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Rent The Runway

E! Entertainment

Sometime between spring and summer my work wardrobe seemed to lose its luster. My once pretty ‘50s-style floral dresses appeared faded (and not in the purposefully retro sense) and if I showed up to the office in skinny jeans and a Breton tee on one more Monday, I feared I might get kicked out of the fashion department.

Being the Style photo editor, I spend most of my days gazing (longingly) at celebs on the red carpet and big city streets. So naturally the pieces I really want are way out of my budget. And I don't even mean the Peter Pilotto, Roksanda Ilincic and Monique Lhuillier get-ups. I'd gladly add a Cushnie et Ochs, Thakoon or Matthew Williamson number to my closet.

Then, I had a thought: What if I faked a major fashion makeover using Rent the Runway. Now normally, one turns to this site for big events (weddings, birthdays, etc.) but who's to say you can't also use it as a first step in revamping your daily wardrobe. Not forever, no, but at least a few days…or even, say, an entire month?!

And so, our fun experiment serious piece of investigative journalism began. I wanted to see if it's possible to rent an office wardrobe for four weeks (I'm talking Monday through Friday). That's a different designer look every day for 20 days in the office, with a budget of $500. And while I won't get to keep the clothes, I will get to hang on to these memories. 

Rent The Runway

E! Entertainment

Week 1:
First of all, I just want to say: OMG. This is amazing! I'd normally be a bit scared of even going into half the boutiques that sell these dresses, so it's exciting to be ordering up Carmen Marc Valvo and Cushnie et Ochs and knowing they're going to be delivered to my door in two days. There are some pretty awesome designer frocks for close to $30, although, I really wanted to blow my budget on a couple of things and kind of did for this beautiful Thakoon dress–Oops! (Worth it.)

Cost to me: $160

Retail cost of the dresses: $4,663

What I Wore:
Carmen Marc Valvo Envelope dress, $30

Thakoon Lets Fly Away Dress, $40

Marchesa Voyage Peplum Dress, $30

Cushnie et Ochs Supernova Dress, $30

Jill, Jill Stuart Josephine Dress, $30

Important note: There's a $25 off coupon for your first order, but I'm putting it straight toward a membership so that I get free shipping and insurance from here on out which is going to save around $50 a week. It also means I can split my order into two and I have two items arrive on a Saturday and three on a Tuesday, giving me time to return and exchange if I need and get everything back on time. 

Rent The Runway

E! Entertainment

Week Two:
Let's get straight to the sick dresses, shall we? I am very in love with a little number from Kate Spade New York this week. You see, the perfect version of me that exists only in my imagination wears Kate Spade head-to-toe, every day—so Thursday was a dream come true. I'm also getting very attached to the Tracy Reese frock. I've never worn anything by her before, but that's certainly going to change.

Cost to me: $155 (including $20 discount)

Retail cost of the dresses: $2,208

What I wore:

Tracy Reese Trumpet dress, $30

Nanette Lapore Floral dress, $35

M Monique Lhuillier dress, $35

Kate Spade Fun and Games dress, $45

Camilla + Marc Dive Right In dress, $30

Rent The Runway

E! Entertainment

Week Three:
I wanted to try something a bit different this week so opted for a top from Bailey 44 (some days you just need to wear your jeans). I'm definitely learning to use other Rent the Runway customer's photos as a guide to how things will work on me. I wish all online shopping had photos of the looks on lovely real people, not just size 2 models.

It was definitely tricky to choose a favorite from this week—the Issa design was just quality and the Helmut Lang number super comfortable. But the Erin dress was not only lovely but also named the Hepburn dress, which bumped it to my top pick.

Cost to me: $140 (including $25 discount)

Cost retail: $2,210

What I wore:

Erin Erin Fetherstone Hepburn dress, $30

Issa Skim The Line dress, $30

Gryphon Pintuck Love dress, $40

Bailey 44 top, $35

Helmut Lang Heart Pumping dress, $30

Rent The Runway

E! Entertainment

Week Four:
I'm officially worried it's going to be insanely tough going back to my old clothes. People have totally been noticing my killer wardrobe and it is so beyond fun to play dress up as an adult. But I am looking forward to having a few more casual options that will allow me to cave in on Bagel Thursday. RTR does have some cute chill-out pieces for renting, like this Free People maxi which I completely adore, but the majority of the dresses are pretty figure-hugging (and big event-ready).

Cost to me: $140 (including $25 discount)

Cost retail: $2,384

What I wore:

Free People maxi dress, $40

Matthew Williamson Treasure Garden dress, $30

Clover Canyon Gatsby dress, $30

Ali Ro Scuba Sheath, $30

Kate Spade Snap Dragon dress, $35

My Takeaway:
It blows my mind that in the last month I've worn nearly $12,000 worth of clothing. Just writing that makes me feel like Amal Clooney for a split second. Some of my favorite pieces haven't necessarily been the ones with the ultra-high retail prices, though. Both Kate Spade dresses were perfectly made, as well as the Ali Ro, the Tracy Reese and the Jill by Jill Stuart numbers. I did feel pretty special wearing the Cushnie et Ochs Supernova dress (it fit beautifully), and the Matthew Williamson Treasure Garden frock was so flattering—both items, by the way, cost more than my wedding gown!

The service from RTR is pretty formidable, and if I had a budget of over $500 a month for fashion and want a life of ease with no laundry then I would seriously think about ditching shopping forever.

The best—and definitely most surprising—thing about my borrowed wardrobe was the response I got from others. Every day several people would come and say they loved my outfit and ask me where it was from. So, yeah, the last four weeks were definitely a confidence boost. And I'm pretty sure I've convinced several friends and colleagues—plus, quite a few kind but random strangers—to try day-to-day RTR.

In the end, I'd say the biggest change wasn't to my closet (as none of the dresses are currently hanging there, obviously) but to my attitude. Now, I'm way more open to trying new designers—and even if I can't afford the dresses, I know there's a way I can still experience them.  

Overall Totals:

Cost to me: $595 (Yeah, I went over. What can I say? I couldn't resist a few splurges.)

Cost retail: $11,465