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Savvy brides, guests are saving money with rented outfits

ByKathleen Dupont

Oct 29, 2020

Today’s brides are finding that they can look as on-trend or traditional as they choose, without breaking the bank, by renting outfits instead of spending a ton of cash on what will likely be one-off wears. They’re turning to sites such as HappilyEverBorrowed.com, a luxe e-rental site founded eight years ago by Brittany Finkle.

With a background as a buyer for Hermès and Chanel, she knew that brides often spend their whole budget on a dress and accessories.

“Veils are only worn for 30 minutes but can be super expensive — some cost $1,200,” she said. “I figured out a way to rent to brides so they could spend more on their wedding experience and not on an object that they only wear once.”

There’s also a demand for eco-friendly wedding day decisions, especially among millennial brides-to-be.

“These brides are way more interested in saving the environment and making sustainable lifestyle choices,” said Finkle. “I thought about how I could reduce waste in the wedding industry when launching this business.”

The ability to shop a wide variety at Internet speed has also fueled the success of Finkle’s business, which has serviced 1,500 brides to date.

“In a brick-and-mortar bridal boutique, you can only see so many things. Online, there are more options. It’s so easy to see what’s out there,” she said — not to mention that in these times, it’s a safe, non-contact way of shopping.

On her company’s Web site, which showcases up to 400 items at any one time, “You can rent everything except the bridal dress and shoes. We offer veils, hair accessories, jewelry and clutches for 4 and 8-day rentals. The prices are typically 80 percent off retail,” said Finkle.

For example, a Sara Gabriel veil, usually sold for $410, can rent for $140.

With the “send before you spend box,” “You can try any three pieces on our site for $50.

When products are returned to us, you get $25 back towards your rental,” said Finkle.
Late fees for returns do apply, and if an item is damaged beyond repair, “Customers must pay for the item in full,” she added.

A woman in a rented wedding dress.
Stevi Sesin

For those in need of styling advice, “we have two separate features. There’s a style quiz to help brides identify theirs — boho, romantic, modern. You can also chat with a stylist on our team. Submit a picture of your dress and we’ll give recommendations remotely.”

As for the pièce de résistance, the wedding gown, RentTheRunway.com’s wedding section displays a curated selection of bride and bridesmaid styles as well as guest options for the big day. Bridal bargains include designer brand names such as Monique Lhuillier, Badgley Mischka and Marchesa, with rentals starting at $40, says Blaire Walsh, the special-occasion dress rental company’s style director.

“Weddings have always been part of our concept,” she said. “Women rent from us for all sorts of weddings — cocktail, city black tie, Arizona desert vibe or Aspen attire. Rental is a great tool to ensure you have the perfect look for all your special moments.”

To ensure an ideal fit, “We don’t advise at-home tailoring, but we do have great size recommendations on our Web site and an amazing community of real women who post images of themselves in our styles and make recommendations,” said Walsh. There are also styling services available through the company’s customer experience team, through which members can call or e-mail a team member, and chat with a stylist through the app.

Plus, “If there are any fit issues or if she wants to replace a style, we offer a two-day turnaround with shipping,” said Walsh.

Dresses can be rented for either 4 or 8 days, which works well for destination weddings.
If you’re confident in your choice, you can get your package delivered straight to your resort.

A rental gown
Rent the Runway

“For those hosting destination weddings or simply traveling for honeymoons, you can place a rental order with us, we’ll ship out and have your styles sent directly to your hotel,” said Walsh. “You would just be responsible for the return FedEx.”

Wedding party members and guests can also rent an outfit through StyleLend.com. CEO Lona Alia founded the peer-to-peer closet rental service in 2013.

“Women with designer clothing, accessories, jewelry and shoes rent to other women, making money in the process,” said Alia, whose company takes a 20 percent cut of each transaction. Lenders can earn upwards of $10,000 annually when they list designer items from Gucci, Christian Louboutin, Louis Vuitton, Chanel and the like.

“Sharing designer goods and fashion can be a bit more sustainable. It’s like Airbnb for closets,” said Alia.

With 70,000 current users, brides-to-be can borrow items such as a $5,000 Chanel bag for $150 for the week, or mid-tier dresses from Self-Portrait and Elie Saab for $50-$75 dollars, said Alia. “It’s very reasonable.”

To ensure size and fit before renting, site users rely on comments and feedback from previous renters, although temporary tailoring is allowed, provided it can be easily undone.

Looking ahead, “We would love to do more with matching people based on size and style. We want to use machine learning and artificial intelligence to propose merchandise based on other items users have rented in the past,” said Alia.

Sanitizing rental garments is a priority, and now extra precautions are being taken by bridal rental-attire companies to ensure laundering and disinfection are up to snuff.

“Owners of the items rented out use rigorous hygiene steps to ensure every item is cleaned thoroughly before sending it out,” said Alia. “We recommend that items are washed in soap and water versus dry-cleaned since that removes multiple hands touching the garment, and when soap is used, the item is submersed in soapy water [and] all bacteria are removed.”

According to the “clean confidence” section of RentTheRunway.com: “After going through our rigorous cleaning processes, most pieces pass through a steam tunnel between 248°F and 302°F and are immediately sealed in plastic to protect them from any additional handling.”

In addition, “We use poly plastic covers to protect the garments in our shared closet.”