I Rented My Holiday Party Dresses—and I Won’t Buy Again

Renting isn’t just affordable and sustainable, it’s really fun

I was in New York City when I realized that everyone was doing it. A fellow editor who was also attending the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show told me she’d rented a sequin Rixo London dress. Ringing in at around $800 retail, her delightful rainbow-striped confection would be roughly four times my usual party dress budget.

I stood at the party later that night in my fast-fashion dress, feeling like the evil step-sister to my friend’s sparkly Cinderella. Lately, I’ve been feeling increasingly uncomfortable with my wasteful impulse shopping and have tried, to varied success, to stop rewarding myself for a job well done with a $60 Zara blouse or comforting myself for a bad week with a $20 lipstick. (“But $20 is basically free,” I tell myself.) So I returned home to Toronto full of motivation to join the Sisterhood of the Travelling Dresses for hitting my holiday party circuit.

My first stop was The Fitzroy, founded by Julie Buczkowski and Angela Pastor in 2016, when they converted their traditional Toronto boutique to a rental service. “Our customers often said they would only wear certain pieces once. It made us realize we should just rent our pieces,” says Buczkowski. “It makes so much sense on so many levels: It offers variety to your wardrobe; it’s more affordable than buying and having it sit in your closet; it’s better for the environment; it’s a way to try a new look or wear something you wouldn’t buy; the list goes on.”

I trolled The Fitzroy website for days, snapping screenshots of flowing Reformation velvet and intricate Self-Portrait lace confections. But when I arrived at their airy showroom in Toronto’s west end to try on options, glass of bubbly in hand (I could get used to this), a total wildcard ended up being The One. The black blazer dress with a satin lapel and a fully feathered skirt was designed by a U.K. brand I’d never heard of, Forever Unique; it was as extra as I like to be during the holidays (read: very), infinitely less itchy than all the sequin options I tried on (no one tells you how scratchy they are!) and fit like a glove. Lesson learned: Don’t be a slave to brands. I walked away with a dress that retails for around $1,000 and the cost of the four-day rental was $100, including the cost of dry cleaning. Not bad.

Next, I went the virtual route with a new Toronto-based rental service called Goldie, founded by Francesca Abony this year. “I was inspired to develop a sustainable solution to the ever-growing issue of waste, consumption and fast fashion,” Abony says of starting the business. “I believe in the power of fashion, as cliché as that sounds. It can make us feel powerful and lift us up, but also contributes to gruesome business practices. I wanted to create an accessible platform for women to find great clothes and accessories because it’s not realistic to think that we’re going to shift our consumer habits; We’ll always want beautiful, new things.”

When the packages arrived containing the beautiful, new-to-me dresses I had selected on Goldie’s site, I agreed with her. I slid into an electric purple silk Dannijo slip dress with a sky-high slit. I shimmied into a floor-length Reformation gown that I will borrow the next time I have a fancy wedding to attend. But it was, again, the underdog dress that I ended up liking the best. The sheer, dark floral Iro dress with a drop waist and bell sleeves was comfortable and chic in that laissez-faire Parisian way I aspire to but rarely pull off. It was also just a little bit “pirate girl”—which turns out to be a good thing. The dress, which would retail in the ballpark of $800, was mine for four days for $50 plus tax.

With my party wardrobe sorted, it was time to hit the town. The first soiree was also the fanciest so I pulled out the big guns, pairing my black feathered frock from The Fitzroy with accessories from my own closet: charcoal satin heels with black feathers covering the heels (she loves a theme), a black evening bucket bag and dangly diamond earrings. I decided to only drink champagne at the party because truly nothing goes better with feeling yourself. Two days later, I dropped the dress back at the store and they took care of the rest.

The floral Iro dress joined me for two more low-key holiday fetes including a family holiday “open house” and a work cocktail party. In keeping with the dress’s French girl vibe, I wore it with black leather over-the-knee boots and a red lip. The Iro went back by courier to the good people at Goldie to send to the cleaners and then onto its next party-goer. I never realized how much I hate going to the dry cleaners until I didn’t have to do it anymore!

I let the guilt I’d assumed came along with every party outfit purchase melt away. There’s magic in having your moment with a special piece and then sending it back out into the world to make another girl feel like a million (or rather $800) bucks. Suddenly, I’m Blake Lively passing on the magical pants to America Ferrera. Sure, I was slightly apprehensive about wearing a dress that lord knows how many other girls had worn (“Would the dresses smell like someone else’s perfume?” I wondered; they did not), but there was nothing even remotely icky about the rental process.

I remember leaving The Fitzroy, garment bag in hand and high off the experience of finding a dress I couldn’t wait to wear. I hopped into my Uber Pool (see, budgeting!) and one of my fellow riders, noticing my pick-up location, said “OMG, that’s where I rent my dresses!” She asked me which one I’d rented, as if we were sharing a closet, which we kind of were. She told me with excitement that she’d recently borrowed a pearl-encrusted black Rachel Zoe jumpsuit for an event. Now, I wonder who I’ll share a closet with next.

Looking to rent instead of buy? Here are dress rental services available in Canada

Canada-Wide 

Boro, boroit.ca

  • How it works: Rent online from individuals who list their personal items with Boro
  • Rental period: 4, 10 or 30 days
  • Cost: $45 to $125 including the cost of dry cleaning
  • Shipping options: free shipping and returns
  • Notable Brands: Marchesa, Valentino, Nanette Lepore, Etro, Gucci, YSL, Chanel

The Fitzroy,  fitzroyrentals.com

  • How it works: Rent dresses, bags and coats from a veritable tickle trunk of party and formal options by either trying options on at their chic new Toronto store or ordering online
  • Rental period: 4 or 8 days
  • Cost: $70 to $110 including the cost of dry cleaning
  • Shipping options: Two-way shipping within Ontario is $25 and $33 in all other provinces (that includes a pre-paid return envelope to easily ship your dress back in any mailbox); same-day courier within the GTA is $25 for two-way and $15 for one-way; picking up and dropping off in-store in Toronto is free
  • Notable Brands: Realisation Par, For Love and Lemons, Reformation, Self-Portrait, Cult Gaia, Rixo London

Goldie, ilovegoldie.com

  • How it works: Rent dresses online or, until February 2019, at their first pop-up at Struck Contemporary at 365 Dupont St. in Toronto.
  • Rental period: 4 to 12 days
  • Cost: Around $50 to $200
  • Shipping options: Two-day shipping within Ontario is $25 (note: Toronto orders are eligible for same-day delivery if booked before noon, subject to dress availability); four-day shipping elsewhere within Canada is $35). Local pick-up and return is also offered at their pop-up shop.

Rent Frock Repeat, rentfrockrepeat.com 

  • How it works: Rent dresses either by trying options on at their Toronto showroom or ordering online
  • Rental period: 4 or 8 days
  • Cost: $35 to $485 including the cost of dry cleaning
  • Shipping options: two-way shipping within the GTA costs $17.95, $24.95 for Ontario and Quebec, or $31.95 for the rest of Canada; same-day courier within the GTA costs $24.95
  • Notable Brands: Halston, Greta Constantine, Narces, Lucian Matis, Rachel Zoe

Your Favourite Dresses, yourfavouritedresses.com

  • How it works: Rent online from a variety of designer brands
  • Rental period: 4 or 8 days
  • Cost: $69 to $199 including the cost of dry cleaning, plus a $100 deposit refunded when the dress is returned 
  • Shipping options: Cost of shipping is calculated at the time of purchase
  • Notable Brands: BCBG, Cynthia Rowley, Narces, Vera Wang White and a whole lot of vintage

British Columbia

Flaunt box, flauntbox.com

  • How it works: Rent new and pre-loved dresses either by trying options on at their Vancouver showroom or ordering online
  • Rental period: 4 day or 8 days
  • Cost: $45 to $150
  • Shipping options: Shipping within the Vancouver area is $12 and for areas outside of Vancouver there is a $20 flat fee added
  • Notable brands: Alice + Oliva, Elizabeth and James, Zac Posen

Québec

Atelier Privé, atelierprive.ca

  • How it works: Rent dresses by appointment only at their Montreal showroom
  • Rental period: 3 days or more
  • Cost: On request
  • Shipping options: Pick-up in-store only
  • Notable Brands: ML Monique Lhuillier, Alice + Olivia, Self-Portrait, Needle and Thread, David Meister 

La Petite Robe Noire, lapetiterobenoire.ca

  • How it works: Rent dresses, accessories and shoes by appointment only at their Montreal showroom
  • Rental period: 3 days or more
  • Cost: $30 to $200
  • Shipping options: Pick-up in-store only

 

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