REVIEW: Rent the Runway Unlimited Review - Pros and Cons
Like most millennials, when it comes to my outfits, I have an unlimited budget for clothes and never repeat a lewk. Uh, JK - I have bottomless school loans and an avocado toast habit, and some days during the winter, just swapping my yoga pants for jeans feels like an accomplishment. So, not surprisingly, when Rent The Runway Unlimited ads started popping up on my Instagram feed (I did mention I’m a millennial, right?), I decided to go for it. Best case scenario, I’d get to wear some shmancy designer clothes I normally wouldn’t be able to afford - cough, Proenza Schouler, cough cough - and try out some riskier styles that I normally wouldn’t invest in, and worst case, I’d be out $129 (I got a special rate for the first two months, although I think the current promotion is one month at $99), which is less than I usually spend on clothes per month, anyway.
(PS give the “How I Built This” episode with Rent the Runway founder Jenn Hyman a listen, it’s an interested story with some fun anecdotes about pitching to designer Diane von Furstenberg and making RTR work.)
HOW RENT THE RUNWAY UNLIMITED WORKS:
I signed up, entered my mailing address and credit card info, and immediately got to “shopping.” I spent a good hour so sifting through pages and pages of available styles, “heart-ing” my favorites and saving them to different collections - namely Holidays, Vacation, and Work. You get four items per shipment, and you can keep all of them or return one or two - my first shipment, two items didn’t fit so I sent them back and picked two new ones. The first shipment came with two garment bags, presumably to always keep one on hand for returns.
I live on the East Coast, and if I made sure to have my orders submitted on the site by noon, I’d almost always receive them the next day (not including weekends).
Let’s unpack this, shall we?
1.) Designer clothes! But, all the good stuff seemed to go fast.
PRO: I got to wear some pretty awesome, expensive items. A Proenza Schouler skirt comes to mind. I also got to try things that I might not have bitten the bullet on purchasing, too - a pink lurex Jonathan Simkhai top with giant bell sleeves comes to mind.
CON: That feeling when the one thing that I’ve been looking forward to ordering was not available at the time I needed it, or in my size. This happened a lot. It seemed like the really good stuff was there to reel you in, but was never actually available. This one Christian Soriano two-tone pink and red dress comes to mind - it was never available once in the two months that I did RTR Unlimited.
2.) Fast! I got deliveries a few times a week, which meant I had to make returns a few times a week too.
PRO: Super-speedy! I tried to get my orders in by noon, and more often than not, they arrived the next day. Crazy, right? Similarly, when I returned the items via UPS, the “credits” would be in by the next day, so I could start picking new stuff right away with almost no lag time.
CON: I was a regular at UPS, returning packages every couple days. I must say, though, that there was almost always another woman in the store returning a bag too - it was fun to have that little nod of camaraderie.
3.) It made me a smarter shopper. It also made me want new stuff all the time.
PRO: This whole experience really taught me about a Need-to-Own vs Need-to-Try. Sometimes I just want to rock a black cocktail shift with a sweetheart neckline and pouf sleeves, and once it’s out of my system, I’m good. I believe thanks to RTR I’m better able to identify what is an impulse versus what would be a wearable staple.
CON: I can’t always be popping tags. Using RTR kind of trained me to expect a new look everyday, and RTR Unlimited or not, that’s an expensive habit to dabble in - even when I’m using RTR and I’m not spending the money on buying clothes, I’m spending the time, and time is money. See #5)
4.) Every little moment was a chance to dress up. Even if the occasion didn’t call for it, because I can’t waste an outfit now, can I?
PRO: I started planning outfits like a stylist. Instead of just wandering into my closet all sleepy-eyed and late, I had a specific outfit pre-planned for almost every engagement I had planned, and it was all great stuff, too - Thanksgiving, the holiday where stretchy waistlines are usually the only priority, was like my Fashion Week - I even had an outfit change between the morning look and the dinnertime look.
CON: I couldn’t bring myself to waste any of the four item allowance on something as quotidian as jeans and a plain sweater. So I took the opportunity to use my RTR subscription for interesting or expensive pieces I woudln’t normally wear. Sometimes, this was too over the top. My day job (a craft brewery) comes to mind as a place where a Nicholas blazer and bronze, faux-leather paper-bag-waisted shorts over tights with heels was not appreciated.
5.) So much time spent - or wasted? - searching for my next look on the website.
PRO: New stuff dropped on the site every week, and some of my “hearts” that weren’t available previously came back, so there was always a lot to look at on the website.
CON: Maybe too much, though - we’re talking like 50+ pages of results. Spending WAY too much time “shopping” for clothes that I won’t even be keeping. Seriously. I spent around an hour or sometimes even more each time trying to pick the perfect combination of things and trying to time it all perfectly to make sure it would get to me in time for each event or outing to which I was planned to wear it. I think I normally shop online once a week for about an hour total, and those are usually for things for my house or clothing I’ll hopefully be wearing all the time. One hour every two or three days was so much time sunk into rented skirts and blazers.
I never had to go to (or pay for!) the dry cleaner, or iron.
I got to wear something new (to me) for all my holiday parties and events.
Melted skittles in pockets. This only happened once, but it was gross.
An occasional thrift-shop smell. This only happened once or twice, and I think it was more attributable to the cleaning chemicals, but when I got my first delivery, my mom happened to be over and walked by and asked “Are those used?”
MORE USEFUL INFO:
RTR has their own line of clothing. This is neither a pro nor a con, but they did not do a very good job at communicating that a certain item was from their own line, and it almost felt like they were trying to hide the fact. One of the pieces I was obsessed with (and rented twice!), an olive puffer coat, was from their in-house line, Slate and Willow. Why wouldn’t they just label it “Rent the Runway Collection,” for example, to make it clear that it was their own line? It was also slightly shady that they would still include the “retail” price for their private label items, although they never actually truly “retailed.”
Customer Photos really help! I cannot thank my fellow sisters for sharing pics and reviews. They were always helpful when it came to quality and fit, and I definitely used the suggestions to make decisions, especially when it came down to the wire and I needed something for a certain event or vacation and I knew it would be close on timing and I didn’t have time to make mistakes.
So, would I do RTR Unlimited again? The answer to that question, after a few of my favorite looks:
1.) This Proenza Schouler skirt.
I actually got this one twice, because it fit so well, and I wore it at least three or four times total. It retails for $1250! The Tory Burch Fleming Bag is also from RTR, and I wore it everyday for a couple weeks.
2.) A pretty, leaf-print Patbo Kimono
I brought this one on vacation in the Bahamas, and could not have loved it more. I lived in it! It retails for over $350, so it wasn’t something I’d ever buy myself. It made me feel like I was a cast member on Dynasty while I had it on, though.
3.) A lovely, floor-length THREE FLOOR Pine for You dress
Thanksgiving Look #1. It was so fun to be this fancy, all before 10am, too.
4.) A sweet-as-pumpkin-pie Amur Printed Edna Dress
Thanksgiving Look #2, family-friendly but still cool and fresh. This retails for $898, so that was pretty awesome too.
5.) A gypset-inspired Suno Field of Daisies Dress
Another Bahamas look, and this one retails for $995. (It’s safe to say I have expensive taste on a rental-dress budget.) A perfect vacation look, and much less painless than having to drop a month’s rent on a sundress.
6.) A Red Freak-Um Dress by Stylestalker
I ended up buying this one. It’s just soooo good! I felt like a million sexy dollars the minute I put it on, so I knew it was a keeper. Plus, I just couldn’t end this whole process without buying something. I may have a problem.
So would I sign up for RTR Unlimited again?
YES. I totally would.
I would definitely schedule it for a time that I would have a lot of events and parties - I’ll have a new brewpub opening in the summer, so I’ll probably sign up again for the month or two around that, when I’m going to meetings or hosting opening parties for press.
Would I do it year round? No - I just like shopping and buying clothes and not going to UPS too damn much. I’m also not sure how sustainable it is, really. All the shipping (granted, my items came from about 70 or so miles away, it’s not like they were flown over), plus all the plastic bags, which they say they recycle and reuse although I never received one that looked anything but brand new, and I couldn’t usually open them without tearing them. There’s also all the dry cleaning, which = chemicals. I returned stuff that I didn’t even wear, and I’m sure it’s their policy to wash everything that comes back to them.
That said, RTR Unlimited will definitely be a part of my life and the way I dress from now on. I have been looking forward to bringing it back almost since right after I cancelled my subscription, so I think I’ll always be phasing it in and out depending on my mood and social calendar.
*This is 100% my honest review - I was not asked by RTR to review, nor was I compensated by them or anyone else for reviewing it. Just doing this to give my readers and anyone out there who is curious about this whole “rental fashion” thing the scoop!