Frugal fashion: Where to rent a designer gown for cheap

Frugal fashion: Where to rent a designer gown for cheap

Next week, the city will officially be in TIFF mode. There will be a different party every night, and celebs will overrun the city. Hurrah! But keeping up with the luxe life without dropping tons of cash can be a challenge, so we’ve found the best places to rent red carpet–worthy one-of-a-kind dresses and accessories in Toronto.

Renée Zellweger and Catherine Deneuve have both shopped at Divine Decadence (Photo by Carmen Cheung)

69 Vintage
The staff at 69 Vintage describe their stock as a meeting of eras. To wit, 1950s prom dresses share racks with slinky, disco-era dresses (not to mention a fab gold lamé jumpsuit) and sequined numbers from the ’80s. Most items are rented for 35 per cent of the cost per day, but owner Kealan Sullivan sometimes lends pieces from her private collection (which includes bouncy crinolines, fur stoles and a selection of hats) for a flat rate of $30. 1100 Queen St. W., 416-516-0669.

Act Two
The ’50s, ’60s and ’70s Armani, Dior and Dries Van Noten at this midtown vintage store are what first catch the eye, but the no-label racks yield plenty of pretty frocks, too, like one in green and white damask with matching evening coat. Ask owner Inga Welsman nicely and she may throw open the doors to the basement, where she stashes almost 100 additional dresses in a full range of colours and styles, including a few new gowns. Expect to shell out between $50 and $100 per day. 596 Mount Pleasant Rd., 416-487-2486.

Divine Decadence Originals
This high-end boutique counts many a celeb among its clients, including Renée Zellweger and Catherine Deneuve. Look like an A-lister by donning a Breakfast at Tiffany’s-inspired dress from the 1959 collection of one-time Toronto fashion house Cornelia. Or choose from a glam selection of 60s dresses, which come in a variety of styles and colours. Divine Decadence also offers a package deal that includes the dress, jewellery and purse. Considering that few of the store’s items sell for less than $500, the rental fee (20 per cent of the cost) is a steal. 128 Cumberland St., 2nd flr., 416-324-9759.

Joy Theatricals
The go-to spot for award show–chic gowns, Joy Theatricals is run by former costume designer Joy Samanski. The boutique carries elaborately beaded evening gowns and on-trend cocktail dresses; some are designed by Samanski herself, others picked up on her travels. Standouts include a classic black gown with a bustier bodice and full taffeta skirt, and a Chanel-inspired nude coloured dress with black lace overlay. Expect to pay between $100 and $300 a day, which includes alterations even for rentals. “That way, the dresses don’t look borrowed,” says Samanski. Joy Theatricals, 129 Davenport Rd., 416-964-6480.

The Winnipeg-based Web site Got 2 Have It Handbags ( is the go-to spot for Canadian bag hounds, especially if they can’t afford (or don’t want to commit to) the season’s it bag. Update a vintage outfit with the perfect purse from the likes of Chanel, Balenciaga and Louis Vuitton for between $16.95 and $125 per week. Vancouver’s JennyFleur ( is another option. It has a smaller but no less lovely on-line collection of designer bags from Vuitton, Miu Miu and Prada at four price points.