A Borrowed Babes' Guide: How To Rent the Runway
How to Navigate Clothing Rental Services:
Rent the Runway
It's finally time we reveal our secrets for how we stay so fabulous, so fashionable and so boujee...
Our life blood is clothing and accessory rental services such as Rent the Runway, Le Tote, Bag, Borrow or Steal, & Rocksbox.
We swear by Rent the Runway and will until the very day we die. (See our lame screen shots from Facebook way back in the day when using Facebook walls was still a thing. Laugh all you want, but we were onto something back then and are still onto something now. It's the primary reason this blog came to life.)
What to Expect in the Rent the Runway Guide
The Babes have been working on combining our best tips, tricks, and advice for utilizing clothing rental services into a series of posts for the everyday lady. Our first guide is going to cover our absolute favorite service, Rent the Runway. We'll include a basic overview of what Rent the Runway is, how the rental process works, how to search options that are best for your style, size, & body type, and how to select the delivery date that works best for you and your event.
BONUS: We are also including some insider secrets we've learned over the course of years (and hundreds of clothing items) of rentals. *We are putting the finishing touches on reviews and guides for the various services they offer such as the Unlimited program and the Style Pass subscription but we are starting with what made them BIG & BOUJEE - designer clothing rentals.
What is Rent the Runway?
If you're here, you more than likely already have a basic idea of what Rent the Runway does and understand the basic concept of clothing rental services. For those of you who think renting clothes is "icky" or "germy" JUST. LET. IT. GO.
In essence, when you buy articles of clothing from a store you are putting on clothing that has already been worn, even if just for a few moments. Think about it...someone else already slid their sweaty boobs and cheeks up in that piece and then put it back on the rack; it was never washed, febreezed, or dry cleaned. AND if you shop at some major retailers who accept any and all returns (no questions asked) there is an extremely high likelihood you are definitely paying full retail price for pre-worn but UNWASHED merch that some crazy bish wore and returned. TRUST me on this.
At least with RTR, it has been dry cleaned by the WORLD'S LARGEST DRY CLEANER. (That's a little juicy piece for you that should be addressed in another post altogether...RTR is the world's largest dry cleaner. Let that marinate for a minute then tell me how you buy dirty, full priced clothes off the rack. :-) )
Take Me to the Mothership
Rent the Runway is an online service that began renting designer dresses and accessory in November of 2009. (So basically our lives haven't been the same since that time. For better and for worse. In sickness and in health. For richer or poorer.) Their bread and butter when they began were special occasion dress rentals, but they have now expanded into everyday clothing items. Think of it...Rent the Runway is basically the real life version of the automated computer styling closet Cher had in Clueless...but with options that equate to the size of the designer sections at Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale's and Nordstrom combined. AND at prices you can afford. The real life version of the computer closet come to life known as Rent the Runway also comes with stylists to assist you with questions, sizing, and ordering.
**Here's the deal - You can ask several people their thoughts on using RTR for everyday wear vs. special occasion items and you'll get different answers depending on who you ask. Our personal experience is we love using it for both, but use your brain. If you work, let's say at a restaurant, where you are required to wear a uniform 5 days a week, well don't use RTR for everyday wear. We are here to help you use the service, not teach you common sense. Kimberly and I both use it for every day and special occassion because of the lines of work we are in. We have the option to dress up or down and go to a lot of events around town.
Why Use Rent the Runway?
The better question is why not? Rent the Runway can be used for any and everything.
Prom Dress Rentals, Homecoming Dress Rentals, Wedding Guest Styles, Bridesmaid Dresses,
How Does Rent the Runway Work?
1) Select the event, occasion or theme you are renting clothing for - This sounds easy but you need to know why you are renting in the first place. Don't click the website link if you don't know why you are renting, unless you are like us and just browse all the time to stock your hearts closet. (More on that to come.) You will be overwhelmed/amazed by their options. Go to the site (or download their stellar app) with some form of an idea of why you are renting. You don't need to be a style maven to accomplish this first step, just know whether you are looking for a gown, a casual dress, a pants suit or all of the above.
2) Go Ahead and Set up Your Account - Why do this if you aren't 100% sure that you are going to rent? To save yourself time. Setting up an account allows you to input your sizes and measurements to help narrow your search. You can then also create an event and save items you like in that category. (I have so many on my account it's absolutely insane.) It will help you rent exactly what you are looking for if you decide to browse several times over the course of a few days before pulling the rental trigger. It is free to set up an account, so just do it. They also offer discounts on your first rental, and by allowing them to send you emails you will gets lots of fabulous coupon codes and innformation nabout new rental releases.. If you want a special code, drop us a comment below and we'll send you a special Borrowed Babes code to use. HEY, GIRL, HEY!
3) Select the Date of your Delivery - This entails a little planning and strategy on your part. The basic rental period defaults to a 4-day window but you now have the option to select an 8-day window for an additional charge. I've never needed more than the 4-day window but if you aren't utilizing the Unlimited service option and are traveling out of the country for a long trip, that 8-day option might be best. The 4-day and 8-day windows obviously cost different amounts of money so this is on you to decide.
Here's where The Borrowed Babes advice will help - Think about your event; Are you traveling prior to the event? Do you plan to catch a flight the day your package arrives? Do you have a penchant for not listening to advice and renting something that won't work for your body type? Etc...etc...You know you better than we know you, so keep your normal habits in mind. As we stated before, RTR can help you slay the everyday runway like Beyonce but it WILL NOT give you her team of people to help you keep living life and be fabulous and on time in the midst of a busy wedding or bachelorette weekend. KEEP. IT. REAL.
Example: Most people (from my complete generalization based on several rental dates and experiences but backed up by zero actual facts at all) have a tendency to rent items for a weekend event or short trip. If this is the case for you and you are renting to attend a Saturday wedding, select Thursday for delivery. WHY? Why Thursday? What about Friday? Here's why:
a. Scheduling a Thursday delivery gives you a little wiggle room on the front end in case of a UPS screw up. In all my years of renting, RTR has maybe had 1-3 misfires and I have the Unlimited subscription, so it's not RTR you have to worry about. It's what happens after it leaves their facility. IF for some crazy reason your item doesn't arrive as promised on Thursday at 8 pm you still have time to contact RTR customer service to get the situation corrected. Customer service who OVERNIGHT a replacement of the same dress if available or send a new one if you desire. That overnight service means the new dress arrives on Friday; still giving you time to prep your back up option in the instance the rented garment doesn't work, you hate it, or just decide to opt for something you already own.
b. The Thursday delivery allows customer service more time to find a replacement dress or work out the "behind the scenes" logistics. If the package was delayed and they just need to do a simple reroute, they have more flexibility to do so. Help them help you by not scheduling your delivery for the day of your event!! That's not to say I don't (and you can't or shouldn't) schedule the delivery for the day of your event, but I also use RTR so much that if I select that option, I choose a designer I wear frequently and know whether or not it will actually fit. I ALSO ALWAYS have a backup plan in case my UPS driver is running wicked late that day and doesn't make it to my house in time.
c. Thursday delivery gives you an extra day to return - Here's the deal...if you rent Thursday to Sunday you really get an extra day (unless you live in NYC, D.C, Chicago, San Fran, or the L.A. area - places where there are RTR brick and mortar locations) to return your items because UPS isn't open on Sunday. AKA - If you wear a casual dress on Saturday with your family and want to rock that number to bottomless brunch with friends on Sunday you totally can. No one is judging here. (No Rent the Runway returns on Sunday via mail happen.) Just remember to get your package to UPS by noon on Monday morning or else you'll pay a late fee. AND there is no budge room there, get your stuff back on time. Not only do you have to pay a fine, if it's late it jacks up the rental behind you. (I'm talking about whoever the diva was that ruined the gorgeous white Solace London Jumpsuit I eyed for 6 weeks and finally had a reason to wear only to get the email the day before that my back up option was coming instead. WOMP. WOMP.)
d. The Thursday option also just offers slightly more peace of mind prior to getting all dolled up for your event. Once that gorgeous item arrives on Thursday and you put it on and realize you are going to look as fierce as the offspring would if Giselle and Gigi had a super model baby, then you will be able to enjoy your weekend, event, or party that much more.
Back to the Rental Process
4. Narrow your Search by Sizes - TRUST me on this. Even if you don't know whether you want to rock a jumpsuit or a dress, narrow your search by size. There is nothing more disappointing than running a search and finding the dress you saw on Pinterest last week only to realize they only have it available in a size 2 and you're a 12. Or vice versa. This will also eliminate excess items in your search that might cause you to derail your search train. ALSO - I suggest selecting the size you normally wear plus one size smaller and one size larger. If you aren't familiar with all of the designers you may not be the size you typically wear so opting for something a size smaller and larger will help widen and improve your search results.
4a. Selecting a Size Requires Research - Once you select your sizes and see some stylish items you love it is best to read the "Stylist Notes" as well as customer reviews. THIS WILL BE YOUR SAVING GRACE. TRUST, TRUST, TRUST me on this. Stylist notes are going to be similar to what you read when you online shop...specific feedback on how it fits, cut, sizing, etc. The customer reviews will be your best friend. It is the equivalent of online shopping with your best friend who happens to be the same size as you because you can narrow the review down to size and body type.
As someone who is much taller than average, I swear by this method. I LOVE TO TRY ROMPERS because I just want to be like everyone else #basic. But the reviews have stopped me from renting several of them based on fellow #TallTribe feedback and from creeping on the pictures people upload wearing the same items. To find the reviews, click on the item you like and scroll to the bottom of the page and search.
This search key is also your voice of reason. When you want to wear a romper or a maxi and you are either 4'11 or 6'1, this will help you not waste a rental.
4b. Do a smidge of research on the designers - If you see designers or styles you love and aren't sure of how it will look on or fit your body, use Alexa or Google and find out more. There will be some designers you'll always love the idea of but never actually be able to wear. Personal example: I love a lot of the Style Stalker dresses, but they just run short for someone who is tall like me. I have never wasted a normal rental on one because I know it will be a fruitless endeavor. I'd post a photo of some of these bad borrowing choices I made, but the struggle with them is real. One dress I rented through my Unlimited subscription was so short it didn't even cover my lady parts not to mention butt cheeks. AND I promise you it was a dress and not a top. So don't try to rent things you wouldn't (or couldn't) buy in real life because rental clothing isn't magic. You are not suddenly going to be able to wear culottes if you've tried 987 pairs made by 876 designers and not a ONE worked.
5. Select your Style and Size(s) - Here is one of the most amazing parts of Rent the Runway. After you've decided you find what you love, your rental comes with a FREE back up size. That's right...two dresses for the price of one. (Granted it's the same dress, but still.) This helps you pick the best size in each style for you. If you read the style you are selecting runs small then add the next size up to your cart. If they run big, then obviously add a size smaller. It's such a cool perk they offer. It's also an extremely wise customer service move on their end. RESPECT.
AND BONUS OPTION: Not only do they give you two sizes, but you can add an additional style for only $35. The additional style has to be equal to or lesser than the cost of the first rental, but it's seriously a great deal. Need a wedding guest or date dress AND a Sunday brunch outfit for a destination wedding? Use RTR.
6. Place Your Order and Wait for the Magic to Arrive - Add all your items to your cart and buy those puppies. If you are feeling froggy you can add on accessories and undergarments to the pack. No, the undergarments are not rentals. I'm talking pasties, dress tape, and Spanx. All necessities for some of the pieces you may be renting!! There is nothing worse than renting a $3,000 dress but wearing the wrong bra or not wearing Spanx if it is needed. Do the designer justice by keeping your bum and boobs in their rightful places in the garment.
Now the Waiting Game...
Once your order is placed, just wait for the fun blue bag (or sometimes) just the typical brown cardboard box to arrive at your house. Rent the Runway utilizes UPS, but if your order is placed far enough in advance they occasionally go through the postal service. If you don't have a reliable mail person and/or where you live might be a little sketch, you can have these packages delivered anywhere, anytime. I have so many addresses saved in my account that customer service at RTR probably think I'm bonkers. I've had my items delivered to hotels across the country, several residential addresses, work places, friends etc.
Helpful Information You Need to Know
Rent the Runway Customer Service - These people are super legit. They can help you solve anything, anytime. Just call or email them. They are always quick to reply and are generally very knowledgeable and helpful. If a package is lost, call them. If the item doesn't fit, call them. If the article of clothing is damaged, call them. Basically, if you are not 100% happy, just call them. Luckily for you, their customer service is so stellar they will often contact you to proactively solve a situation before you ever know anything is wrong.
At some point, some ish may go wrong...
Mistakes will happen. Just like any business anywhere, you may occasionally come across a bad apple. Like Donny Osmond always sang, "One Bad Apple Doesn't Spoil the Whole Bunch" and that's the same for RTR. (Bonus points for you if you know that random old school song. HAH!) You may reach out to customer service and encounter a real butthead. It happens.
I'd be lying to you if I told you I've never been peeved with a customer service rep at RTR. I had one bad experience and it didn't go well when I first contacted them, but they rectified it in the end. That's all I'll say because it's clothing and they made the wrong right and I deleted the INSANE twitter barrage I unleashed on them during that fight. (Did they know we were fighting? DId they even care? I'll never know. LOL) We aren't talking world peace. The world will not end if you don't get your romper or sun dress on Wednesday. Let's keep a little perspective here. (This is always why I highly suggest using your thinking cap when selecting delivery dates, because you want a little cushion and don't want to put all your eggs in one basket and have no back up plan in place.)
Inside Tips from Pro "Borrowed Babes" like Us
The Pro Add On - Worth the Savings! We have an entire post dedicated to their PRO option, but in our opinion, the savings are 100% worth it. AND you get a code to save money during your birthday month. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!
Use the App - The App has gone through several updated and changes since the initial release, but it was just as easy to shop from the app as it is your desktop. Download it and try it out! You'll love it!
Track your Packages - RTR is fabulous about communicating with you when your order ships. I suggest you track it. I always do. I was actually the one who called RTR during one rental when I knew it should have updated in the UPS system and it still said it was in NJ the day before it should have been in Florida. I reached out to them and they tracked the package, could tell it was lost, sent me options and immediately overnighted a replacement dress for me. TALK ABOUT AWESOME!
Always Have a Back-Up Plan - Especially on destination deliveries! No matter how many tips you find and research you do, there is always going to be one item that just stinks. It will not look good on you. If that is your only plan to wear while you are traveling then you could be up the creek without a paddle without a backup plan in your closet.
Returning Your Items - Do it at a UPS store; Get a receipt! You have options when it comes to returning dresses, clothing and accessories to RTR but we recommend dropping them at a UPS store when possible. 1) You know it was there on time. 2) The receipt will show proof of drop off - This scan and receipt will indicate exactly when the item was dropped off. Once scanned at a UPS store or location it frees you of the major portion of the responsibility for the item. Just trust me on this...mistakes happen and it's best to have your receipt and notes to review with customer service if needed.
BONUS: In-Store Appointments and Shopping - IF all of this seems overwhelming and you live or plan to travel to a location where there are RTR stores, you can set appointments ahead of time to receive a styling consultation. They are always very knowledgeable and helpful AND you are able to see and try on before renting. **Just beware - Not everything you see online will be available at each location so don't go in with your heart set on something. Keep an open mind and let their stylists do the work for you. If this sounds like you, click here to see their store locations and to schedule an appointment online.
We hope that our information was helpful! Leave a comment with your favorite tip for using Rent the Runway or leave your email for a super stellar rental code.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO SAVE $30 OFF YOUR FIRST RENTAL at RENT THE RUNWAY?
Click here to get your coupon code courtesy of The Borrowed Babes! If you have trouble accessing it, please drop us an email and we'll hook you up.
The Babes - Stephanie & Kimberly
If you want to check out the previous posts where we styled ourselves with RTR, search Rent the Runway on our site.
Updated July 27, 2017: This post was featured on IFB's Links á la Mode for July 26th! Make sure to check out the wonderful pieces from our fellow blogger babes below!
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