Friday, May 9, 2014

Review the Runway

Once you do Rent the Runway , you'll question why you ever spent hundreds of dollars on formal gowns that you wore once or twice. But at the same time, you'll be reminded of why you did do that, i.e. you could try the dress on, you know what it looks like in person, you can have it altered, etc. But I've realized I'm willing to forgo those conveniences in most cases for the ability to wear designer dresses that I could never afford to buy.

I used RTR for the first time for the Moffitt Cancer Center Magnolia Ball I attended last weekend. I pretty much did it all wrong, but it still worked out. Here's what I learned:

1. Rent early.
I now know you can reserve a dress four months in advance, so I will definitely be renting earlier next time. I booked about two weeks prior to my event and several of the dresses I was interested in renting were not available. The rental system on the website looks similar to reserving a hotel room; it blocks out the dates the dress is not available, and it's done by size.

2. Get the free back up size.
Seems like a no-brainer, right? Yes and no. RTR offers a free backup size with your rental. So say you think the 2 is going to fit, but you're afraid it might be a little tight, you can also reserve the 4 for free. BUT one of those sizes may not be available (see 1. above). So if you really want the dress, you might risk renting just one size and pray it fits. Which is not completely risky because...

3. There are options if your dress doesn't fit.
I guess I didn't scour the website enough, because I wasn't aware of those options when I placed my order.

So, I ordered this allison parris dress ($80 rental, $627 retail) that I love but knew might not fit. It wasn't available in my back up size.

I ordered this Carmen Marc Valvo dress ($70 rental, retail $1295) as my back up for $32.50. RTR offers a second rental of equal or lesser value for $32.50. Not a bad deal if you have a couple events in one weekend. 

I ordered the second dress because I wasn't aware of these following options--- The first option: Mail back the dress that doesn't fit within 24 hours to receive a credit on your account. The second option: RTR says in most cases they can overnight you another dress in the same price range. But you'll need to know if your original dress does or doesn't fit to take advantage of these options, so...

4. Try on your dress as quickly as possible after it arrives.
My dresses arrived early on Thursday, but I didn't try them on until midnight. When I realized one wouldn't even zip over my butt and the other was pretty tight, it was a little late. Well, not exactly, since I could have called RTR first thing Friday morning. But...I was worried even if they overnighted me something, it may still not have arrived in time for my event on Saturday. Had I tried on my dress earlier on Thursday, I would have been able to contact RTR that day before they closed, which is 8 p.m. on weekdays.

5. Have your dress delivered two days before your event.
RTR suggests one to two days before, but I definitely say go for two days for the reasons I mentioned above, and because you'll want time to accessorize. RTR offers four-day and eight-day rentals. Of course it costs more to do the eight-day rental period, but it's nice to know that option is available if you're going out of town, etc.

6. Buy the PRO membership.
I normally don't buy these things, but this is a great deal that basically pays for itself. For $29.95, you get free shipping and insurance on every order for the whole year and a free birthday dress, which translates to a $50 rental credit, on or up to, a month before your birthday. I just reserved a $40 dress and a $5 bracelet for my birthday, and with shipping and insurance included, everything was absolutely free. Since I'm going out of town for a casual weekend before my birthday, I had planned to order the dress to wear on my actual birthday, Monday the 19th. That would have meant my delivery date would be the Saturday before, but I learned...

7. Saturday delivery costs more.
Standard shipping is $9.95 (free with PRO), next day and Saturday delivery are $35. If you choose one of those options and you have PRO, they will deduct $9.95. So it comes out to about $25. I didn't feel like paying $25 for Saturday delivery, so I chose to have my birthday dress delivered on Monday instead. Hopefully it arrives in time to wear it on the air on Monday, but if not, I'll have a couple more days to wear it.

8. Take advantage of coupon codes or discounts.
RTR offers $25 of your first rental, which I took advantage of. Then once you rent your dress, if you follow @WellaHairUSA on Twitter and tweet a selfie of the hair style you wore with your dress and the hashtag #WellaHairSelfie, Wella will send you a code for $20 off your next rental. I do NOT do selfies, but I made an exception for this. Will selfie for discounts! Also, if you are a Junior League member, you can receive a 15 percent discount (You can find the code on the member section of Plus, 10 percent of the price of your first order with that code will go back to AJLI. I tried, but it doesn't appear you can use more than one of these promotions/discounts at a time.

9. Use the "Chat with a Stylist" feature on the RTR website.
I did this when I had questions about certain dresses and the coupon codes. It's so much easier than calling them, sending an email or using one of those "Contact Us" forms that I dread like the plague on all websites. Each time I used the chat feature, someone responded in less than a minute. I've now started to use this chat feature on other websites as well, such a time saver!

10. Pay attention to the "How She Wore It" customer reviews and photos.
RTR encourages customers to post photos of themselves wearing the dress and reviewing how it worked out. Look at these photos! Many of the dresses look quite different in person. Also, take the reviews to heart. One of the dresses I rented had several reviews that said something like, "this dress is better for people who have a straight up-and-down figure and are not curvy in the hip area." Well, that's not me at all, yet I still rented the dress. And guess what, it was really tight in the hip area!

Bonus tip: Enjoy it!
You might be worried about how the dress is going to fit, if you have shoes that will match, how you'll mail it back, etc. (They send you a free, prepaid UPS envelope that you can either put in a drop box or return to a UPS store by 12 p.m. on your return date.) But at the end of the day, a huge box will show up at your door with a beautiful, expensive, designer dress inside... and that's actually pretty fun. Try not to nitpick everything and just wear it with confidence!

Here is the end result of my rental experience.

The zipper was really difficult to zip, it was super tight in the hip and butt area (thank God for Spanx!), and when I first put it on, it felt like I was wearing a straight jacket. But guess what, after having it on for a little while, I didn't even really notice the tightness anymore and you couldn't tell in the photos. I didn't even spend a penny on accessories: I wore earrings from Analisa's wedding, a bracelet from Becca's wedding and the shoes from my high school prom, seriously! Twelve years later they are still fabulous. It all worked out! With dress rentals starting at $30, I know I'll be using RTR many more times in the future!

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