With many people looking to cut back on non-essential outgoings, it’s no surprise that clothes shopping is on the decline, with research from financial app Revolut showing a 2% spend decrease at UK clothing stores in June compared to May.
At the same time, spending on clothing rental services has increased by 27%, and has jumped by a massive 105% compared to June 2021.
Clearly, consumers still want to indulge in new outfits, but they’re opting for more affordable options – and the desire to move away from fast fashion brands could also be a deciding factor.
Even celebrities are getting in on the act, with style queen Holly Willoughby wearing a yellow The Vampire’s Wife dress rented from HURR Collective on the This Morning Platinum Jubilee special.
If you’re yet to try borrowing a fabulous frock, designer bag or trendy suit from a rental site or app, you may be wondering how it all works.
The process is essentially the same for the various sites: scroll to find the item you want, decide how many days you want to hire it for, wear it, then return.
But how do you find the right fit? Are there hidden costs? And what if you spill wine all over a borrowed dress?
We asked experts to answer seven commonly asked questions about clothing hire…
1. Can you only hire dressy outfits for parties or weddings?
This is probably the biggest misconception about hire sites. While there are plenty of occasionwear options, you can now find all kinds of clothing and accessories.
“The most popular items are party dresses, designer bags and items from trending brands of the moment, but there are also wedding dresses, saris and ski suits,” says Eshita Kabra-Davies, founder and CEO of By Rotation, which operates a peer-to-peer service, where ‘rotators’ hire their items to other users.
“At the moment, holidays and suiting are two very strong performing categories,” says Isabella West, CEO and Founder at Hirestreet. “We often see that people try renting for the first time because they have a dressy event, but after that, they rent for other things, like dinners out or work events.”
2. Can you hire vintage clothes?
This varies between websites. Selfridges Rental, for example, focuses on the latest designs, while HURR Collective has a wide range of vintage pieces.
Kabra-Davies says: “One of our most popular listings is a beautiful vintage wedding dress, and we’ve also seen a lot of Y2K style pieces being listed on the platform, such as vintage Vivienne Westwood and Dior.”
3. Can you try more than one size to find the right fit?
In most cases, if you want to try more than one size, you’ll have to pay for both, but you may be able to get a refund for an unworn item.
“If you do feel you need to order more than one size, simply make sure you return the garment you don’t wear with the tags still attached, and you will receive rental-credit for that item,” says West.
With rental sites, there’s a strong focus on helping you find the right fit first time.
“It’s always best to reach out to the lender if you are worried about fit, so you can enquire about measurements, their height, etc,” says Kabra-Davies. “Lenders know their garments inside out, so can give honest and accurate feedback. If your garment doesn’t fit, you can always request a partial refund.”
4. Can you hire plus-size clothes?
Most fashion rental sites stock the standard UK 6 to 16 sizes, with a limited range of items going up to size 26.
HURR, which is a mix of peer-to-peer and brand rentals, is notable for going up to size 32, with other sites aiming to improve their plus-size offering.
“We actively encourage plus-size women to list on the platform to make their pieces accessible to users across the UK,” says Kabra-Davies.
West adds: “Plus-size is an area we are actively working on at the moment, so watch this space for an exciting announcement coming soon.”
5. Do you have to pay to send an item back?
The delivery and returns process varies between sites, so make sure you check before you rent.
At Hirestreet, all items come with a prepaid postage label, West explains: “Once you have worn your rental, all you need to do is attach this label to the front of the garment bag and drop at your nearest Post Office.”
With peer-to-peer borrowing, you usually need to pay for the postage yourself, unless you happen to live near the lender.
“We always recommend you send it tracked, so you can see once the item has been delivered,” Kabra-Davies says. “If you deliver back in person, then there is no fee.”
6. What happens if you accidentally spill something on a garment or rip it?
If you’re hiring an outfit for a party or wedding, chances are, there’s going to be wine and dancing involved, so if there was an accident, would you then have to pay the full retail value of the garment?
Not necessarily, says Kabra-Davies: “Lenders can set a dry cleaning fee which will cover most spillages. If a garment is accidentally ripped, we will support the lender in finding a tailor to help fix this at a reasonable cost to the renter.”
Hirestreet offers an accidental damage cover option for £3, West explains: “This just means if an accident does happen, we will take care of the repair costs for you. If you dont have cover on your outfit, you might be asked to pay a small fee to cover the repair costs, but this is very rare.”
7. If you love an item can you buy it?
Most sites don’t offer the option to buy items outright as standard, but you can ask about purchasing if you’ve rented a piece and can’t bear to part with it.
“Unfortunately we can’t always sell an item to you, as we may need it for future bookings,” West says. “But it’s always worth dropping us a message to request to buy, just in case.”
By Rotation introduced a ‘buy’ button in January, Kabra-Davies says: “If someone doesn’t have a buy option, you can always drop them a message on the app and ask them if they’d consider selling it.”
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