Style & Beauty

Rent The Runway Just Had A Disaster, But That Might Not Be A Bad Thing

The clothing rental service has revolutionized our wardrobes. But where has our actual sense of style gone?

“It’s Rent the Runway!” is the response uttered by women in bathrooms, weddings and office elevators everywhere. More and more lately, my real life and my Instagram feed show women taking fashion risks by rocking the clothing rental service’s funky winter coats and floral mini dresses. It’s a beautiful thing.

But when it’s the same funky winter coat and the same floral mini dress that everyone else is wearing, what does that say about our actual individual senses of style?

That thought was running through my mind when I heard the news Friday that after suffering major technical difficulties, Rent the Runway was briefly halting acceptance of new subscribers and issuing a delay notice for customers who’ve already subscribed (all this was detailed on its blog, The Shift).

I’ve used Rent the Runway for a few weddings and once for a monthlong trial period. For me, the process has historically gone off without a hitch: I’ve received compliments, snapped a few photos and gone on my merry way.

But when I got home from vacation and saw two other women I know wearing the same ruffled pants I’d fallen in love with, it started to feel like maybe we’re all just turning into the same well-dressed person.

I’m prepared to take flak for saying that I think Rent the Runway has, to some extent, negatively impacted what it means to have personal style. I appreciate what it gives to users and I support anything that encourages people to dress out of their comfort zones. But perhaps a break from the service would benefit us, give us a chance to look inward and figure out exactly what we like, as opposed to what 2,094 other users have worn before us. Rent the Runway is certainly more environmentally friendly than fast fashion, but it’s not more innovative in terms of nurturing our creativity and personal style.

There are customers out there who just lost a gown one day before an event, and that’s shitty. There are people like my friend Jenna, who explained over Facebook Messenger on Friday that she has been frustrated with Rent the Runway’s lack of communication recently, but that, as someone who travels for work events, she loves the wardrobe “face-lift” that being an unlimited member has afforded her over the past year.

Rent the Runway allows women to express themselves through fashion, and what I’ve heard from many women who swear by the service is that they love having the option to try things they wouldn’t normally dare to buy. By wearing that “scary” item, you’re proving to yourself that “pulling something off” is a construct we’ve made up in our heads and that we can actually be bolder with our fashion choices.

And if it takes RTR being down for a little while for us to stand out on our own, I welcome it.