After a lull without cause for a sartorial splurge, happily, the next few months are filled with a number of occasions for which my ordinary attire won’t do. A new dress was warranted, so I set off to the shops with a mission to find a garment that I loved, suited me and won’t date terribly.
During this retail expedition I was reminded – not for the first time – of a shopping truism and it’s this: when you have no cause for a dress you will spot several you desire and when you set out with the means and the need for a dress you shall find nothing. And so it was for me.
Not for lack of trying, nothing sang to me and the price tags were too hefty to consider without really loving the item. Later that night, from the comfort of my couch, enabled by my iPhone, I hopped online and after browsing a few different sites an ad jumped out at me that I wanted to click on. Yes, reader, an online ad, that was so perfectly targeted I clicked without pause.
Had I considered hiring a dress?
Until that very minute I hadn’t, but now that it was suggested it certainly seemed worthwhile exploring. Soon enough I was down a burrow of designer dress rental sites wondering why this hadn’t dawned on me earlier.
Dress rental sites are plentiful, there are an estimated 70 in , and the proposition is attractive. Why spend $699 on a Rebecca Vallance dress when you can rent that same gown for $110 for three days? Why spend $300 on a single dress when you can hire three different dresses for the same price?
Your Closet, Dress for a Night, Rent a Dress, Style Theory, Dressed Up in the City and Glam Corner were among the sites I explored that offered an array of dresses from a variety of labels. These sites cater to different sizes and different occasions: from formals to engagement parties, 21st birthdays, weddings, the races and even maternity dresses. On most sites the rental price includes the cost of dry-cleaning and postage. As a rough guide the rental price is somewhere between 15-20 per cent of the retail price.
Glam Corner has been operating since 2012 and now reportedly turns over $1 million a year in hired frocks. It’s not hard to see why. For a fraction of the price you can rent a frock and then rather than being confined to the same dress for several events you can mix it up.
After much deliberation – I admit the choice was overwhelming – I had narrowed my selection to two dresses when I ran into trouble. They were both rented out in my size for the date I required.
This glitch led me to discover The Volte and Designerex, two sites that list dresses to rent from businesses but also from individuals directly. So, suddenly there were hundreds more dresses to choose from – easily searchable by size, occasion or label – at which point I made a happy discovery.
I found a dress that I absolutely adored that I knew would stand the test of time – it was a classic style in navy. It was current season and when I went into the store to try it on I knew it was the dress I needed to buy. It cost me more than renting it, obviously, but I will wear it to three events that I know of in the next three months and several more in time to come. And you know what else? I’m going to rent it out for the many weekends I won’t be wearing it. If that’s not a win win, what is?
Georgina Dent is a journalist, editor and TV commentator with a keen focus on women’s empowerment and gender equality.