Could a clothing rental subscription be a sustainable way to break me out of my style rut?
Can a clothing rental subscription cure me of my shopaholic tendencies, AND break me out of my style rut?
If you read my post about having a wardrobe full of clothes, but nothing to wear, you’ll already know far more than you ever wanted to about my current style crisis, and how I’ve essentially been trying to shop my way out of it.
“And how has that been going for you, Amber?” I hear absolutely nobody ask. Well, it’s funny you should mention that, because BADLY, is the answer. Really, really badly. In fact, over the course of the past couple of months, as I attempt to transition from summer clothes into autumn/winter ones (Always my trickiest season to dress for), I don’t even want to think about how much time and money I’ve spent ordering clothes online, only to send them right back again.
Some things barely even make it out of the packaging, actually, before I’m recoiling from them in horror, and having yet another “What the hell was I THINKING?” moment.
So, yeah, I’m doing great over here. You?
As for the few items I DO keep, however, even they seem destined to disappoint, because the fact that I genuinely DO need some new things for winter has been forcing me into some regrettable decision making, which means I try something on, think it looks OK, and then, the first time I wear it, I realise that actually, no, I hate it with the fiery heat of a thousand hot suns.
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You cannot shop your way out of a style crisis, is what I’m trying to say. (Well, actually, you probably CAN if you’re rich, let’s be honest. But that’s beside the point…) What’s more, all of this constant shopping-and-returning is pretty bad for the environment, and, as you know, I am ALL about the environment, so, having recently sent back the 1,000th pair of jeans in the space of a month, I finally realised I needed a new solution to this problem: a solution that…
01. Takes account of my lifestyle and doesn’t involve shopping for my imaginary life.
02. Acknowledges that I don’t have an unlimited budget to spend on clothes, or the time/patience to save up for “timeless classics”.
03. Doesn’t harm the planet with constant fast-fashion purchases that rely on slave labour.
04. Still allows me to indulge my love of shopping, rather than forcing me to dress like a medieval monk, throwing the same rough sack over myself every day, and never getting to have any fun.
Which brings me, AT LAST, to clothing rental subscriptions.
What’s a clothing rental subscription, though?
As the name suggests, this is basically a method of “renting” new clothes on a rolling monthly subscription. There are quite a few such services in the U.S. (Check out Rent the Runway, Nuuly, and Armoire, for starters…), but so far it doesn’t really seem to have taken off here in the UK.
Sure, there are plenty of websites which allow you to hire clothes – mostly eveningwear – on a one-off basis, or ones like Stitch Fix, where a stylist selects items which you can then buy, but I was looking for something that would give me access to ordinary, everyday outfits, which I could choose for myself, and keep for as long as I wanted to, and, after a bit of research, I came up with The Devout.
(Quick disclaimer here to assure you all that this is NOT a sponsored post: I found this service on Google and paid for it myself – I have no affiliation with the brand whatsoever, and they don’t know I’m writing this post.)
Here’s how it works:
* You pay a monthly subscription of £79.
* For that, you get to choose five items each month, which are packaged up and sent direct to your door.
* You can keep them for as long as you want: so, if there’s something you particularly like, you can choose to rent it again for another month, OR you can send it back at the end of the month, and exchange it for something else.
* If you REALLY love something you can buy it (and you’ll get it at a discount, too.).
* At the end of the month, you package up everything you’re sending back and return it: laundry is all taken care of by the brand, and you’re also covered for wear and tear, plus minor damage, so you don’t have to worry about keeping the clothes perfect, and are encouraged to treat them as if they were your own, basically. (Within reason, obviously. Like, if you generally treat your own clothes like crap, maybe don’t do that with these ones, but you don’t have to keep them for “best” either…)
* That’s it: so, basically you get a box of new clothes every month, plus the opportunity to try brands and styles you might not otherwise have considered. And, of course, if you find you DON’T wear something, you at least don’t have the guilt of having it hanging around your closet for months, unworn: you just send it back and exchange it.
Now, this idea really appealed to me: especially when I had a quick browse through the site and discovered brands like Reformation, & Other Stories and Whistles: three of my favourite brands to look at, but all brands I rarely actually buy from, because they’re just too expensive for my budget. There was just one issue, and that was the price: because, while £79 for 5 items is actually pretty damn reasonable, really (Particularly considering the price points of the brands on offer, plus the fact that your selection can include things like coats, which tend to cost more than £79 alone…), it’s still a lot for a monthly subscription, isn’t it?
So, I hesitated when I saw the price, then, as if by magic, a little box popped up on the website offering me 50% off for my first three months, and that was it: I was IN. I mean, £39.50 for five items of high-quality clothing really IS more than reasonable, and, as you can cancel any time you want, I decided I was willing to take the risk.
(I have spotted this offer appearing a few more times when I’ve been browsing the site, so I THINK it’s still available at the time of writing, but I can’t guarantee it…)
So, how did it work out?
Well, I picked my first five items (Which was a lot of fun, as you can imagine…), and they arrived the very next day, all neatly packaged in a cardboard box, and wrapped in tissue. The quality of the clothing was fantastic: obviously as this is a rental service, the clothes you receive are likely to have been worn before, but, honestly, if I hadn’t known, I wouldn’t have been able to tell.
At least two of my five still had the original brand’s tags on them, while the others were all in pristine condition. I don’t know if I just got lucky, and happened to pick some items which no one had hired before, or if it’s always like that with this particular clothing rental subscription, but all I can tell you is that I was pretty impressed – much more so than I’d expected to be, if I’m honest.
As for the styles, meanwhile, your mileage will obviously vary here, as it depends what you choose, but of my five items:
* Two have been worn frequently: so much so, in fact, that I’m thinking of buying them when the current rental period is up.
* One has been worn once – so, I like it, but it hasn’t been useful enough for me to want to buy it.
* One WOULD have been worn, if the weather hadn’t changed abruptly right after it arrived: it’s a lightweight jacket, and we now have heavyweight weather here, so no fault of the jacket, but it’s going back.
* One was a “trend” item that I suspected I probably wouldn’t like, but wanted to try out anyway, and, as it turned out, my instincts are correct: I straight-up hated it, but hey, at least I know now, and can stop doing the basket dance with it. (It’s a “shacket”, just in case you’re wondering. I look like a lumberjack in it. No offence to lumberjacks.)
Now, obviously you could look at that and say, “Well, that’s really just TWO items you got for your monthly subscription, Amber, so that’s a giant fail, really.” And, OK, yes, sure, it IS just two items that I’ve worn on the regular, you’re right. I still found it useful, though, because:
a) The two items I’m keeping are from a brand I wasn’t familiar with (Selected Femme), but have now discovered is right up my street.
b) The items I only wore once is something I’d expected to really love: so if I’d bought it, rather than renting it, I’d probably have kept it, thinking I was going to get lots of wear out of it, only to regret that decision a few weeks later. This kind of thing has been a consistent theme for me lately, so at least I only had to pay £7.90 (i.e. my subscription divided by 5) to wear it once, as opposed to the £95 it would’ve cost to buy it outright.
c) The SHACKET (Sorry, I just can’t take that word seriously) is something I’ve been considering buying for ages. Every second person I see seems to be wearing one right now, and they all look great in them, so, even though I knew it probably wasn’t going to be my style, it was really only a matter of time before I bought one, and then regretted it. Renting one then regretting it seems like a better option, somehow. Not MUCH better, granted, but still.
d) I’ve got no excuse for the lightweight jacket: that one’s on me.
Overall, then, I’m still on board with the idea of a clothing rental subscription, and am really looking forward to ordering my next box. With that said, there are some downsides to it, such as:
01. A lot of the items I loved were out of stock in my size as they were already being rented by someone.
You can set up a “wardrobe” on the site, which is basically just a wish list of the items you’re thinking of renting, but you can’t reserve items as you don’t know how long the person before you will want to keep them, so it’s really just your luck whether or not they’re in stock when the time comes to rent your next box. I’ve checked regularly since I set mine up, and so far very few of the items I have earmarked for my next delivery have come back into stock, so I have to admit, I’ll be disappointed if I get to the end of my three-month discount without getting to try some of them.
02. There are no shoes or accessories available to rent.
This isn’t an issue for me, as it’s clothes that are my biggest issue right now, but it does mean you can’t rent a entire head-to-toe “look”, if that’s what you’re after, and it obviously won’t eliminate the need to shop altogether, as there will always be things you have to buy.
03. Size ranges can be limited.
My biggest issue at the moment is finding jeans that fit properly, but I don’t think The Devout is going to be able to help me with that, as most of the jeans I saw on the site seemed to only be available in 3 or 4 sizes, none of which would have worked for me: so it looks like my jeans search will continue.
I also didn’t spot any petite, tall or curve ranges in the site, so those of us who are a non-“standard” size might struggle.
04. The items may have been used.
This is another point that isn’t an issue for me at all: the clothes are all laundered before being sent back out, so there’s no issue with cleanliness, plus an obvious advantage to the environment, with sharing/re-wearing clothes being far more sustainable than always buying brand new. If you don’t like the thought of other people being all up in your clothes, though, a clothing rental subscription might not be the best choice for you.
Will I keep using it after my three-month trial is over, though?
The jury’s still out on that one. Ultimately, I think it’s going to depend on how often new stock is added, which is a bit of an unknown so far. At the moment, I’m paying 50% of the usual subscription price and am finding it a useful way for me to feed my ravenous inner shopaholic in a way that’s less damaging to the planet (Yes, I realise it’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a whole lot more sustainable than my “fast fashion” habit was, for sure…) and my bank balance, but, unless there’s a steady flow of new stock arriving on the site, I suspect that, by the end of that 3 month discount, I’ll probably have tried all of the items I’m most interested in, at which point it would probably be cheaper for me to just buy the items I love outright, than to continue renting them indefinitely.
Even if don’t continue with this particular clothing rental subscription, however, I’m still excited by the idea, and have high hopes of it becoming more popular, with other brands offering a similar service. I know I’m not the only one who’s become more conscious of the impact fast fashion has on the planet – as well as on the people who make it – but I ALSO know it’s unrealistic to expect people to stop shopping altogether, or to only buy second-hand, which can have a lot of issues and limitations.
So, rental services like this one may not be perfect, but I can’t help feeling they’re a step in the right direction: and I can’t wait to see where that direction takes us.
What do you think? Have you used a clothing rental subscription? Would you?