It was 1998. The Spice Girls were thriving. Titanic was in theaters. Harry Potter was new. And thanks to Limited Too being the coolest retailer for 10-year-old girls, I was developing an addiction to clothes.
Limited Too was my safe haven. The graphic tees. The glitter camisoles. The flower-embroidered overalls. Whatever was trendy, whatever was new, I had to own it.
As the years went on, my obsession with Limited Too faded, but my need to have new clothing remained. I remember in 7th grade, my social studies teacher asked me if I wore a new shirt every day. Later on in high school, my mom would yell at me for not wearing things in my closet. “That shirt is two years old,” I would tell her, thinking that was a good reason to NOT wear something anymore. “You have a problem,” she would respond.
Unbeknownst to me, I did have a problem. If I had a bad day, what could cure that better than a new shirt? Nothing! I thought shopping made me happy. But as I got older, the clothes I desired to own got more expensive, and I was going into debt. I needed to stop.
A year ago, I discovered Rent the Runway’s Unlimited service. For a little over $100 a month, I could have access to a very expensive wardrobe. Although it wasn’t cheap, I figured if this service could make me happy and keep me from shopping, it would worth be it. So I tried it.
Here’s what the past year of being a Rent the Runway Unlimited member has been like—and if I recommend it for you.
What services does Rent the Runway offer?
The service has changed a lot since I first signed up. These are the memberships they currently offer:
This is the membership I have. A few months ago, RTR Unlimited changed from letting people rent three pieces at a time to four pieces. The price increased as well.
For people who don’t want to pay for the Unlimited membership, there is the new RTR Update. It’s a cheaper alternative where you get four pieces a month.
This isn’t exactly a membership. If you want to use RTR as it was originally intended for (to rent a piece for a wedding or event), this is their new fancy name for it.
How does the renting process work?
First, you have to decide what to rent. Each week, I spend hours going through the inventory of clothing and accessories. When I like something, I click on the ‘heart’ icon to favorite the piece and add them to ‘shortlists.’ For example, right now I have one for weddings and summer.
I decide to favorite things after looking at reviews. There, people share their height, weight, bust size, body type, etc. to give an idea of what the item will look like on people with similar builds. People often share pictures of themselves wearing the items, too. The reviews are helpful, but SO time consuming to go through.
When I have spots in my closet open, I can only order what’s available in my size. Often, a lot of my favorite items are unavailable, so I spend hours debating what to actually get. As the most indecisive person on the planet, this is a very stressful time for me.
Is it hard to get what you want?
RTR certainly has more customers than they did a year ago, so there is more competition for items now—BUT they do add new items weekly. The problem: the new items don’t have reviews.
For events, you can’t reserve items in advance through Unlimited, so you can’t bank on something being available a few days before. For the weddings I’m attending this year, I’m planning on reserving the items I want in advance and paying for them separate from my Unlimited membership.
How is the mailing process?
It takes up to two days for items to ship after you order them. And once they ship, it takes up to two days to arrive. I’ve had trouble with this when ordering clothes on a Tuesday that I want for the weekend. Sometimes they arrive within two days, but other times it can take four to five days. If it always took that long for items to arrive, I would only be able to rent a few items a month, making the Unlimited service not worth it.
Packaging the items to return them is easy. You put your item(s) back in the RTR bag and put the return label on which they send you. Actually sending them is the hard part.
To get the MOST out of your RTR Unlimited membership, you constantly have to go to UPS. When you don’t like something, you have to return it ASAP so you can order as much as possible within the span of a month. Sometimes I get lazy and wait a few days to go to UPS. I know I could get more out of my membership if I didn’t put off returning things, but going back and forth to UPS all the time is annoying.
How long can you keep stuff?
As long as you want (as long as you're still paying the monthly membership fee)! You can return everything the same day you get it, or you can keep all items for months. You do NOT have to send everything back together. In fact, this past September I rented a Zac Posen bag that I kept for months until I got sick of it. While I kept that bag, I had three spots open in my closet.
Have I ever had trouble receiving items?
Yes. Sometimes, RTR will receive an item I rented back from someone else that is damaged. They always reach out immediately and tell me to send them my top picks for a replacement item. One time, they gave me a free extra rental because this happened three times in a row. Worried you'll damage something? Insurance is included for Unlimited members for this reason.
There have been a few times where I've gotten items in the mail that were already damaged. Once I got a dress with a broken zipper. Another time I got a dress that was wrinkled beyond repair. And another time I got a sweater that smelt horrendous and was covered in hair. I returned all of these immediately and informed RTR about them. RTR has fantastic customer service, but it's frustrating when this stuff happens.
How many people have worn this stuff, and do you get a discount if you want to buy?
It depends on the item and how long it’s been available on RTR. Popular items with tons of reviews have probably been worn a lot, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t in great condition. I actually bought a black jumpsuit I rented that had tons of rave reviews for short people like me. The reviews were right—it fit my body type perfectly. I got a member’s only discount on the jumpsuit and have worn it a bunch of times.
Some of the new items I’ve rented came with the tags on. If I wanted to buy them, I could get a discount, but I haven’t rented anything new I’ve wanted to buy yet.
What have my top 4 favorite rentals been so far?
1. This Spring Stripe Dress by Hutch
2. The black jumpsuit I wrote about above that I bought
3. This red shift dress
I loved it so much, I bought it!
4. The red Zac Posen bag I rented for four months that I mentioned earlier
Has RTR Unlimited stopped me from shopping?
Yes and no.
It has stopped me from spending money on things that are too trendy or things I’ll only wear once or twice. I’m still buying clothes, shoes, and jewelry—just not as much. And the things I do buy are more “closet staples” or “investment pieces.”
RTR actually helped me to SELL a bunch of clothes. In fact, I made over $700 from selling my clothes, but that’s for another article that is coming soon.
What about RTR Unlimited versus RTR Update?
Update is cheaper—but I would be so angry if I got four items that didn't fit that I had to keep for a month. At least with Unlimited, you can return the things you dislike immediately and replace them with new things. I haven't tried it, but I think Unlimited is worth the extra money.
Do I recommend RTR Unlimited?
I dig RTR Unlimited, but I’m not going to recommend it for everyone. After all, it’s expensive.
If you find yourself dressing up a lot for work and play, RTR Unlimited could be super helpful for your lifestyle. But if not, it’s not worth it. I actually paused my membership for two months recently because I literally had NOTHING coming up that I wanted to look nice for. It really depends on your situation.
Regardless of lifestyle, if you have an expensive shopping habit you’re trying to kick, RTR Unlimited can help—I am living proof of that. It’s taught me to invest in things I will get a lot of use out of, instead of buying a bunch of shirts from Target or the expensive boutique next to my apartment that I’ll stop wearing next year. I’m confident that even if I stopped my membership, I wouldn’t shop as much as I used to.
So will I continue doing it? I’m not sure. RTR Unlimited is a luxury service, and it’s certainly not something I should be paying for. But it’s helping to cure the shopping fever I’ve had since stepping foot in Limited Too circa 1998, and that’s enough of a reason to keep doing it for me. Plus, I love clothes… and french fries.