For many of us, December is a month of dinners, parties, and gift exchanges, each of which requires an outfit. A new outfit. At least that’s what society has taught us—the holiday party outfits you wore in years past, can’t possibly be worn again. Luckily, that ideal has begun to creep it’s way toward archaic status. With the concept of slow fashion rising in popularity, many people now wear their “outfit repeater” badge with honor (seriously, #outfitrepeater has over 98,000 posts on Instagram). But it’s far from being the norm. Even the biggest slow fashion enthusiast will still sometimes crave wearing something bright, shiny, and new.
Enter, fashion rental. This seemingly silver-bullet concept gives us the ability to try new and trendy clothes without breaking the bank. More importantly though, it gives us our fast fashion fix. We can rent a garment, wear it once, and then send it back. It gets used again, and doesn’t end up in the landfill. Seems like the perfect solution, right? *Record scratch* it’s not.
Rental fashion has its drawbacks. Shipping clothes back and forth has significant environmental implications, not to mention the energy and chemicals needed to clean the clothes in between rentals. And of course the fact that it puts a bandaid on the guilt we once had for craving new things only encourages more rentals (read: more consumerism).
Does that mean that rental has no place in a sustainable wardrobe? I don’t think so. If done right, rental can be an essential piece of the slow fashion mosaic. So how do you do it right? It starts with viewing it as something you do rarely. Think about it, you usually rent things for special occasions—tuxedos, limousines, mountainside villas in Tahoe—why should clothes be any different? Don’t rent Saturday night out clothes, rent wedding guest dresses, vacation wear, or as we’ll be discussing today—holiday party outfits. Not sure where to start? Read on to learn about five services you can try.
5 Places to Rent Your Holiday Party Outfits
Nuuly is technically a subscription service, which isn’t necessarily a train you want to hop on if you want to keep your rental fashion sustainable. However, it can be the perfect model for holiday party outfits. For $88 you can pick six pieces to wear for a month. Dress for New Years, skirt and top for the company holiday party, and a sweater for that belated Friendsgiving? Check, check and check.
If you don’t want your subscription to continue into the new year you can simply pause it for however long you like. I personally keep my subscription paused most of the year, and only use it when I know I have special occassions like weddings or vacations coming up.
Now, to be transparent, Nuuly falls under the not-always-so-ethical URBN umbrella (see: Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie and Free People). However, they carry a variety of ethical and sustainable brands, ship their clothing in reusable bags, and offer a model that I believe has helped me significantly cut down on my fast fashion purchases. Would I like to see more from the corporation? Of course, you probably do to, and it’s important that we tell them that, so here are some letter writing tips to get you started.
These days, pretty much everyone has heard about Rent The Runway. To the point where I heavily considered not even adding it to this list because it seemed redundant. However, they pioneered the rental industry, so it felt wrong to leave them out.
They offer both a subscription and one-off model. I recommend the one-off model because again we support special occasion rentals here, not every week rentals. Of all the options I’ve listed they have the largest selection of special occasion and party dresses, making them a perfect choice for formal events.
Rent The Runway appears to have also done the most research on the environmental impacts of the rental model. While according to the RTR website 89% of the members say they buy fewer clothes than they did prior to joining RTR (which is great!) it doesn’t account for the increase in carbon emissions due to shipping or the fact that RTR still purchases new styles of clothing to feed consumers demand for new selections.
With Tulerie you’re renting from other people’s actual closets, which I love. Gives off a whole “sharing is caring” kind of vibe. There’s no subscription service, so you’ll select individual pieces that you’d like to rent and you can choose to keep them for either 4, 10, or 20 days.
In this instance, it’s up to the individual lender, not the rental service directly, to sustainably package and clean items. Although, Tulerie says it does encourage the use of reusable packaging materials and planet-friendly cleaning. They’ve also partnered with RewearAble to keep unwanted clothes out of the landfill. RewearAble helps prevent textile waste by preparing all donations they receive to be reused or repurposed. In addition, they’re committed to helping those with learning and developmental disabilities find stable and prosperous employment. If you’d like to donate clothes to RewearAble you can contact Tulerie and they will provide you with a pre-paid shipping label.
With Armoire, you can select from three different subscription plans (all which can be paused or canceled at any time). You can select four items for $79 per month, seven for $119 per month, or unlimited for $249 per month. For sustainability purposes I would not recommend the latter. However either of the first two plans could be perfect for a month of special occasions.
Armoire is unique in the sense that they start their process with a style quiz. Once they’ve learned your style they’ll curate a selection of styles for you to select from (don’t worry you can change your preferences whenever you like).
Items are shipped in reusable packaging and at the end of a garment’s life it is either upcycled, or donated to one of Armoires trusted partners such as Dress for Success.
And finally, we have Haverdash—another subscription service, coming in a $59 per month for three pieces. This is the most affordable of the subscription models, and again you can pause or cancel at any time. It’s a good option for those on a tighter budget who still want to spice up their holiday party outfits. However, unlike the previous services mentioned, there is no talk on their website of sustainability practices in regards to the brands they carry, or their cleaning processes.
So while the actual act of renting with Haverdash may prevent you from making some fast fashion purchases (woo!), sustainability doesn’t seem to be a main factor in their mission. If this is a dealbreaker for you, one of the previous options may be a better bet.
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