Rent a dress, send it back: how to be frugal without having to keep the tags on

Rent a dress, send it back: how to be frugal without having to keep the tags on

These women used to eat peanut butter sandwiches for dinner. (Image: Rent Frock Repeat) 

Dropping a couple of mortgage payments on a dress that may be worn only once was not always such a gauche sign of indulgence (insert buzz word: recession). Now, like a DVD at a failing Blockbuster Video, we can rent a dress for a fraction of the price at the newly launched online dress-rental service Rent Frock Repeat, and then, well, send it back when we’re bored of it .

The premise: Penny-pinching shoppers browse online to take their pick of in-season pieces by Doo.Ri, Milly, Jay Godfrey, Preen, Robert Rodriguez, Badgley Mischka, Catherine Malandrino, Pink Tartan, Shoshanna and Christian Siriano (best remembered as the loud, pint-sized pixie with catchphrases from Project Runway), among others. Vanity sizers, yo-yo dieters and women who are between sizes can benefit from having two sizes delivered to ensure the perfect fit (they also have a stylist to gently suggest—via e-mail, phone or chat—that the pashmina we might be after is so five years ago).

The cost: The rental is around 15 to 20 per cent of the retail price (post-party dry-cleaning is included), and every dress can be kept for four or eight days. An emerald-green silk sack dress from Ports 1961, for example, usually retailing for $895, can be rented for $150, while $60 gets us a sleeveless red David Dixon shift dress (which usually retails for $350).

The sales pitch: “Renting a dress gives you the freedom to wear something a bit bolder or brighter than maybe something you would invest in—there is a feeling of freedom that comes along with having our virtual closet at your disposal, and none of the buyer’s remorse,” says co-owner Kristy Wieber. The freedom to wear bold colours and the option to never leave the couch? Welcome to the rebirth of Peggy Bundy.