Is Renting Your Clothes the Key to a More Organized, Minimalist Wardrobe?

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Viv Yapp)

Paring down your wardrobe can make your life so much easier—less clothing takes up less space, and keeping your options to a minimum makes getting ready quicker. But on the other hand, it can be a challenge: what if you still want the option to try new trends and experiment with different styles without buying more and more clothes?

If you’re in this boat maybe it’s time to try a clothing rental service. There are quite a few out there like Gwynnie Bee, Parcel 22, Le Tote, The Mr. Collection, and, the most popular, Rent the Runway. I used to think that Rent the Runway was only for formal events, but that was a misconception. While it does offer designer formalwear to rent (for less than it would cost to purchase the same frocks), many people use the service for their everyday wardrobes, especially after the company added its unlimited membership which lets you pay one monthly fee for unlimited clothing and accessories rentals.

Hey, maybe a clothing rental service might actually be the key to keeping a minimalist wardrobe and still having room to try new styles. Depending on your shopping habits, it might even save you money.

To find out if this really is the case, I asked some Apartment Therapy staffers who use Rent the Runway Rent to share their experiences. Here’s what they told me:

The Pros

You have options and flexibility

One major pro is, of course, that as your needs change, you can simply exchange your rented clothes for new items. This is especially helpful as seasons change, or as one staffer, Elise noted, if you’re pregnant—you can actually search for clothes by trimester.

“I’m currently seven months pregnant and didn’t want to buy a ton of new clothes that I would only need for a few months,” Elise said. “It’s nice to have clothes I feel good in, in a time where I generally feel uncomfortable!”

It’s more environmentally friendly

And using a rental service can also help the environment, as a few staffers pointed out. “A major factor for me with Rent the Runway is that it’s environmentally friendly,” Nora said. “The amount of waste surrounding the clothing industry, and especially fast fashion, is a huge problem. Rent the Runway using existing postal systems ensures less waste in product and disposal of clothing, and you can send everything back, from the plastic hangers that come with your clothing to the plastic covering that the clothes come in, which they recycle.”

It can be budget-friendly, too

As for saving money, some women in the office noted that it definitely had helped them cut down their clothing budget, while others, like Nora, said it was just a different way to look at it. “I don’t know if it’s saved me money, but it has changed my mindset about clothing and I don’t think it has cost me too much extra,” she explained.

“I do think Rent the Runway has saved me money,” Anne, who mostly rents for special occasions, said. “But more than anything, it has saved me space. Even if I had purchased less expensive clothing or dresses for the weddings, showers and trips in which I have partaken over the past year, I would still have to store those items somewhere.”

(Image credit: Anna Spaller)

The Cons

Renting clothes isn’t for everybody

Anna, noted that while it was fun to try new styles she wouldn’t necessarily buy, she didn’t think the Rent the Runway subscription plan was worth it for her—it didn’t save her money outside of formalwear, and finding items that fit was a struggle.

“My body type doesn’t work with a lot of the styles they have (though I wish it did!) and so ‘Unlimited’ was pretty limited for me,” she said. “It took literally hours to comb through the selections, and often I wouldn’t be really excited about anything I found. That said, I did end up buying two of the items I got on Unlimited, including a jumpsuit that I’m not sure I would have thought to try on in the store, and that I now wear once a week at least.”

You can’t always get what you want

Another thing to note is that Rent the Runway in particular doesn’t always have the pieces you want, so you might be sent a backup option instead, which can be frustrating—even though sometimes it actually works out for the best.

“A lot of the time, something will happen to the exact dress or clothing item you rented and you will have to wear a backup,” Anne explained. “They have started encouraging users to choose backups at the time of each rental, but it often takes me a long time to decide the exact dress I want to wear for an event and I don’t always like the backup as much. On the other hand, I have also had backups that I end up liking a lot more than my original rental!”

So, is it worth it?

I asked our staffers if they thought that a service like Rent the Runway would help someone who wanted a more minimalist wardrobe but wanted to still keep up with new styles, and here’s what they said:

“Definitely! I need less closet space and can spend my money on pieces that I know I will wear repeatedly.” — Elise

“YES! Since doing unlimited I’ve become way less attached to my clothing and my closet has shrunk. I just am less attached to my wardrobe and view it as more in flux, but still consider personal style very important.” — Nora

“RTR offers statement pieces that could accent a minimalist wardrobe and take it to the next level, style-wise.” — Anne

“I definitely think Unlimited makes sense for someone who wants to own only a few capsule pieces – if they love the styles and if they work for their body type!” — Anna

“Definitely! I know a couple friends that do so.” — Maggie

In the end, only you know what your needs are and whether a clothing rental service can work for you. But if you’re looking for a way to pare down while still maintaining flexibility in your wardrobe, I think it’s at least worth looking into.