Closets in the Cloud – Is Renting Clothes a Game Changer?

A Review of Rent the Runway’s Monthly “Update” Service

Is it possible for a world when no one owns clothes anymore? Jennifer Hyman, founder of Rent the Runway, thinks “Closets in the Cloud” can make this a reality. Rent the Runway is mainly known for one time dress rentals for special occasions, but they also have a couple of subscription options where you can rent multiple items at a time, from the everyday to the high end dresses that they are known for. 

They have two subscription services currently, “Unlimited” and “Update”, both of which I have tried. The Unlimited option lets you swap out clothing items constantly over the course of the month, while w/ Update you can rent 4 items for the month. The unlimited turned out to be more than I needed, so I moved to the Update service. I’ll focus mainly on Update below, but there is a lot of overlap.

I wouldn’t say the day where the closet moves completely to the cloud is going to happen anytime soon, but there are definitely some bennys that can be gained from utilizing Rent the Runway’s monthly clothing rental services.

Rent the Runway Plans
The Two Different Types of Plans: Update and Unlimited

How Rent the Runway Update Works:

  • You can select 4 items from the RTR.com Update collection at a time.
  • They mail them to you in a satchel via UPS
  • You have the clothing items for a month and then you send them back in the same satchel via UPS
  • You pick items for the coming month and the cycle repeats
  • If something doesn’t fit or wasn’t what you thought you can send it back and get something else
  • Cost (at the time of writing): $89 a month

My Sis and I Sporting RTR Items in Monaco:

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Monaco 🇮🇩

A post shared by Tracy Ericson (@tracy33e) on

What’s Great About It: 

  • Variety…You can keep some variety in your wardrobe without having to house the physical inventory permanently.
  • Good for Vay-Ks…when you want something fresh you don’t need for everyday wear
  • The selection… of clothes is pretty good and they are constantly adding in new things. I’m not often OBSESSED with a lot of things, but there’s a lot of cool stuff. 
  • Great for Weddings/Occasions… Same as traditional RTR you can get a dress for a wedding or occasion in your mix of items. Great for one wear items. The fact that you can get 4 items means you can try out more than one option for the occasion as well. 
  • Expands Horizons…It’s easier to try out something when you aren’t committing to purchasing it. This makes it easier to take a risk and pick something you might not have bought. It also allows you to get acclimated with a number of brands you may never have purchased from.
  • 4 Things a Month…This was a great amount for me because it allows you to get some wear out of each item a couple of times, instead of just one time and sending it back.
  • Buy to Keep… You can buy an item if you love it at a discount… I haven’t taken advantage of this but it’s a great option if you can’t part with something.
  • The Product Continues to Improve… from the time I have been using it I have seen a number of product improvements including:
      • I feel like their selection of clothes has improved.
      • The clothes come w/ a lot of plastic wrap, since the clothes have recently been dry cleaned. So for a bit I would have to get rid of that which was kind of annoying. You can send this back w/ the satchel 
      • If something doesn’t fit, you can order something new to be sent right away. In the past you had to wait until your return was received until you could order something new which wasted a lot of time.

RTR Dress I wore to an August Wedding:

wedding.PNG

Not So Great:

  • Logistics: Since it’s a mail order service, you have to mail the stuff back each month. There is a UPS drop off in the basement of my work building, and one near my house so it’s not a big deal to drop them off to get returned. However if getting to a UPS was inconvenient I would not use the service. They give you a pre-addressed package. The time to deliver will differ depending on location. For me in Boston it would generally take a couple of days, where as for my sister in NY she gets things same day. 
    • Pro Tip: Be careful not to send the package back without getting another one – otherwise you are on the hook for mailing the stuff back without the pre-paid envelope.
  • Customer Service Back and Forth: When I was first using the service, a lot of times I would select something, then they would later e-mail me that they were out of my size, which was super annoying after spending awhile to find something. This happens rarely now, but used to happen all the time. 
  • Can be Time Consuming: Picking out new things each month and finding things you like in your size and for what you need at the time, then checking the pictures etc. can take awhile. This isn’t really much different then if you were just regular online shopping though. 
    • Pro Tip: Once you have an idea of the brands that you like, it’s good to filter down on those to weed out some of the other stuff.  
  • Inventory Moves Quick: There is an option to “heart” something to save it for later. Sometimes I do that and then by the time I’m ready to order days or a few weeks later they might be missing my size or be out of available items. Other times you’ll see something that looks like it’s there and then it will tell you they no longer have it. 
  • Items IRL not always as they seem: I’ve had some HITS (featured above) and some MISSES (I will spare these), and some things that are just fine. Most of the misses have come from things I picked out of haste. I’ve gotten things that look completely different then I go back and look at the pictures and wonder how I picked them.
    • Pro Tip: Check the photos of people wearing the items as they are particularly helpful. Spending a second looking at these helps avoid major disconnects. It’s funny how different clothes look on people vs. stylized model shots of them.
  • MisFits: If something doesn’t fit right – this happens probably 25% of the time, there’s time lost in sending it back to get something else.
  • Quality Inconsistency: One thing that surprised me was the poor quality of some of the higher end items I was renting. $150 shirts w/ flimsy material etc. This isn’t often the case, but operating across many different brands the quality of items (or your opinion of the quality of the items) can be wildly different.
  • Stingy Customer Service: I find the customer service to be pretty good in general. They aren’t sticklers if you are a bit late in sending things back. There’s been a couple times where things were late in getting delivered, or took forever to get returned, or I got something that was busted and they tried to avoid giving me a credit which was annoying. 
  • Selection: There’s a lot of good stuff on RTR but its’s rare that I see something I HAVE TO HAVE. This might just be partially my general lack of seeing a lot of clothes I like in general lately. Also, if you have something super specific in mind you might not be able to something like it, but there will at least be a number of other options.  

Value Summary – Is it Worth It?

Overall I Approve….

It looks like my list of cons out is longer then the pros, but really the pros definitely outweighed the cons.  I have gotten a lot of value from this. I have discontinued it for the winter since I don’t have any weddings lined up for the next few months and I didn’t feel like managing it, but I will certainly re-consider it for the future. It keeps the wardrobe fresh, allows me to experiment and try things out that I wouldn’t necessarily buy.

Lifestyle Wise…Did it make my life better? Yes, my wardrobe was improved and that has some tangential benefits like added confidence, better style, etc.

Time wise… it probably doesn’t save much time then if you were to do the shopping on your own, so that part is kind of a wash. Depends on if you enjoy looking for clothes or not as to whether this is a negative or a positive.

Cost wise… The way I rationalize spending on this is for purposes of special occasions. I went to about a wedding a month over the summer. You could easily spend $100 for a new dress each time at least. That dress will likely only be worn once since it’s likely been photographed for an occasion. W/ RTR you can just send back and get another for the next month. W/ Update you can get that dress along w/ 3 other items for under the $100 mark. Additionally the rented items are typically higher end then I would normally purchase. If you are in NY or somewhere else where they have a brick and mortar store or same day shipping, you definitely get added value because the shipping times are shorter then the few days it takes in Boston. 

The difference being I don’t own the item so I can’t sell it back, give it away, or re-use it, but the return on selling used clothes is pretty marginal so I don’t think there’s much of a comparison there.

Its a newer concept which we are starting to see competitors for, which I would like to try out and compare. $89 a month might seem like a lot to some, not much to others, but overall I get a good value out of that $89 a month and would recommend trying it for anyone interested.

New Product Suggestions for Rent the Runway

As I return customer for Rent the Runway there’s a couple of products I would love to see from them and would be a potential customer of:

Seasonal Collection: The RTR update is a great option, which I would love to expand upon. It would be great to have the option for an 8-10 piece seasonal collection, that you hold for a couple of months. If an item I get from them is not a special occasion item then I would like to get a couple more wears out of it. There are only so many times you can wear something in one month. In theory you could keep it for longer or buy something that you liked, but I would rather pick some items I would have for a couple months then send them back once I’m over them.

Vacation Collection: Along the same lines it would be cool to rent a vacation collection. Say you are going to France for 8 days, and you don’t want to pack, and you know you are going to take a bunch of pictures and don’t want to be seen in the same outfit over and over again. Order 8 outfits from Rent the Runway at a time for a fixed price and get it all in one shipment. Done! 

 

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