In July 2014, Rent the Runway launched Unlimited—a subscription service that lets you pay a flat fee for anything and everything on their site. $100 a month gets you as many as 3 pieces at a time, including high-end designer evening gowns, handbags and jewelry. A year in, Unlimited’s waiting list is months and many-hundreds-of-would-be-subscribers long. Apparently, a lot of women want a constant stream of fresh looks in their closets for a flat rate. And yet the question remains: Is Unlimited really worth it?
In a saturated fashion industry it seems strange that the clothing-rental niche hasn’t experienced more growth. In fact, to this day—a full 6 years after RTR first launched—only a handful of rental sites exist. Gwynnie Bee is the go-to for plus-size fashion and has always boasted the unlimited payment scale—pay a flat fee and rent a set number of pieces; return them at your leisure for new ones. Bag, Borrow or Steal doles out luxury accessories but nothing else, so you can get a great Dior clutch to complete your outfit. And Le Tote sends monthly boxes stuffed with pieces in your customized wish list, but you can’t request specific items for a special occasion.
Perhaps it was its relative monopoly of the market that enabled Rent the Runway to expand its offerings to include the Unlimited service, which takes its vast collection of clothing for every occasion, size and silhouette, and lets subscribers temporarily keep what they love. (Pieces can stay in your possession until you want to switch them out or for a maximum of 6 months.) “I never shop anymore,” says Unlimited fan Billie Edington. “Every week, I get 3 new looks for the weekend ahead. That’s 12 looks each month for just $100! What’s not to love?”
Mother-of-one Alishan Hopping also gives Unlimited props for its “outside the box” opportunities. “I can try trendier pieces that I might never buy and confirm what works for me. Plus I can rent the once-in-a-social-media-lifetime dresses that I would never imagine paying retail for and that will be photographed a lot. It’s not cheap, but for a frequent renter, it makes sense.”
There’s the catch: You really have to use Unlimited to justify the expense, which is higher per month than an Equinox membership. Taking full advantage of the service requires a rhythm (like a once-a-week turn-around) and a packed social calendar. Once you get off the waitlist and into the club, odds are good you’ll find clothes and accessories you love, but to make every dollar count, you’ll need to keep finding those gems over and over and over. Not that that has ever been a problem for us.
So is Rent the Runway’s Unlimited service worth it? Depending on your lifestyle and your social schedule it very well might be. If you’re only logging on to snag something for a big event, you’re better off sticking with the pay as you go approach. If your social calendar is packed and you’re one for outfit pre-planning, the answer is a resounding yes.