I Tried Rent the Runway for a Month, and Was Let Down by Its Plus-Size Options
Among the many clothing rental services on the market, Rent the Runway is arguably one of the most well-known. Founded by Harvard grads Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss in 2009, the e-commerce platform was initially targeted toward women in need of borrowing elevated garments for special occasions like weddings or proms. Now, the brand has become a general clothing rental service that has items from over 750 brands that include designer names like Gucci and Oscar de la Renta and apparel brands like Free People and Good American.
For years, my style has consisted of pieces that are both comfortable and within a reasonable budget. As a plus-sized woman, I enjoy the simple joys of shopping online for graphic T-shirts or a convenient five-pack of leggings, but I recently came to the realization that I don’t have to fully commit to new clothes if I want to test out a few styles. So, I took to the internet to find a clothing rental service to bring me out of my comfort zone, and Rent the Runway stood out at the top of the list. I ended up trying the service for a month and left feeling confident and motivated to expand my wardrobe.
How I Tested Rent The Runway
I tested Rent the Runway for a month, considering criteria like size range, plan variety and costs, delivery speed, try-on period, and more. Since this was the first time I ever tried a service like this, I felt anxious about having designer brands that I was responsible for in my possession. However, after receiving reassurance from friends that used the service, and reading the company’s positive reviews, my concerns were quelled.
After I received my stellar selection, I felt emboldened to wear some pieces to holiday gatherings and birthday celebrations, and others within the comfort of my home. Now that the testing period is over, I feel inspired to try out new styles and maybe even indulge in a designer brand or two. However, I do feel that Rent the Runway can do a little more when it comes to its plus-size options and selection.
How Does Rent The Runway Work?
Rent the Runway is a clothing rental service that allows customers to try out a selection of clothing or accessory pieces for a membership fee. There is no limit to the try-on period as long as you have an active membership, and the items per shipment vary depending on the plan you subscribe to. Once you’re ready to part with your items, you can either exchange them for new pieces or return them and pause your membership if you need a break.
In either case, Rent the Runway provides you with a prepaid return label to ship your pieces back in the original package they arrived in. If you love one or all of the items you received, you can purchase them at a discounted price and keep them for good. As far as shipping capabilities go, Rent the Runway only operates within the U.S. (including Hawaii and Alaska) and does not accommodate P.O. boxes or APO/FPO addresses.
Signing up for a membership was seamless and simple. Upon entering the site, I was prompted to pick from one of the four offered plans. I set up my account by adding basic information like an email and password, then put in my shipping and payment information. Once I selected my plan, Rent the Runway gave me a brief overview of my plan details, which included the number of items and shipments per month, complimentary rental coverage and cleaning, free shipping, and the price of the plan.
After selecting and paying for my membership, I was given a brief introductory quiz that asked for my size, height, weight, bust, and jean size so the service could curate the best recommendations for me. From there, I landed on a general shopping page that had tips on finding my perfect fit, alongside a variety of clothing options separated into categories like tops, dresses, pants, skirts, jumpsuits, rompers, and more.
Rent The Runway Cost
Rent the Runway has four different plans to choose from, all of which allow you to customize the delivery frequency and items per shipment. I chose the base plan, which allowed me to receive five items (worth up to $350) per month. The plan costs $94/month, but I got a first-month discount after signing up, which brought my total cost down to $69.
The next higher tier includes two shipments of five items (worth up to $3,500) and costs $99 for the first two months but will run you $144 per month after the discount period. For those who want even more items, the next tier sends you up to 15 items per month which are split into three shipments. This plan costs $139 for the first two months but increases to $193 per month afterward. Lastly, the company’s highest tier offers a total of 20 items per month and will run you $169 per month for two months, followed by $235 per month.
Given the variety of plan and delivery options, the number of items included in each shipment, and initial sign-up discounts, I feel that Rent the Runway is worth the price. If you aren’t a big spender like me, but you want to try out name-brand clothes or go out of your comfort zone, the flexible plans make it easy to refresh your wardrobe without having to commit to something you’ll wear once or twice. Even though I only kept my items for a month, I appreciated the flexible try-on period that allows you to keep the items as long as you want with an active membership.
Delivery and Packaging
Once I placed my order, Rent the Runway estimated that my shipment would be delivered in two days, and my items arrived exactly two days later. Within a day of initially submitting my order, Rent the Runway sent me two updates: one explained that my order was being prepared, and another informed me my shipment was on its way. I received a tracking number once the items were shipped and could easily track my order on the company’s app or website.
My items arrived in a durable garment bag along with a prepaid return label. One of my items, a black jumpsuit, came with a hanger, and the rest were neatly packaged in plastic packaging. Rent the Runway asks that you return the items in their original protective bags so it can recycle them, so once my testing period was over, I did exactly that and shipped them in the original garment bag. If you lose this bag, you can use your own packing supplies to return your order.
Quality and Ease of Use
The items in my order included: a Polo Ralph Lauren hooded sweater, a J. Crew jumpsuit, a Leota wrap dress, pants from Junarose, and a Kate Spade New York top. I got exactly what I ordered, down to the correct size, and all of the items were packaged nicely, free of wrinkles or stains.
In addition to the clothing pieces, my package also included helpful instructions for returning my shipment (printed on the back of the return label). This handy guide included detailed steps for packing the items, placing the shipping label, and sending them back via the provided shipping carrier. From the initial plan and clothing selection, all the way to returns, Rent the Runway was very easy to use.
Who’s Rent The Runway Good For?
Whether you need a few stylish items for an upcoming special event or are looking to add some flair to staple pieces in your closet, Rent the Runway is a solid option for you. The no-commitment rental service gives you the freedom to swap and rotate clothes or accessories as often as you want and has flexible plan options that accommodate any budget. Ultimately, Rent the Runway is best for those who want to try out designer brands and expand their personal style comfortably from home.
Using Rent the Runway was an overall pleasant experience. I was really impressed with the simple sign-up process, quick shipping, and ease of navigating my membership within the mobile app. My items were packaged carefully and in great condition given the fact that they have likely been worn countless times by other customers.
My only qualm with the platform is the lack of choices for plus-size shoppers. Granted, Rent the Runway does not claim to exclusively cater to the plus-size demographic, but I found myself disappointed in the restricted options based on my size. While other size categories had multiple pages of fun and unique styles, most plus-size categories (filtered to my 18–20 size range) were limited to two or three pages filled with bulky sweaters, sweatshirts, and coats, as well as dated button-down blouses, dresses, and plain pants.
This is likely due to the limited range of sizes that many of the site’s 750+ brands carry, but it was nonetheless frustrating trying to find something that fit my style. Due to this reason, I personally won’t be using Rent the Runway again and would instead opt for a specific plus-size clothing service. However, anyone who isn’t plus-size will likely find this service to be enjoyable and worth it.
How Long Can You Hold On to Items From Clothing Rental Services?
The time frame to hold on to items depends on the company and clothing rental plan you choose. Some companies like Rent the Runway give customers unlimited time to rent pieces with an active membership. The try-on periods for other companies may vary depending on its policy, but generally expect to have anywhere from a few days to a month to try on your items.
Can You Keep Items From Clothing Rental Services?
In most cases, you can keep items from clothing rental services. Those who want to keep items can typically purchase them at a discounted price through the company’s website. To see if you can keep items from your box, be sure to double-check your selected company’s purchase policy.
Can You Cancel Your Clothing Rental Membership Before Your Next Shipment?
Typically, you can cancel your clothing rental membership before your next order ships. Most companies, including Rent the Runway, ask customers to cancel before the next billing cycle to avoid being charged for an extra shipment or month of service.
What’s the Difference Between a Clothing Rental and a Clothing Subscription Service?
A clothing rental service is a membership-based service that allows customers to try a variety of clothes for a fee on a monthly basis. After they’re worn, the clothes can either be swapped for new ones, or purchased at a discounted price. Conversely, clothing subscription services, like Wantable, send customers clothing pieces selected by a stylist and charge a fee for the styling service. After receiving the items, customers have a try-on period to decide what to keep and/or return. The styling fee is usually credited toward any kept items, and unwanted pieces can be returned using a prepaid shipping label.