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Rent the Runway: your ticket to affordable couture

November 19th, 2009

Top-of-the-line designer dresses are items most of us admire in the pages of Vogue.  We tear the pages out and hang them around our rooms, but we never imagine the possibility of wearing one.

It seems as if our Cinderella story has found its fairy godmother through the minds of Harvard Business School graduates, Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Carter Fleiss, and their new Web site called “Rent the Runway.”

In what has been called the Netflix for designer dresses, the site makes high fashion pieces affordable and as easy as renting a movie from Netflix.

Women are allowed to rent dresses from prominent designers such as Herve Leger, Diane Von Furstenburg, Christian Siriano, Robert Rodriguez Black Label and Lela Rose for about one-tenth of the retail price.

Rentals run between $50 and $200 for a four-night loan, and are shipped directly to the customer with a prepaid envelope for return.  Dry cleaning is taken care of by the company, but damage insurance costs $5, and significant destruction of the piece makes the renter responsible for the entire retail cost of the dress.

“What girl doesn’t want to wear a designer dress?” said sophomore Jacci Wyman.  “The site makes it very affordable, and because it’s a four-day rental, maybe women could wear it to more than one event.”

Perfect for fashion recessionistas, this site allows women to wear what they want without worrying the entire night of the event about the large hole they would have just burned in their wallets.

“Most girls spend over $200 on their prom dresses anyway,” said Wyman. “To have a designer piece around that cost is amazing.”

What’s even more beneficial about “Rent the Runway” is the site will send the dress in two different sizes, at no extra charge.  Women who want to be extra-safe can choose another style dress as a backup for an additional $25.  In addition, all dresses arrive on the doorstep equipped with a “fit kit” which includes double-sided tape, deodorant Wipe Outs, and a Magic Clip bra converter.

According to the site, RTR stylists will always be on call during regular business hours and can be contacted via e-mail, live chat, or even phone to help out with any last minute dilemmas. There’s even a way out for issues that can’t be solved—the site allows the renter to return the dress for free if you return the dress within 24-hours of receiving it.

The only downside of the Web site is that the company has chosen to make it invitation-only.  So far, the best any fashion aficionado can do is join RTR’s membership waiting list.  Until accepted, the consumer cannot even browse inventory.

So while waiting for RTR membership to be approved, check out another couture rental site such at shopbadc.com (Borrow A Dress Couture).  Or, if you’re willing to swap your clothing with something better you see online, try Thredup.com or dignswap.com.