the "sharing economy" work like
replacement therapy for a problematic shopping
upon a time, I was an underpaid magazine journalist with
were spent scouring Twin Cities thrift stores and
upscale consignment shops for deals on designer wear.
Proudest discoveries include a gauzy Oscar de la Renta
dress ($70), a painted Pauline TrigŤre frock ($60) and
an asymmetrical Yohji Yamamoto jacket plucked from an
overstuffed rack of wrinkled castoffs ($25; regular
price, maybe $800).
was a good run (lasting more than a decade) but that
time-consuming lifestyle came to a halt in 2012 with the
birth of my daughter. Suddenly, I found myself
underslept and overscheduled, practically sprinting
between office and day care. As a working mom, I still
craved the designer clothing that made me feel polished
and professional. There just wasnít time for shopping
anymore, let alone excavating treasures from secondhand
I was dropping hundreds of dollars a month online. Bad
day at the office? I blew off steam surfing my favorite
boutiques during the bus ride home. Need a break from
political news? I slumped on the sofa till midnight,
scrolling mindlessly through pages of $400 dresses.
the office one day, a well-dressed co-worker told me
about her Rent the Runway subscription. For $159 per
month, she explained, she can "rent" four
designer items at a time ó blouses by Halston, blazers
by Jason Wu, handbags by Zac Posen.
immediately wondered whether the "sharing
economy" could work like replacement therapy for my
online shopping problem. Could I feel fashionable and
hip without overspending? Could I even save money with
the service? I resolved to sign up and find out.
the Runway got its start in 2009, leasing expensive
dresses for weddings and other special events. As
co-founder and CEO Jenn Hyman has explained, the target
market was middle-class professional women in their 20s
and 30s. For $30 or more, they can rent top-of-the-line
dresses by Valentino or Monique Lhullier, or Proenza
New York company branched out in 2016 to include monthly
subscriptions for everyday wear. They call it
"closet in the cloud." And there are other
digital startups selling similar services. Le Tote
offers more affordable monthly subscriptions (starting
at $59/month) for rentails on less upscale apparel.
Stitch Fix is another option, with its regular shipments
of stylist-selected goodies. But I didnít necessarily
want a personal shopping service. My closet was already
packed with clothes I hardly wore.
took 15 minutes to sign up for Rent the Runway one day
while home recovering from the flu.
I spent hours poring over photos of handbags, earrings
and dresses. A few days later I was sporting a $695
Derek Lam blazer, garnering dozens of compliments. I
also took a few chances on trendier styles. Realizing
they werenít my thing, I quickly sent them back with
more ease than returning another regrettable purchase.
service definitely has drawbacks. The clothes donít
always fit. It takes too long (up to a week) to make an
exchange between Minnesota and the companyís New
Jersey warehouse. And the selection is too girlie for my
minimalist tastes, with lots of florals and fussy
when the urge hits to ogle expensive clothing, I simply
open the Rent the Runway app on my phone and start
scrolling. I havenít visited another shopping site in
I saved a little money ó about $200 on my first credit
card statement ó by eliminating all those impulse
purchases. I more than halved the householdís
dry-cleaning bills (Rent the Runway operates the nationís
largest dry cleaner, so they handle that part for no
not the perfect solution. It doesnít make me want
fewer clothes ó it makes me greedy for more. But at
least it put the brakes on an unhealthy (and expensive)