Ready for a one night stand? Not that kind… I’m talking dress rentals!

Over coffee this morning, I read an interesting piece about a fast-growing, new trend to rent — not buy — luxury items. It seems that even in this dismal economy, the American appetite to acquire luxury goods hasn’t been dimmed, just redirected.

This concept isn’t new. Men have been renting designer tuxedos forever and rentals of infrequently used clothing — like evening gowns for events like pageants, proms and weddings –has been around for years.

I even investigated this option myself years ago when I was in the market for a designer evening gown. Knowing it was highly likely that I would only wear it once, I visited a rental shop near Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia. Not finding anything that I loved, I went around the corner to (now defunct) Beautiful Beads and picked up a Bob Mackie for only $500. Off-the-rack? Yes. But actually a bargain compared to the rental prices of the designer gowns!

So when does renting make sense? And renting what types of items?

Intrigued, I had another cup of coffee and did a little online sleuthing to find that the “new renting” is not the exclusive province of evening wear. It’s now possible to rent everything from designer handbags, to sunglasses, to jewelry and even furs.

For example, One Night Affair established in 1986 by former model Sharon Gilchrist, has over 1,500 wedding gowns, 1,200 evening gowns, and hundreds of different bridesmaid styles. But they also carry a full line of accessories. And how many bride-imposed pieces of (ugly) jewelry do you have collecting dust somewhere? Sadly, I have quite a few!

Another site is Wear Today, Gone Tomorrow founded by a former Lucky Magazine fashion editor. This site, whose tagline is “Borrow like a celebrity from the ultimate fashion closet” allows fashionistas on a budget to borrow beautiful designer clothing for a mere 10% of its retail price. Plus, there new arrivals every Monday – a critical advantage for those who want the most up-to-the-minute styles.

Finally, my personal favorite, is Avelle, the new Bag, Borrow or Steal. This amazing site offers a almost unbelievable number of guaranteed authentic designer handbags, jewelry, sunglasses and watches from Prada, Chanel, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Coach and even Judith Leiber. Unlike other rental options, Avelle allows memebers to keep items as long as they wish and never charges a late fee. Avelle also offer the option to buy items, so if you fall in love you can make it permanent.

I have an event coming up in September. If you see me sporting a fabulous dress or a Judith Leiber bag, you can ask me where I got it. Just whisper!

Susan McNeill is a wife, mother, author, entrepreneur and social activist. In addition to Susan Said What?! Susan also writes for Style on a WHIM, It’s how you play the game!, and Success Won’t Wait!


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