If I wasn't blowing all of my cash on trips around the world, I'd blow it on clothes. (And padding the bank accounts of someone named Ted Baker or Marc Jacobs.)
Before everyone bemoans everything is moving toward a subscription model, I personally love (some of) it1. If it's a regular expenditure already, why not make it a fixed cost? This makes Rent the Runway Unlimited—clothes for rent—one of my favorite services. It's a quick way to bolster the budget and refresh the wardrobe for a fraction of the cost.
The nuts and bolts of being unlimited
For a flat $139 per month, paying customers have access to almost all of Rent the Runway's inventory plus a selection of curated corporate (but tastefully fresh) clothing including tops, jackets, pants, dresses similar to those 2023 short prom dresses, and purses. (Does it have Neve Campbell's bag from House of Cards? Digging the ruthlessly smart vibe.)
It does not carry shoes, for obvious wear and tear reasons. There are some exceptions such as bridal and vintage accessories, any dresses with a retail price of over $3,000, and items from certain designers. It's not a bad deal considering my current shipment would have cost $165 + shipping had I rented it by the piece.
Customers are entitled to three pieces from the entire catalog except as noted, and are able to keep the pieces for as long as they like. It goes on a month-to-month commitment so chicas can cancel at any time. Shipping, insurance for minor wear and tear, and dry cleaning are included in the cost of membership.
Occasionally, Unlimited might require signing up for a waitlist, but the time to jump off it seems to be getting shorter compared to the service's early days: It took me about five days to get off the waitlist. One downside: Joining the waitlist requires a credit card info to sign up and automatically charges it once you're out of line.
There is a current promotion for 20% off the first month with code FIRSTRTR20P. It's also possible to get $20 off with this link; no idea if it's stackable. 'Tis a shame.
Selecting, returning and exchanging
For starters, all selection begin online. No, you just can't walk into any Rent the Runway store, try a few things on and leave with it. That would be nice, though.
The only brick-and-mortar assistance that Rent the Runway offers is the ability to return selected items in-store. Other than that, it's not possible to select or exchange at the store, though returning in-store would expedite the process of returning something so you can select your next item much faster. You have to go back online for that.
The best part about renting
This is my version of getting that fresh blast of euphoria most dudes get from unwrapping an Apple box filled with gear. It also serves a very practical and functional purpose.
I once purchased a Theory dress five years ago, at half off. Because it has a great tailored fit, it's my go-to dress for interviews, client meetings and any place where looking 22 is probably not going to help my case. The main problem? It was a $500+ dress. Even at 50% off, I still paid $250 for it.
That's something most women can't justify on a regular basis, even on a six-figure income. I'm still paying much less than that on a monthly basis for the ability to rotate my wardrobe constantly, at a fixed cost of $139 per month. (It is interesting to note Blue Apron's cheapest plan is more expensive than this at $240 per month!)
In my current job, I constantly represent our company at a ridiculous amount of events. I touch base with so many different stakeholders of the company, from investors to advertisers, that I'll often need to dress for the most important meeting of the day and then scale down. And, I might see some parties multiple times, especially as we get further and further along to closing a deal. My Theory dress just can't make an appearance three times in a row.
Most clothes from Forever 21 are going to look like they are from Forever 21. Sometimes great cut and tailoring can be found at cheaper price points, but for the most part, it's much more prevalent among designer clothing. There's nothing like looking and feeling like a million bucks if I'm going to try to close a million bucks.
But it's not all glamorous
Nothing in life is perfect. RTR Unlimited is no exception. Besides jacking up the price from $99 to $139 per month last year, RTR Unlimited is also subject to a lot of issues plaguing the relatively new subscription service. The first and primary problem are the shipping issues.
By default, most items ship from Secaucus, New Jersey. Even for a basic shipment to Brooklyn, it's often taken as long as a week to receive the item. This doesn't take into account the time it takes for an item to return, before ordering the next item. I've always returned my items at the store, but theoretically, it could even take as long as two weeks in between items before most gals see their next piece of clothing.
This makes the experience far less spontaneous. I made the mistake of planning to have a few items in time for a couple of meetings only not to have them show up on time. Most customers will have to do a lot more planning than they anticipate if this is the case, though it's not a big deal if you've got a couple of backup options in your closet (hello, Theory dress). In almost all cases, I'd suggest getting the clothes well in advance of a trip if you plan on traveling with them.
(Note: Rent the Runway promised to call me back about the shipping issue. They never did, though they did admit most shipping estimates were completely inaccurate.)
I'd still recommend it.
The versatility and ability to keep it ad infinitum is still a great bonus Unlimited has going over the service's more regular offerings. (I have shipped RTR items to a hotel a few times and remember hastily dropping them off before my rental time period was over. Ugh, wedding season coming up again.)
My Theory suit dress can only get so much love.