Why renting your clothing could become the next big thing in fashion

In The Lizzie McGuire Movie, the titular protagonist asked her self-described “guy best friend” for reassurance that she looked OK in her junior high graduation attire

Though it appeared to Gordo that Lizzie was wearing the same royal blue gown as everyone else, another character — the notorious popular girl — called out the “powder blue, puffy-sleeved, kind-of-a-peasant-dress-but-it-might-just-be-a-baggy-disaster-of-questionable-fiber-content” underneath. 

Lizzie had committed a high crime of fashion by re-wearing an outfit she had worn to the spring dance. She was an “outfit repeater.”

Though The Lizzie McGuire Movie came out in 2003, seven years before Instagram, that piercing insult predicted a problem many influencers would encounter when curating their feeds. You rarely see them wearing the same outfit multiple times.

“[Young people] don’t just think about the days they are wearing the clothes – they think about the Instagram photo and the moment that will last forever,” a source involved with venture capital told the Guardian. “[They want] the photo in that dress that will stay on her Instagram and will forever stay in her feed. People are investing for that.”

For those with an interest in fashion, the speed of the trend cycle in 2022 moves so quickly that what was popular in September won’t hold on until February. The dress everyone had to have six months ago isn’t cool anymore. It’s not just less trendy — it’s blatantly outdated. Don’t even think about repeating that outfit. 

Thrifting isn’t the only way to shop sustainably

Wearing a new, trendy outfit every day is expensive, wasteful and creatively challenging. The fast fashion brands that offer cheap clothes that adhere to rapidly cycling trends have long been considered unethical and unsustainable

Thrifting has long been considered a solution to fast fashion. It’s cheap and it eliminates waste, but resources are still so limited that resellers often scoop up the trendiest pieces in thrift stores and resell them online for a major markup. Plus-size clothes can be difficult to find when trendy; straight-size thrifters jump at the chance to buy things “oversized.” 

A solution that allows shoppers to save money, reduce waste, access extended sizing, keep up with trends and avoid the hassle of thrifting has caught the eye of consumers: clothing rental. 

Clothing rental companies like Rent the Runway and Nuuly have been around for years, but they’re making a comeback from the dip they experienced when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit in 2020. As buyers anticipate the chance to dress up for work and other outings, trend experts predict that dressing up is going to have its renaissance moment. 

Clothing rental offers an easy way to stay on-trend

Wardrobe, a new peer-to-peer fashion rental marketplace, combines the appeal of existing clothing rental companies with the appeal of peer-to-peer thrifting apps like Depop but makes things much easier for potential sellers. They handle everything from storage to dry cleaning to taking photos of the rentable items. 

The company also has a jump on trends because they gift consumers a chance to pick up the freshest possible items from trendsetters themselves. Celebrities like Antoni Porowski, Olivia Culpo, Mickey Guyton and hundreds of other fashion creators and influencers all have storefronts (or “closets”) on Wardrobe, and the proceeds typically go to charity. 

Nina Rowan, Wardrobe’s director of marketing, told In The Know that the pivot to letting influencers share their clothes directly with fans just makes sense. 

“In addition to the earning potential that they have, they also have the potential to engage their fans in a new, unique way. You can’t do that anywhere else,” she said. 

The average cost for a four-day rental on the site is $33.10 — not bad for a look on par with a celebrity. 

Adarsh Alphons founded Wardrobe after realizing how much clothing he owned and never wore. He told TechCrunch that the average woman has 57 items of clothing in her closet that she doesn’t even wear once a year. Why not make money off of those items?

Of course, it would be challenging to create an entire wardrobe out of clothing rented for three to seven days, but these companies give buyers the chance to try out pieces from luxury brands without making a massive monetary commitment. That way, they can invest in basics that they’ll wear all the time, like a good black T-shirt and a trusty pair of jeans. 

For those who dread the possibility of being an outfit repeater, renting offers a sustainable solution.

If you enjoyed this story, read more about how to keep up with trends ethically.

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