scorecardI tested 5 clothing rental services, but none of them convinced me it's not worth it to own clothes
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I tested 5 clothing rental services, but none of them convinced me it's not worth it to own clothes

I tested 5 clothing rental services, but none of them convinced me it's not worth it to own clothes
Retail6 min read

Clueless cher wardrobe clothes

Paramount Pictures

I wonder if Cher Horowitz would have liked Rent the Runway.

  • After spending the summer testing several clothing rental services for the sake of journalism, I came to the conclusion I ultimately don't like borrowing my wardrobe and much prefer to own my clothing.
  • My biggest grievance with rental was that I found it to be logistically taxing. I experienced firsthand the operational woes currently afflicting Rent the Runway, including supply chain issues causing widespread delays in shipments.
  • Here's why I don't plan to use clothing rental services in the future.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Admittedly, I've spent far too many collective minutes of my life fretting over what to wear. My sartorial wavering has caused me to be late to work, tardy to parties, and just barely on time for weddings.

Growing up, I attended public school and didn't have the ease of mindlessly slipping into the same uniform each day before heading out the door. Most mornings I painstakingly tried on numerous outfits, attempting to find the right combination of cool, effortless, and stylish, while flinging clothes into unruly piles on the floor, much to my mother's dismay. Adding to my struggles, I came of age in the era of "Lizzie McGuire" and was forever haunted by the words of villainous Kate Sanders outing Lizzie as an "outfit repeater" in front of her entire middle school class, as if she had committed murder.

All this to say, dressing myself has been a lifelong challenge. This is why, in theory, unlimited monthly clothing rental services like Rent the Runway should be my savior. The ability to wear and swap out clothing as much as possible not only provides endless options, but access to completely new styles and brands.

However, after spending the past few months testing various rental programs for the sake of journalism, I came to the opposite conclusion: I don't want to rent my wardrobe. Here's why I'm not a fan.

Read more: I rented clothes from 5 different services and saw how the model could be the future of fashion for anyone willing to deal with some minor slip-ups

It's a logistical nightmare

I acknowledge there's a lot to love about rental. For one, it's a more sustainable option than constantly buying and discarding clothing, especially when those clothes hail from fast-fashion companies. Rental is an easy way to diversify your wardrobe and try out new styles without fully committing to them, and it's particularly appealing for finding fancy frocks for special occasions without breaking the bank.

Another draw is the promise of expedient shipping, as promised by companies like Rent the Runway. However, in my experience this was far from the case. An order I placed that included a dress I planned to wear for my cousin's wedding in June never arrived, forcing me to run out last minute to find something on the fly. Turns out I was not an anomaly - my rental blip was reflective of larger operational issues within the company.

On Friday, the company announced it would take no further members until October 15 while it tries to solve supply-chain issues driving delays and missing orders. Users who have been impacted will be given refunds and, in select cases, a $200 voucher for future orders, according to the website.

rent the runway

Kelly Sullivan/Getty

Customers browse racks at a physical Rent the Runway location.

The halt in memberships comes after several months of growing customer complaints regarding delayed shipments. It also comes on the heels of a report from Business of Fashion that Rent the Runway's head of supply chain Marv Cunningham is stepping down from the company at the end of the month.

Read more: Rent the Runway CEO scrambles to respond to frustrated customers as complaints about delays pile up on social media

In an email sent to customers earlier this week, CEO Jennifer Hyman cited operational shifts within its supply chain and assured members she is working to assuage their concerns.

"Upgrading systems while still running the business at full speed is complex," Hyman wrote. "We know that we will make some mistakes, so for the next month, if you have time sensitive events, please order a few days earlier than you normally would."

Needless to say, I'm skeptical.

It's not cheap

The average unlimited service hovers around the $150/month range, which is not an insignificant investment on clothes you don't actually keep. Add to that the fact that most of these services allow you to purchase items from your order (a tempting option which I certainly took advantage of during my experiment) and that number quickly shoots up.

In reality, I'm not typically buying clothes on a monthly basis, and so carving out a chunk of my budget for that feels slightly unnecessary. Frankly, I have a lot of bills and quite a bit of student debt, so it feels hard to justify the cost. (My subscription streaming television services, however, are a different matter. You'll have to pry my Roku remote out of my cold, dead hands.)

I prefer other forms of sustainable fashion

I love thrifting. I thrive on the thrill of scouring racks for a one-of-a-kind piece of clothing that fits just right, and better yet, is extremely affordable. Despite my aversion to online shopping, I've even taken a shining to secondhand shopping sites like Poshmark, ThredUp, and Depop. Just this month, I purchased a pair of lightly worn Everlane loafers on Poshmark made with Italian leather, which are beautiful, albeit extremely painful to break in.

thredUP DC

Courtesy of ThredUp

Turns out I'm not the only enthusiast of vintage shopping, and traditional department stores have taken notice. Both Macy's and JCPenney recently announced partnerships with ThredUp, in which the retailers will sell items from the secondhand retailer in select stores.

Ultimately, I know that vintage and secondhand shopping isn't for everyone, but I'd much rather take that $150 I'd spend on rental and use it to find a few unique pieces of my own. Which brings me to my last point.

I want to own my clothes

At the end of the day, so many things in life are ephemeral - I don't want my clothing to be. In addition to shifting my shopping habits away fast-fashion brands with their quick-to-disintegrate clothing, I enjoy crafting a wardrobe with longevity and having control over what's in my closet.

As the saying goes, "fashion is cyclical" which is why we saw a resurgence of trends like animal print this year, said Kay Unger, chair of the board of governors at The New School at Parsons, during the UBS Future of Retail conference on Monday. Unger said she believes the future of sustainable fashion rests on savvy re-styling and creatively pairing the old with the new, while expressing remorse for having recently discarded a pair of animal print boots.

"We've got to get back to talking to the customer, and focus on getting to know them," she said. "Maybe their daughter wants to wear something because it's vintage and cool, so it's about: how do you take that animal-print shirt and pair it with a new Patagonia jacket? How do you take that old handbag and put a new trinket on it so someone buys it?"

I can't say I disagree.

This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author(s).