One of my best friend’s from college is getting married in October. She and her fiance have invited everyone – and I do mean everyone – expanding their guest list to more than 400 people. Among those 400 guests are classmates I haven’t seen since graduating from college eight years ago. This will be the first time they’ve seen me since my own wedding in 2005; it’ll be the first time they’ve seen me since having my first child in 2008; it’ll be the first time they’ve seen me since having my second child in 2011.
And I plan to look good.
But there’s a problem: between my two children and my career as a freelance writer, money isn’t exactly growing on trees these days. Meanwhile, my old college friends are working as lawyers, doctors, and entrepreneurs, racking in huge annual salaries with massive bonuses to boot. Can I even hope to compete?
Thanks to Rent the Runway, I can.
The Premise
Founded in 2009 by a pair of Harvard Business School students, Rent the Runway was established with the goal of making high-end fashion and fashion designers accessible to the masses. The premise is simple: instead of having to buy clothes – or in my case, simply drool over them – for every occasion, you can rent your outfit instead. The result is couture clothing at up to 90 percent off retail.
How It Works
To get started, all you have to do is create an account by registering on the Rent the Runway homepage. It’s free, and very simple – I did it in less than a minute (ahhh, the cost of hands-on research). Once you’ve registered, you’ll be able to browse Rent the Runway’s selection of gowns, jewelry, handbags and shoes. You can either make your selections on your own, or you can work with one of Rent the Runway’s in-house stylists to help customize your look. Best part? Working with the stylist is absolutely free as well.
After you choose from one of Rent the Runway’s hundreds of gowns by dozens of fashion designers, you’ll be asked for your size (bonus! you can opt to have RTR send you a second size at no additional cost, just in case) and your rental dates. Rent the Runway will confirm that your selected dress and size(s) is available for your selected dates, and BOOM! the dress is yours… well, for four days, anyway. If you need your dress for slightly longer, you can opt for an eight day rental for an additional 60 percent.
Rent the Runway will ship your designer duds to you for free, plus supply you with the packaging and shipping label to return your dress to the company when you’re finished with it. You won’t pay any other fees unless the dress is damaged or destroyed; basic laundering is included in your rental price, so don’t worry about that red wine mark on the hemline!
Bonus Tip: Read The Reviews
Included with the information on each garment are a series of reviews by actual customers who have rented and worn the dress. I found these reviews to be more helpful than the stylist’s tips when it came to deciding between multiple dresses. The reviews include the customer’s dress size, height, and weight, along with their body type, bust size, and type of event to which they wore the dress. Just when I thought I was sold on a $1,350 Herve Leger stunner for my friend’s rehearsal dinner (4-day rental fee: $150), I read a review that said the dress wore far more conservatively than it appeared. Scratch that off the list!
Now Help Me Decide…
I’ll need two dresses for two different functions the weekend of the wedding. The first dress is for a welcome reception at the groom’s parents’ house in the Georgetown area of Washington, DC, the Thursday night before the wedding. The attire is going to be garden party. I’m deciding between this Camilla and Marc dress and this one from Nanette Lepore. For the rehearsal dinner the next night, I need a cocktail dress. I’m thinking either this one by Milly, or this one by Kate Spade. Which ones do you like?

Reader, what are your secrets for saving when it come time to buy clothes for special occasions?