A New Model

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!
Who wouldn't want to be represented by this woman?
Who wouldn’t want to be represented by this woman?

side view full length
Note K’s extremely professional block heels; no DMs in this photo shoot
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.
So many things to love about this blouse
So many things to love about this blouse

Let’s tick off the things we love:
Directrice 360
Flattering stripes on the diagonal, shadow stripe in scarlet adds dimension
Asymmetrical hem
Feminine peplum and asymmetrical, layered hem
Dramatic cuffs
Dramatic cuffs in graphic white

No time to overthink
K could be laughing at my analysis (no time to overthink!) or my admiration of her fearless ring combining accomplishments . . . read on
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.

And now, something else that I’ve been wanting to share for some time: K’s extraordinary rings.
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.
Rings so beautiful that I want to stuff them in my mouth and run away with them -- a very squirrel-like impulse
Rings so beautiful that I want to stuff them in my mouth and run away with them — a very squirrel-like impulse

Let’s come a little closer and inspect shall we?
Sapphires and emeralds!
Sapphires and emeralds!

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.
Introducing Griffin
Introducing Griffin

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.
Kalpana and Griffin, quiet smiles
K and Griffin, quiet smiles
Kalpana and Griffin, thrown into confusion -- probably receiving conflicting instructions from The Photographer and The Directrice
K and Griffin, thrown into confusion — probably receiving conflicting instructions from The Photographer and The Directrice

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.
Griffin's reward: a big stick, laid just so to entice him back into the frame
Griffin’s reward: a big stick, which he has laid just so

Blouse: Carven; Pants: JCrew; Shoes: Marc Fisher; Ruby ring: Nava Zahavi; Emerald and sapphire rings: family heirlooms

15 thoughts on “A New Model”

  1. agreed. love it! such an interesting idea (the rent-a-wardrobe). and i love the idea of guest models. K looks lovely. And i especially loved the canine. thank you!

  2. Thank you, K, for being a guest model for The Directrice! It was so much fun for us to work with you, and I think you look wonderfully stylish in the photographs. I enjoyed meeting Griffin, who licked my knees a few times, though I was much too focused on taking pictures to properly pat him on the head. We baked your chard into a frittata last night and it was delicious.

    (By the way, to Directrice readers: Clicking on a picture brings up the full-resolution version of it, which often looks much better.)

  3. Fun post! Thanks to K for sharing herself and her pooch. If I were a professional, I would like Rent the Runway.

    Directrice, your caption about wanting to stuff those rings in your mouth made me laugh out loud. I relate. Wait, is that a good thing to admit?

  4. Such a great post in so many ways! You have spoiled us. Love the inclusion of Griffin. M’s beautiful hair, smile, and rings are picture perfect. I, possibly all alone, enjoyed her brick wall for its many varied colors. I see pleasing green, gray- blue, taupe colors among her red bricks . Always look forward to your posts.

  5. I did RTR unlimited for about three months last year. I found the pickings pretty slim in my size (12-14), but there were some fun jewelry and handbag options, too. I signed up because I had a specific event that required travel that made the normal rental window too short. I cancelled because I don’t usually spend that much per month on my wardrobe, and most of the fun clothes weren’t available in my size. I think the best strategy is to rent complicated, impractical blouses that would otherwise require extensive ironing after each wear, pricy but trendy handbags, and nice outerwear that only serves a narrow range of temperatures (e.g., an eye catching cape).

  6. K, you look lovely! Hope The D will share you & your rental picks with us again. I think I would want to constantly switch out the clothes… And of course rent ball gowns just for fun.

    • I am cackling, MGT, at the idea of using the RTR Unlimited program to indulge one’s most irrational habits. I am picturing myself in an enormous tulle ball gown, watching Broadchurch Season 3. RTR could become a virtual dress-up box!

  7. Great post and an interesting guest, beautiful in a myriad of ways. Her smile is fabulous and makes shine whatever outfit she might wear. I’ll bet you have fun working together! Kate Baker

  8. Such a terrific post. Love the stylish blouse and its precise fit (no alterations ?!), the chocolate lab, the jewels, the smile … and that’s just the visual elements. Thank you to everyone involved.

  9. A blouse like that is easy to put on and go. You’ll have to keep us up on her strategy. I assume she rolls the cuffs up if she’s going to do something she doesn’t want them flopping into?


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