Why Own When You Can Rent?

Editor’s Note: This piece speaks to me on a very deep level. I, too, am a shameless clothes horse. I just love clothes, all sorts of clothes – the fancier and more unwearable the better. I have a closet full of amazing pieces that I rarely get the chance to actually put on, some of which still have their tags.

Rent the Runway was a godsend when I was a TV news anchor and people seemed to be keeping notes on what I wore and how frequently. I would get emails and actual hand-written letters about my wardrobe, which, according to the critics, contained too much black. Others said I dressed like a man. This, coupled with my very short hairstyle, prompted questions about my sexuality.

Why these questions were considered appropriate by the writers, I do not know. They were hurtful and gave me pause, but never stopped me from experimenting with my look.

Thanks to the ability to rent clothes on the regular, I’ve been able to try out lots of styles without making as big a dent in my wallet. Winning.

Silvia Lilly is one of the most stylish local women I know. And she has a secret: Not all her clothes are actually hers. I wish I had half her discipline when it comes to not buying anything new, but I’m trying. She has inspired me. Maybe she’ll do the same for you. Read on. – LB

I grew up the daughter of a very accomplished seamstress. The clothing my mother produced was remarkably well done and spoiled me as to what true quality looked like when it came to one’s wardrobe.

I have distinct memories of playing in the fabric store as my mother combed through piles of cloth and notions, seeking just the right color or texture. From an early age, I was taught to appreciate fabrics and a well-finished garment. In short: I love fashion.

It’s probably no surprise to you that I was voted “Miss Best Dressed, Class of 1980,” right?

Through the years, I’ve acquired an extensive wardrobe. There are items in my closet that I’ve collected on my travels, purchased from secondhand shops and bought from vintage and department stores. There’s no denying it, I have a lot of clothes.

Last fall, I decided enough was enough and declared a moratorium on buying clothing. Even with my attempt at eliminating an article of clothing upon the purchase of another, there still was just too damn much. I needed to stop shopping.

So, what’s a fashion plate like myself supposed to do? Enter Rent the Runway!

It began as a way to outfit myself for events like galas and fancy dinners. I thought it made sense to rent a gown for $60 or $80, wear it once and ship it back rather than pay three or four times that for something I would likely never wear again.

Not for nothing, but Albany is a small city. I see the same faces at many of these swanky parties. I am a woman who kept a diary to help prevent repeating an outfit, shallow as that may sound. I am who I am and I am not ashamed; my sartorial game is strong.

I initially purchased a one month unlimited plan at Rent the Runway, thinking that I would cancel after the holiday season was over. But I was enjoying myself far too much. Access to a huge closet of garments and accessories is like going on a never-ending shopping spree. I quickly became hooked.

As the months went by, I realized I was no longer purchasing clothing beyond exercise wear and undergarments. That real savings was complemented by a lack of dry cleaning expenses since I just sent the items back after wearing them. (The company says it takes care of the cleaning between each and every rental).

At a cost of approximately $45 a week, I had four pieces to wear – generally at a price point beyond what I would pay – at home for as long as I opted to keep them. Some people spend that much money just buying lunch and coffee on work days.

It hasn’t all been smooth sailing. Sometimes a dress isn’t quite as nice in person as it looked online. The color or the sizing is off and I send things back unworn. I’d say 75 percent of the time, though, I get to wear a garment that I wouldn’t necessarily want to own, but thoroughly enjoy wearing once or twice before swapping it for something else.

I’ve learned that ruching is my friend, while the peplum is not. I’ve become familiar with certain designers and know how their cuts fit my body, making them go-to favorites.

I look at the forecast prior to making selections so I can be dressed appropriately for whatever weather is coming our way – something that would be more difficult to do if I was purchasing a formal dress weeks in advance of the event where I planned to wear it. I am now obsessed with wearing prints and patterns that I would have previously avoided purchasing because they are too splashy to wear more than a few times.

I simply take more fashion risks.

Clothing is fun and I’m having a blast with my temporary closet. Now if I could only figure out a way to pare down what I still have in my permanent wardrobe, I might finally be able to get rid of that garment rack in my dressing room.

Baby steps, friends, baby steps.

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