that one. All fixed. 🙂

  12. @Marne Orenich – Such a great, honest and thorough review! I’m a total sucker for a jumpsuit! 🙂

    • It’s a good’un, huh? Jumpsuits forever!

  13. What a thorough review! Thank you!

    • My pleasure!

  14. I loved the two jackets. Mighty tempting to buy the really great stuff. Thanks for the great review.

  15. You look incredible in everything, especially the bomber jacket! Also, your makeup is fabulous!

    • You’re so sweet, thanks so much, Jenn!

  16. Very interested in the Anna Sui Cat Print Sweater 😍

    • I know, right??

  17. I’ve always been curious about this service, but I don’t like that you lose almost a week at a time to shipping (waiting for them to receive your old package and then waiting for your picks to be delivered to you). So the “unlimited plan” isn’t really all that unlimited, unless you’re receiving the clothing, wearing it the very next day and then rushing off to ups to ship it asap, and even then it’s about 4 shipments at most.
    Also, can you return shipments piece by piece? Lets say you got a jacket and a few tops. You wear the tops once, but you like the jacket and would like to wear it all month. Could you return the tops and order something else in their place while keeping the jacket for a while?
    This is a great review btw, you look very cute in all the outfits

    • Thanks for reading, Lana!
      Yes- you can return 1-4 pieces at a time which cuts down on those in-between times where you otherwise wouldn’t have any rentals. You don’t have to return the whole shipment together. I think that’s the most unique thing RTR offers and it took me a moment to realize. I talk about it a little more under the “Returning Items” portion of the review.

    • It also depends where you live. RTR has partnerships with West Elm and WeWork and have drop off bins in select locations. They also have few brick and mortar stores in major cities. I live in NYC so I usually return clothes quickly and get new ones quickly. I generally take out 12 pieces of clothing a month on my account. I think it’s more worth it if you live in a city and have easy access to drop off locations.

  18. Marne:
    Take your birthday down.
    You don’t want that identifier out there.

    • I thought the same thing!

      • Loved the review! I could see this working in the right situation for me (which probably would never happen as 99% of the people close to me are married already): I was invited to someone’s wedding out of state and I’d be there for longer than the wedding. I’d easily pay $200+ for a dress if I shopped retail and it would be fun to have additional pieces.
        Past that, I’ll stick to shopping at thrift shops. 🤣

      • For sure, this is a great service for special occasions as well.
        Thrift shops are definitely a great way to shop for saving some $ as well as the planet!

    • Thanks for the concern, I’ve swapped out the screen cap. 🙂

  19. So glad you purchased the tote. It is gorgeous and you’ll have it for years.

    • Thanks, Amy! I’ve been very happy with it so far!

  20. Amazing, thorough review! I have no interest in designer brands but I still read every word of this. That bomber jacket is pretty awesome, tho!

    • I appreciate you saying, May! Thanks for getting through this epic review! 😛

      • Marne! We are birthday twins!!!

      • Woot!!

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