One Mom, One Hundred Dresses and Clothing Rental 101


I’ve always loved playing dress up. As a young girl I would go through multiple outfits each day, pairing this with that and pushing the limits of what might “go together.” And when it came to a dinner party (which was typically just our family of four, a couple of grandparents and some barbecue chicken), you can bet that I had fished some well-worn slip or evening gown out of the bottom of the dress up box, belted it with a colorful scarf and sashayed into the dining room like the Queen of England.

To this day I still love clothes – and love supporting our local Columbia boutiques. But in practical mom fashion, I tend to invest in good basics: denim, solid T-shirts and leggings for weekend lounging and quality skirts and versatile dresses for work. My inner little girl craved being able to bust out colorful dresses and midi skirts, asymmetrical hemlines and a ginormous statement sleeve, but I always felt conflicted buying these pieces that I would only wear a few times.

I had tried clothing rental for formal occasions and had stopped there. I had no idea there was a great wide world of wearing clothes I didn’t own on a regular basis. Then, I started sampling some of the clothing rental subscription services. Y’all, the fun is endless.

Here’s What I’ve Learned:

Rent the Runway

The original and gold standard has quite the selection and variety of plans. You can choose to rent as few as four pieces per month for $89 (they are always offering introductory codes or deals, so you may be able to snag this for less). Or you can add extra “spots” for an additional charge per piece. They also offer enhanced plans that allow you to swap pieces once per month for $135, or have two swaps each month for $159.

I started with the basic four piece plan and kept my items the entire month. I tend to wear each item once to work, once to church, and once socially (including socially distant driveway chats), for a total of three wears per item. I loved mixing and matching the pieces into my own wardrobe! And you can actually keep a piece longer than one month (and just return the other three) if you can’t bear to part with something. You can also purchase items at a discounted price if you love them so much you want to keep them. 

Rent the Runway offers high end designers, like Monique Lhuillier, on-trend finds from Hunter Bell, as well as mainstream brands like J. Crew. Their selection is the most extensive of the three I tried.


This rental service allows you to tap into your boho side with brands like Anthropologie, Chuffy, CAARA and Urban Outfitters. Their package includes six pieces per month at $89.

Unlike Rent the Runway, this service does not offer swaps within the month, but the upside is hanging on to pieces for longer and letting them melt into your wardrobe and become a part of your closet. For example, there was a certain skirt I rented that could be dressed up or down, and I wore it six times throughout the month – even as a pool cover-up! You can also purchase anything you like at a discounted price, or pause or cancel your subscription without fees.

While they have a great selection of dresses, skirts and pants that are appropriate for the workplace, if you are a stay-at-home or work-from-home mom, their selection of casual options is on point.

Pro tip: When browsing, you can filter the options by “newest” and there’s a good chance your item may arrive new with tags. I had four of six items arrive brand new in one month’s package.


The least expensive of the three options at $59 per month, Haverdash sends three pieces at a time with multiple swaps per month. Like Rent the Runway and Nuuly, you get to select pieces you like from their closet to put into your profile, but you may not know exactly which pieces you will end up with as they will send you. This may be the best option for those who may become bamboozled with style choices.

The brands are more mainstream and the options are more limited than the other services I explored, but if you are unsure if a rental service is right for you, this may be a good place to start.

While clothing rental may not appeal to everyone, it has been a fun way for me to tap into my creative side and try new styles before investing in them. And while it may sound frivolous to rent clothing instead of purchasing it, think of what it costs to dry clean six dresses and know that is included in all of these companies’ packages. When you’re done, you just send them back dirty and you get a fresh pack of options in a few days. Also, if you have a teenage daughter in your home, she may be able to wear some of your pieces as well. 

The Downside?

Well, I have had some items arrive that didn’t fit, just didn’t suit me, or arrived with a bit more wear-and-tear than I’d like. But the customer service folks are usually pretty great about listening to your feedback and making things right. Definitely read up on the policies about exchanging items that didn’t fit – it’s different for each of the three. 

My friends who know I’m a Rentalista have asked me if I kept my subscription during the pandemic. In a word, yes. I may be one of the few customers who has not cancelled her subscription during the ‘rona (or maybe not?). My selections have just been much more casual than when I was renting for pre-pandemic work presentations and social events.

Getting dressed up lifts my spirits as I transition back to work-from-office mode and makes me feel normal (not the “new” variety of normal – the real kind). Even I if all I happen to be doing this evening is eating barbecue chicken with my own family of four (or visiting with friends in the driveway six feet apart) I can still make a grand entrance, just like I did when I was six.

Have you tried a clothing rental company? What was your experience?

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Kelly Barbrey
Kelly Barbrey is an early riser, old soul and retail therapy expert. She is a wife to Jonathan and a mom to two strong-willed daughters, born in 2007 and 2010. Kelly grew up in Atlanta, GA and earned a degree in magazine journalism from The University of Georgia. She has worked full time in tourism marketing for Experience Columbia SC since 2004, where she loves to share all the exciting things happening in Columbia, SC with potential travelers. When she’s not working or wrangling kids, she enjoys date nights with her husband at local restaurants, exercise, reading and sharing real and humorous accounts of life, motherhood and nostalgia on her blog, Up Early + Often.


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