I’ve been a bridesmaid once. I know, lucky me, plenty of my friends have had to do it so many times that their closets are full of dresses they’ll never wear again. I had a bridesmaid dress, it was long, puffy and strapless. Even if an occasion came up during which I could wear the dress again, I wouldn’t. So, I sold the dress on eBay for $10 and probably made someone really happy.
Although I’m not bridesmaid material, I do go to the occasional wedding. Which usually means finding something to wear. While at one point I was OK with buying a new dress if needed, this summer I got to the point where I just didn’t want to do it any more. Trying on a lot of dresses is stressful, and then you’re stuck with something you may or may not ever wear again.
It started with an invitation to a “black tie optional” wedding. I wasn’t too keen on the idea of buying a gown I wouldn’t wear again. Thankfully, there’s Rent the Runway, which has plenty of formal gowns available for rent. I found and reserved this Badgley Mischka gown and everything was super easy. There are notes on the site that let you know how the dress fits and that recommend sizing up or down as a backup. You get an extra size for free, and if you really want to play it safe, you can order a backup dress in another style for $35 more.
I ended up getting the backup size, and backup dress that first time around, even though I ended up wearing my first pick in my usual size. I also signed up for a PRO account, which costs $30 per year, but gives you free shipping and insurance on orders, plus you get a voucher for your birthday month. Getting the PRO option made sense, since I had another wedding to go to, this one in September. (Shipping and insurance combined add up to $14.95 per order).
The September wedding was not black tie, thank God. I ended up getting this Nanette Lepore dress, in mint green. It’s not my usual style, and I felt self-conscious at first, but the dress grew on me. I skipped the backup dress style this time and simply got two of the same dress in my usual size and one size down, based on Rent the Runway’s recommendations. My usual size ended up being fine.
There was a bit of a difference between my order at the beginning of the summer and the September order. The first order came packed in a box and included a plastic UPS bag for sending the dresses back to RTR. The second order came packed in a folded up garment bag/carrying case made of a heavy weight blue fabric. Dresses show up at your door on hangers and you can hang up the package like any other garment bag. When it’s time to return your dresses to RTR, you shove them into the bottom of the bag, without their hangers, then fold up the bag, tuck in the handles and zip everything up. There’s even a little zipper lock to use, to keep anyone from stealing the dresses when they are on their way back to RTR.
Returning the dresses was a breeze, at least for me. The main UPS hub for Philly is pretty close to my house. I walked over there on Sunday (per the rental, I was supposed to send off the dresses by noon on Monday), and pushed the blue bag into UPS’ drop box.
I’ll admit, it is a bit weird to think about how many other people have worn the same dress. The Nanette Lepore dress did smell very strongly of dry cleaners when I first took it out of the packaging, but that scent faded over time. Still, the convenience, the cost and the fact that I don’t have a bunch of dresses cluttering up my closet makes RTR very worth it.