Ask Alexis: wedding guest on a budget

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Q: It seems like everyone I know is getting married this summer! I don’t want to wear the same cocktail dresses over and over; how can I look like a million dollars on a budget? – Stressed Guest

A: Once upon a time, in a land far away, there was a hardworking socialite who appreciated a bargain. When social season rolled around each year, she found herself in a dilemma: she was unwilling to pay exorbitant prices for black tie ensembles that might only get worn once or twice, and equally unwilling to buy something ho-hum but budget-friendly. What was a diva to do?

Enter Rent the Runway, which makes couture fairy tales come true for fashionistas seeking a “Cinderella moment.”

The online retailer – the brainchild of Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss – rents formal and cocktail attire from major designers (think Prabal Gurung, Badgley Mischka and Herve Leger) as well as high-end accessories for a fraction of the price. These gowns are current, and RTR has options for plus, petite and tall sizes. Shoppers register online, peruse the digital runway of gowns and choose one or more to rent (as well as a free back-up size). The dresses are shipped via UPS, arriving according to a date you select; after your event, you simply return the items to Rent the Runway via the enclosed shipping envelope.

Have a fit question? Chat with a virtual Go-To Girl, who can help you make the best selection.

Worried you’re going to get something obviously used? I tried the service twice; all four dresses were professionally dry-cleaned and had no stains, odors, rips or issues. RTR also included fashion tape with the first order, which came in handy.

But what if is doesn’t fit? If nothing in your order fits, return the items to RTR within 24 hours for a full credit.

How big of a deal is this? In my opinion, it’s major. The dress I borrowed for the UNCF Masked Gala earlier this year (Badgley Mischka’s Rouge Rosalind Peplum Gown) retails for $530, and I rented it for $86.65 (the price included tax, $5 insurance and $9.95 shipping). RTR offers first-time renters promo codes that can be used for additional savings. If you attend multiple social events (dances, weddings, balls and awards ceremonies, etc.) and find yourself buying dresses you wear once or twice and then are leery of wearing again soon (because let’s face it: most of us don’t want to be seen in the same outfit multiple times in one season), you can find a tremendous variety of options at Rent the Runway, without emptying your piggy bank. And who wouldn’t want to wear something that echoed Jennifer Lawrence’s peplum Dior, worn at this year’s Oscars? (Okay, so that was a total coincidence.)

Of course, you do have to send the dress back (unless you want to be charged, per RTR’s rental agreement), but if you were really looking for a dress to keep, you wouldn’t be renting one to begin with. The site also offers private sales on dresses from time to time that registered users may take advantage of.

Will I rent again? Only my fairy godmother knows for sure…

Happy shopping!

*Pictured: Badgley Mischka Rouge Rosalind Peplum Gown via Rent the Runway, J. Crew Grande Crystal Drops Necklace (sold out); Jennifer Lawrence via Jason Merritt/Getty



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