I have reservations about the sharing and gig economies. We live in a national economy that compels people to rent their time and possessions to the lowest bidder while a tech overlord . . . no, no, I won’t air my grievances here because (a) this is a style blog that provides light entertainment and (b) Robert Reich and others have expressed my views (as their own) far better than I could.
But here’s an intriguing idea, shared by a colleague: managing clothing expenditures (and acquisitions) by renting high-style clothes to refresh your wardrobe on a regular basis. It’s a new model and worth a closer look.
Providing that closer look is a guest model — my colleague K.
K is a busy woman: law firm partner, mother of two small boys, dog owner, wife, gardener. I’ve only listed five of her identities; you can imagine that she doesn’t have a lot of time in her daily life for shopping and maintaining a complex wardrobe. There are sandwiches to pack every morning!
K recently signed up for Rent the Runway‘s Unlimited program.
The essence of the program is that you pay $129 per month to have three pieces of clothing in your possession, as long as you keep paying the monthly fee. Here’s the twist: they needn’t be the three pieces you select when you sign up. You start with those three, but you can exchange any or all of them for something new at any time. And repeat. If you really love something, and never want to send it back, it may be available for purchase at some discount off its retail price.
Bonus: Rent the Runway handles the cleaning upon return.
Is it a bargain? I don’t know. But it definitely is a way of managing shopping and a closet. As K explained to me, this is a way to use expensive pieces that one might not want to buy (because they are out-of-sight expensive or trendy) and satisfy one’s enjoyment in new things without cluttering one’s closet.
Let’s try a simple example: Proenza Schouler tunic ($890), Carven blouse ($350), Derek Lam 10 Crosby Street jacket ($550). Total cost is $1790. If you rented them for a full year, the cost would be $1548. Obviously, if you rent rather than buy, you don’t own the assets at the end of the rental period. But clothes are a depreciating asset . . . sooooo, do you really care?
K’s first selection was this blouse.
A blouse like this has such presence that it really functions like a jacket: it’s distinctive, detailed, and — can I say this? — intelligent.
Let’s tick off the things we love:
Reasons not to Rent the Runway:
- you have difficulty finding clothes that fit without alteration (alterations are verboten);
- you are not interested in changing your look (or following trends) from year to year;
- you are an irredeemable materialist who wants to possess things — no judgment from me.
Perhaps the best model is a hybrid that combines some money budgeted for renting and some for buying.
K’s working theory is that Rent the Runway will work for fun blouses, tunics, and jackets, and that she will invest in the wardrobe cornerstones that often do need to be tailored.
K has a talent for combining (layering!) jewelry. I do not have this ability and admire it greatly in others.
Here she has combined stones and metals of different materials, cuts and treatments and they look gorgeous together.
Let’s come a little closer and inspect shall we?
Griffin, K’s English Labrador, joins us for my favorite shots of the day. K got Griffin when she was a 3L and he was a tiny little thing. Some might say they’ve grown up together.
The conventional wisdom that we select partners who look like us has been augmented by scientific research suggesting a different cause-and-effect: that spouses grow to look alike over time because humans naturally mimic the faces of persons around them. The more time you spend with someone, the more time you spend mirroring him until — voila! — your faces have settled into the same grooves. Happy or sad.
I am wondering if that is true of pets, too.
If you’ve tried Rent the Runway or any similar program, do tell! I am interested in your experiences.
My reward for invading K’s home and exposing her to scrutiny on the Internet: a bouquet of rainbow chard from her garden.
Blouse: Carven; Pants: JCrew; Shoes: Marc Fisher; Ruby ring: Nava Zahavi; Emerald and sapphire rings: family heirlooms