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Buy or Rent a Dress?
Written by Renee Sylvestre-Williams

Monday, November 25th, 2019

While you may have that one outfit that's just fine for parties and get-togethers, sometimes you want a little sparkle and shine. Or maybe you feel like you have nothing to wear and need something new. To save some money, some people opt to rent a dress rather than buying.

According to Statistics Canada, in 2017 Canadian households spent an average of $3,430 on clothes and according to a survey by the moving company Movinga, Canadians don't wear 79 per cent of their clothes.

Can Clothing Rental Save You Money?

Borrowing clothes has gone from being something celebrities do to an everyday activity. Rent the Runway started the trend of lending dresses for a fraction of their retail price and has grown into a billion-dollar (evaluated) company. Smaller companies have popped up everywhere, Canada included. There's Rent, Frock, Repeat, Atelier Prive and The Fitzroy, all who offer a wide range of party and daily outfits.

Renting gives you a new outfit each time you go out and prevents wardrobe boredom, but how much does it cost?

According to one study, depending on the type of item, it can be more affordable to rent versus buying your clothes, based on cost per wear (cost of the item divided by the number of times it's worn).

Office Wear

The study found that it's cheaper for you to buy your office wear (which for this article, we'll define as more professional wear for work, whether it's jeans and a nice top, a suit or a shirt and dress pants) versus renting it. A rental item would cost you an average of $18.31 per wear versus $7.87 if you buy.

The study also says you'll save the most money buying items like tops and dresses (where renting is between 67-69 per cent more expensive than owning), whereas owning jackets or blazers is only 29 per cent cheaper.

Party Wear

It's time for a sparkly dress or that velvet blazer. Most of us don't have those tucked in our wardrobes. If you do buy one, you know it'll likely sit there, worn once or twice.

The study suggests it's 500 per cent cheaper to rent party wear. Assuming you wear a black tie gown once a year and a cocktail dress twice a year, your cost per wear to rent would be $87.29 versus a purchase of $580.83.

What If You Still Want to Buy?

If you're not into renting your clothes, there are ways to prevent impulse shopping and have a wardrobe you love.

“I always tell clients that it's important to get clear on what image they want to create in their closet, clear out things that don't serve them, and then make a list about the things they need," says stylist Christie Ressel. “Keeping focused on this will help you strategically shop in stores — taking the impulse shopping away."

She offers the following tips:

  • Stick to the vision you want and get picky about what you're willing to pay for
  • Be intentional on how you build your closet (buy clothes for practical reasons and not just because of look)
  • Alter garments so that they fit you properly and make you stand taller when you look in the mirror (you'll be more inclined to wear them)
  • Wear things that make you feel like the highest and best version of yourself
  • Ask yourself if you can style the item you're looking at 3 ways before paying for it

Ressel says thinking this way about clothes really gets you to stop and think about the value the garment will serve in your closet.

“Why buy it if it offers no versatility and you have to wear it the same way over and over? This is also a great way to save money and consume less."

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