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If you’ve followed my blog or Instagram longer than 30 seconds, you know that I love apparel rental services! I’ve been a Rent the Runway Unlimited subscriber since its inception over a year ago and recently started subscribing to Le Tote. The sharing economy has become a huge part of our everyday lives so why wouldn’t that work for clothing as well?!
Not only do clothing rental services offer you the opportunity to browse a closet full of thousands of designer duds at a fraction of the cost but also reduce the environmental footprint of fast fashion society! I’m breaking down the pros and cons of the two most popular clothing rental services, Le Tote and Rent the Runway.
Le Tote is a personal-styling rental service that sends you up to eight pieces to keep as long as you want, wear as much as you want, and then ship back to Le Tote for brand new pieces. Starting off, you add pieces you like to a virtual “closet”, Cher Horwitz style. Stylists then curate a shipment of pieces from your closet and style preferences. If you don’t like the selection or have a special event, you can trade your stylist’s picks for other pieces in the Le Tote inventory. Upon receiving the items, wear all the pieces as many times as you want. The shipments arrive with a prepaid envelope to send back the items.
There is no limit on the number of shipments you can receive in a month. If you fall in love with an item, Le Tote offers items for purchase at a significant discount. Le Tote is a month-to-month commitment and can be cancelled at any time with no cancellation fee.
Membership Options Le Tote offers five membership options, including two options for maternity wear. Here’s a breakdown of the current plans:
- $59: 3 garments, 2 accessories (This is what I have and recommend starting out!)
- $69: 5 garments, 3 accessories
- $79: 4 garments
- $69: 3 garments, 2 accessories
- $79: 4 garments
Cost The cost of Le Tote is significantly less than Rent the Runway Unlimited. Starting at $59/month for the classic five piece option and topping off at $79/month for the eight piece option. The monthly cost does not include insurance or dry cleaning like Rent the Runway Unlimited, but insurance can be added on for an additional $5/month.
Shipping You don’t have to wait until the shipment arrives at Le Tote to make your next selection. As soon as you drop off your Le Tote return at the local post office, your stylist selects your next shipment which you can then confirm or trade out for different pieces.
Stylist If you’re indecisive or really don’t like shopping, you may enjoy having a stylist pick out your pieces. Personally, I like to control what I receive and have traded out most items the stylist has picked for me. Depending on your personality, a stylist could be a pro or con.
Items: This is my NUMBER ONE gripe about Le Tote. When you receive items and want to ship them back, Le Tote requires you to send all items back at once. For example, I received a pair of jeans that I really liked, and I wanted to wear them for a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, one of the dresses in my tote was too big, and I wore the third item, a top, once. Le Tote doesn’t allow me to keep the jeans and send the other four items back. Everything, besides the items you wish to purchase, must be sent back in the same shipment.
Selection: While the selection includes a variety of popular brands including Free People, French Connection, Maggy London, and BCBGeneration, most of the items retail for under $150. Most of the inventory is basic pieces that I would invest in or already have in my closet. If I’m going to rent clothing for a one time wear, I want to make a memorable statement (and Instagram post).
Sizing: For my plus size ladies, Le Tote only carries clothing up to size 16. Rent the Runway carries a wider size range, up to 22. If you’re interested in a plus-size only service, Gwynie Bee is a speciality plus size clothing subscription box carrying sizes 10-32.
Bottom Line: Le Tote is great if you want are building a wardrobe, need maternity options, or want to dip your toe in the monthly clothing rental service without making a large financial commitment. Want to try Le Tote for yourself? Click here to get a free tote!
Rent the Runway Unlimited
An alternative to Le Tote, Rent the Runway Unlimited is a monthly subscription service where you pick out four pieces (recently upped from three), including accessories and handbags. (I wrote an entire blog post reviewing Rent the Runway Unlimited here.)The four items can be switched out individually, one at a time or even all four at once. You can trade the items as many times as you wish in a month. If you fall in love with an item, you can purchase at a discount.
Rent the Runway continues to offer their original one-time 4 or 8 day rental service called Rent the Runway Reserve. Pricing for the Reserved option varies based on the garment. The newly launched, Rent the Runway Update, is a clothing rental service that allows rental of four pieces for the entire month for $89. The difference between Update and Unlimited is that you keep all four pieces for the duration of the entire month then return them for new monthly items.
Inventory: One of my favorite perks of Rent the Runway Unlimited is searching the app for all the new arrivals. I’ve spent hours lying in bed oogling over the beautiful gowns available for rent. The expansive inventory is updated at least weekly. (Pro Tip: Download the app to get early access to New Arrivals.)
Featuring some of the most popular and trendy designers seen on celebrities and influencers, garments range in retail value from $75 to over $2,000 for every occasion from weekend to black tie. Most of the items are way out of my budget or too trendy for the investment price.
Convenience: Rent the Runway Unlimited allows you to send items back individually after one wear or 100 wears. You can keep a single (or more) item as long as you want, interchanging your other remaining items. I like this feature because I use one of my slots for a handbag that I carry for several months then returning.
Customer Service: Rent the Runway has the best customer service I’ve ever experienced. Comcast take notes! Customer service has overnighted my pieces that arrived defective or damages and sent pieces to my hotel room while traveling. Their customer service goes above and beyond to help you and make sure your items ar received on time. Just this week, they sent me an additional 5th item because of an internal error on my account.
Reviews: Former renters upload pictures and reviews, including height, weight, and body type, on each item. I find this helpful in finding style inspiration and the best size for my body type.
Physical Stores: If you live in one of the cities with a brick and mortar Rent the Runway store, you can return your pieces to the store and get replacement items the same day! They also offer same day delivery in Manhattan.
Price: With the addition of a fourth item to the Unlimited subscription, the monthly fee went up to $159. If you’re an existing subscriber, you’re grandfathered in at the original $139 price. The monthly fee includes insurance, shipping, and dry cleaning. This is significantly more expensive than Le Tote. Depending on your lifestyle, budget, and social life, $159 may be a steal or completely unrealistic. Seasons may arise in your life, such as an upcoming wedding, when Unlimited is a huge money saver. Since becoming a member in April 2016, I have rented tens of thousands of dollars worth of clothes and accessories.
Processing Time: You can’t select a new item until the item has been received and process at Rent the Runway. Shipments come in garment bags with prepaid 2-day shipping labels. Once delivered to Rent the Runway, it can take at least a day for the item to be processed and a new slot to open for a replacement item. It has taken up to four days to process one of my items, but customer service was really great about providing a replacement item and an additional item. As the service becomes more popular, the processing time has increased.
Bottom Line: If Rent the Runway Unlimited option is in your budget, Unlimited offers the trendiest styles and brands at a fraction of the cost per wear.
Both monthly rental services are huge time savers! If I had to pick one, Rent the Runway Unlimited is the better option for the high-end selection and convenience of trading out individual items. Unlimited is better for those wanting to try all of the latest trends and take style risks. Le Tote is good for those trying to build up a basic wardrobe but lack statement pieces that sets Rent the Runway apart. The service is geared more toward those that sprinkle trends in but tend to stick to practical pieces.
Have you tried either Le Tote or Rent the Runway Unlimited or another clothing rental service? What are your thoughts? Leave me a comment below.