Plus-Size Women Can Now Rent Their Cinderella Moment
Posted by Jane Janeczko on October 1, 2013
Full disclosure: I am a campus representative for Rent the Runway at Northwestern University. But that just means I love it a lot!
I started interning with Rent the Runway last summer and absolutely fell in love with the clothes, the accessories, the business model, and most of all, the heavily-encouraged customer photos. These photos allow customers to get an idea of what the dresses look like on other women, and not just on the models. Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Carter Fleiss, the two co-founders of Rent the Runway, met at Harvard Business School, and the concept for the business came to Hyman (naturally) while she was looking for a dress to wear for a wedding. Hyman and Fleiss wrote up their business plan, got some seed money from Bain Capital Ventures, and a short year later, Rent the Runway was born. As of April 2013, Rent the Runway has over 3 million members, and that number is growing.
Rent the Runway is all about finding that perfect dress. You know, the really expensive one that you just can’t justify buying because you would never wear it again? Rent the Runway makes those Cinderella moments happen everyday.
But now, the thing that I am most excited about are the plus-size offerings that were added to the site on September 17. Formerly, the site only stocked up to U.S. size 16, and honestly, the dress options past the U.S. size 10 range were very limited. Granted, this is not Rent the Runway’s fault, but very much the fault of the designers who only make their garments up to a certain size – just ask Tim Gunn.
Now plus-size women, sizes U.S. 14-22, can take part in Rent the Runway’s brilliant business model. (I made this suggestion on my initial application when I applied to become a Rent the Runway representative, and while I doubt anyone actually took my application essay seriously, it still warms my heart.)
In a press release, CEO and co-founder Jennifer Hyman said, “When we launched Rent the Runway, we didn’t fully understand that our business was going to be about so much more than saving money, but rather, feeling empowered. Every woman deserves to feel beautiful before the most important occasions in her life, and every woman, regardless of her size, should have her choice of the designer dress that gives her the most self-confidence. Until now, we have only been able to follow through on this undertaking for virtually half of the female population. We are so proud that our business has grown enough that we are finally able to make designer fashion not only accessible to, but also inclusive of, women of all shapes and sizes.”
When women are hesitant to rent, I feel that the question they most frequently ask themselves is, “Is it worth spending money for something that I have to send back?” I say “heck yes.” When you’re renting clothes, you shop with a specific outfit or occasion in mind, knowing that you will wear it once at an extremely discounted price. Other rental sites, like the popular plus-size only clothing rental company Gwynnie Bee (which also stocks IGIGI dresses, if you want to try before you buy), have had tremendous success, thanks to their guilt-free and commitment-free shopping model. You pay for a monthly subscription, so if something doesn’t work for you, you can send it back and get the next garment on your list with no hassle at all. Gwynnie Bee is truly the Netflix of clothing.
Rent the Runway is more of a Redbox model, since it works on a case-by-case basis. You select your dress and pick your dates for rental (you have a four day window), and if you aren’t sure about the size, you can grab another size at checkout for no extra cost. You can also add an additional style to your order for just another $25, if you’re really in a jam. Plus, you don’t even have to worry about dry-cleaning – once you’re done with your dress, you just take it off and send it right back! Since many plus-size women don’t have the option of quickly running up to their local mall when they have to get an occasion dress out of the blue, Rent the Runway is invaluable in this regard. (Bonus: if you live in the NYC area, you can get same-day delivery).
Rent the Runway’s plus-size section includes designers like Badgley Mischka, Carmen Marc Valvo, Theia, Kay Unger, and Adrianna Papell, with prices ranging from $50-$200 at about 90% off of the retail value. Don’t be afraid to try something new! Rent the Runway just might become your newest addiction, and any company that goes out of their way to be inclusive of women of all different body-types will always have my business.
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