We used Rent the Runway Unlimited to rent $4,862 worth of designer clothes in a single week - here's how the subscription plan works and why we're so willing to pay the $160 monthly fee

Rent the Runway unlimited 4x3Alyssa Powell/Business Insider

  • Rent the Runway Unlimited lets subscribers order an endless rotation of designer apparel (clothes, bags, earrings, etc.) for a flat fee of $159 per month.
  • Five women on the Insider Picks team pay for monthly subscriptions. To show you how the service works and what value we personally get out of it, three of us show the outfits we rented over the course of a week.
  • If you choose to try the service, you can get your first two months for $119 each with the code "FF80" at checkout.

Rent the Runway has been dubbed one of the most disruptive companies in the world - but how does a company that rents out designer fashion rank alongside Uber, Airbnb, and Elon Musk's ambitious, futuristic aerospace company, SpaceX?

To the envy of its peers in an increasingly challenging retail space, the answer is, in part, its subscriptions. Rent the Runway was once the underground life hack for renting a $500 cocktail dress for $75 for a wedding. But as of 2018, both its then-two-year-old subscriptions - RTR Update (four items per month, $89) and RTR Unlimited (unlimited rentals of four items at a time, $159) - already reportedly accounted for more than 50% of the company's total revenue, and were up 150% year-over-year. Instead of a one-off rental, RTR customers today seek a better, more sustainable alternative to shopping.

On the Insider Picks team alone, five women pay the $159 monthly fee for a Rent the Runway Unlimited Subscription (and you can find three of our personal reviews and pictures of outfits we rented in a week below).

How Rent the Runway Unlimited works

Rent the Runway Unlimited lets its members rent an unlimited amount of designer clothes on a rotating basis every month - including everything from handbags to work clothes to patterned sundresses to statement earrings. It's $159 per month, but your first month will only cost $99.

Members can pick up to four items per rental and then return them whenever they want to swap out for a new style, or just keep them all for the entire month. There's no set return deadline with the membership, as long as you continue to pay by the month, and you don't have to wait until you've worn all four items to return one of them. All orders have free shipping, the membership includes insurance for minor mishaps and general wear and tear, and RTR takes care of the dry cleaning.

To return an order, members will pop the clothes back into the garment bag they came in, swap in the prepaid return label, and drop the bag to any UPS store or their designated drop-boxes. Once Rent the Runway has received the returns, members are notified that they can make new selections - and they're directed to a page full of options available for same-day or next-day delivery.

The selection is huge - for instance, 31 pages of daytime dresses alone available for delivery to me tomorrow in Manhattan. Members can narrow the options down by size, body type, occasion, color, etc., and they'll also be able to see which options they've previously "hearted" that are now available for delivery. RTR will also curate personalized suggestions they think you'll like based off your previous rentals.

To show you what Rent the Runway Unlimited is like in real life, three subscribers take you through one week of their rentals:

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Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Insider Picks team. We highlight products and services you might find interesting. If you buy them, we get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners. We frequently receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. We operate independently from our advertising sales team. We welcome your feedback. Email us at insiderpicks@businessinsider.com.


View As: One Page Slides

Sally: one week with RTR Unlimited

Sally: one week with RTR Unlimited
The overall retail cost of clothes: $2,460

Left: Jill Sander Navy Tented Green Shirtdress, $750 retail

Second to Left: Veronica Beard Moroso Dickey Jacket, $650 retail

Right: MDS Stripes Sleeveless Peasant Dress, $545 retail

Second to Right: Osman Amelia Stripe Dress, $515 retail

I've been paying for an RTR subscription since November-ish (sometime in early winter, at least), so I've used it in all kinds of weather. I love it year-round, honestly — in the winter, I rent cute coats and sweaters, and during the rest of the year, I love using it for flouncy, fun dresses I'd never otherwise buy.

One thing I love is that RTR users can upload photos of themselves in the clothes they rented and leave reviews about the fit, and you can sort by people who have similar body types to you. I rarely order an item unless I see pictures first because it helps me make a better call about fit.

You wouldn't know it from the clothes I rented, but my closet is almost exclusively made up of neutral black, white, navy, and cream-colored clothing. RTR lets me be a little bolder and more experimental with my choices (bubblegum pink? Who have I become?!).

Most importantly, though, is that it's helped me quit fast fashion and generally shop less. I know I can always find something chic and fun on RTR that feels current and trendy, so I'm much less tempted to pop into Zara. Instead, I spend my money on basics and classics that I'll wear for a long time.

Mara: one week with RTR Unlimited

Mara: one week with RTR Unlimited
The overall retail cost of clothes: $1,502

Left: A.L.C. Dane Skirt, $295 retail; Kooreloo Blue Petite Bag, $325 retail

Second to left: Louna Floral Smocked Waist Blouse, $92 retail

Right: Susana Monaco Strap Back Tube Jumpsuit, $220 retail

Second to right: Solace London Colorblock Manon Dress, $570 retail

If you had told me I'd be happily spending $16o on a clothing subscription every month only a year ago, I would have laughed. My other subscriptions are few and unanimously priced under $10: a joint Hulu x Spotify, my favorite publications, and Scribd.

But RTR Unlimited actually winds up saving me money. Instead of spending around that amount on cheaper, underwhelming clothes that clutter my closet and end up in a donation bin later, I've almost entirely stopped external shopping. I have more closet space. I've finally donated so-so blouses I thought I needed. Rather than buying to fill gaps in my closet, I rent for those needs and use the flexibility of the subscription to only buy the things that I'll still want to own in five years. In the end, I have nicer clothes to wear every day and my non-RTR closet is less cluttered and of a higher overall quality. I also get to "shop" habitually (which is a hard habit to break) without contributing to the waste of the fashion industry.

I pause it sometimes in the winter, but Unlimited is at its peak usefulness in the summer. There are plenty of weddings, reunions, vacations, and gatherings to go to, and the color palettes are even more bright and patterned — and therefore memorable — than any other season. It's hard to afford multiple $200 sundresses, and tough to decide which patterns you'll wear enough to make the purchase worth it. RTR Unlimited is how I afford to wear new designer clothes out on Friday nights, dates, and to yet another wedding reception — and never pay for dry cleaning.

Remi: one week with RTR Unlimited

Remi: one week with RTR Unlimited
The overall retail cost of clothes: $900

Left: RED Valentino Blush Polka Dot Top, $550 retail

Middle: Proenza Schouler White Label White Denim Culottes, $350 retail

After hearing so many rave reviews from coworkers and friends, I decided to give Rent the Runway Unlimited a try. The trial is too good of a deal to pass up — $60 for a month of unlimited designer clothing — and after just one month I was happy to pay full price ($160 a month) for the service.

I love shopping and trying new styles, and like to splurge on luxury pieces every now and then. But, in true New York fashion, my closet is not big enough to house a continual stream of new purchases. I'm at capacity and I'm not about to pull a Carrie Bradshaw and turn my oven into a shoe rack. Rent the Runway is the perfect way to test out new trends, wear pieces that you wouldn't usually buy, and keep your wardrobe constantly fresh. The service has solved my "closet full of clothes but nothing to wear" conundrum by providing me with cute new pieces whenever I want.

I definitely have had some misses — just like any online shopping experience, sometimes things don't fit or you end up not liking them in person. But, RTR makes it easy to return and swap out those "meh" pieces for ones you really love. I'm ultimately saving money, getting to experiment with my style, and I wear pieces that are way out of my budget. Honestly, online shopping is a lot more fun when everything costs $0 (sort of).

Try Rent the Runway Unlimited, $119 for your first 2 months
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