With our social calendars often chock-full at this time of year, it can be tempting to splash out on a few new outfits to look fashionably festive: the average Brit is thought to spend £73.90 on a new outfit for the festive season, with one in five of us admitting they wont wear the same outfit twice.
But for millions of us across the UK who are forced to tighten the purse strings due to the ongoing cost of living crisis, we can no longer fork out for a new look each time we go out.
It’s little wonder, then, that an increasing number of us are trying cheaper, more eco-friendly alternatives to look pretty at parties – with the fashion rental market now booming.
A study by VoucherCodes.co.uk has shown more than 2/3rds of UK shoppers (69%) are now considering renting their Christmas party outfit.
But is fashion rental really the savviest way to save this party season – or is it just a passing trend? And how does it actually work when we’re in the middle of a postal strike?! We asked three Metro.co.uk writers to find out…
Social video producer Arlène Dihoulou tried the House of CB Lime Pixie Ruffle Maxi Dress. RRP £189, rental price: £32 for three days.
Launched in 2017, Hirestreet boasts more than 10,000 items and 100+ brands handpicked by their expert stylists, and hit the headlines after it partnered with Marks and Spencer’s for its capsule collection. Offering 10 different outfits available for up to a month from just £39, the partnership promises a more sustainable and wallet friendly way for shoppers to regularly change their look.
Ease of use: It’s a smooth and straightforward service. You can choose to look through their top rated brands such as Lipsy, Rat and Boa and French Connection, or you could check their collections (they have a Christmas party section, and a festive section). If there’s something you’re really looking for specifically, there’s also a search function.
There’s a LOT of variety and range on the website and there are a load of outfits and dresses to fit all shapes and sizes which I appreciated, as I’m a bit of a fashion chameleon and never like to stick to one look. I’d also recommend to friends, as I saw loads of pieces they’d love too.
Price: I chose the yellow House of CB Lime Pixie Ruffle Maxi dress, as it’s so pretty and will really stand out against all the usual Christmassy outfits we’ll be seeing this time of year. It’s very reasonably priced: the dress’s retail price is £189.99, but to rent from Hirestreet, it’s only £32 for three days. It then stretches to £38 for 10 days, and £52 for 30 days, so it’s really good value and works out perfectly for me as I want to wear it out on a night with friends and also my work Christmas party.
Speed of delivery: Even though the dress should have been coming via courier, high demand due to the knock on effect of the postal strike meant that the company ended up sending it via Royal Mail – weird, I know! Sadly, it still didn’t turn up the day it was meant to, which was disappointing and I can’t pretend I wasn’t upset not to wear it on my evening get together with friends, as I’d been looking forward to it. However I also am grateful that the team at Hirestreet worked hard to make sure the order arrived eventually – I’m just glad I took out the longer hire option.
Quality: This dress came well packed and not damaged. There were instructions in the packs it came with: clothes come packed with a black ribbon tied to them – once that ribbon has been cut, it means you have chosen to wear the outfit for an event and cannot return it early.
The dress fit like a glove and instantly put me in the party mood. Having nowhere to wear it for a few days was a slight buzzkill, I won’t lie – but I’m still really looking forward to wearing it for the Christmas party.
Final score: 3.5 / 5 – loved the dress, just wish it had turned up on time… thank goodness for the option of cheaper longer hire!
Features writer Kimberley Bond rented the Nadine Merabi three-piece tuxedo suit. RRP £400, rental price £75 for three days.
Founded in 2019 by Eshita Kabra-Davies, By Rotation has seen stratospheric growth over the last few years. It now boasts it’s the ‘largest shared wardrobe in the UK’ with over 50,000 outfits to choose from, and the app having 500,000 downloads.
Ease of use: Think of ByRotation as a mix between Depop and Instagram. You can like and comment on outfits that tickle your fancy, encouraging a relationship between lender and borrower: something I can imagine is essential if you’re lending out a designer outfit to a total stranger.
I was instantly drawn to the Nadine Merabi three-piece tuxedo, which was adorned with crystals. After a quick discussion, the rental was approved by a user called Sophie, and was to be sent to me in time for dinner and drinks with my friend at the end of the week.
Price: It is up to each lender to set the price for what they’re renting for whatever duration. To borrow the suit for a week would have cost me £96, or £75 for a period of three days. It was a little on the steep side (particularly if you’re turning to renting your party garms to save cash), but with the retail value of the suit itself is £400, it is cheap by comparison.
It’s worth noting that with so much choice, borrowers don’t necessarily have to plump for an outfit this expensive. Slightly cheaper brands, such as House of CB and Lavish Alice can be rented for as little as £12.
Speed of delivery: I requested the outfit on Tuesday, and received it by Thursday, so it was ready for my Friday night out (at postal-strike busting speed!)
I was fortunate to live locally to my lender, and so was able to arrange to return the outfit on Monday in person. This may not be the same of everyone’s experience – By Rotation is comprised of several different buyers, some who prefer courier, some who use Royal Mail, others who risk it all by using Evri – but I certainly had no problems.
Quality: I wasn’t sure what to expect when wearing a suit that cost more than half my monthly rent, but the outfit was gorgeous – nicely fitted (although the trousers were slightly too long for my 5 ft 5 frame) and glittering, I was excited to wear it out for dinner. On the way to the tube, I passed my boyfriend, who was stomping back from the pub – and he failed to recognise me: he’s grown accustomed to me burritoing myself in blankets and hoodies, so wearing an actual suit was somewhat of a shock…
I also had at least five total strangers coming up to me on the tube, at dinner, at the bar after, even on my way home, that they loved my outfit. I’ve never had that in my bog-standard fare from H&M and Zara. I now have ByRotation (and the lovely Sophie, who sent the outfit) for my head swelled with confidence. Score: 5/5
Final score: 4 / 5
One Hit Wonders
Entertainment Reporter Lucy Norris rented the Nadine Merabi Darcie Red Pyjama suit. RRP £150, rental price £50 for three days.
The brand was set up by Sophie Young, who, when she turned 30, decided to move out of London and buy her first home. Moving prompted a major wardrobe clear, and Sophie realised how much she had that she had never even worn. She decided to launch One Hit Wonders as a hassle-free alternative to shopping, letting people rent clothes at affordable prices.
Ease of Use: The business boasts a logo that brought memories back of the fun-loving Victoria’s Secret Pink brand and held a good amount of stock under especially designated categories.
Having the tool bar split the clothes into occasion wear and filters that allowed the user to see what was available in their size immediately made the online shopping experience pain free.
Choosing the right fit was made easier by the pictures as each one had the outfit in action on a model or captured in a street fashion sort of way. This allowed the user to get a better idea of how it could look if they decided that dress was their pick of the night.
After sifting through the festive season section, I was pleasantly surprised as to how many options this website had on offer – from floor-length gowns to mini dresses and pantsuits, there was something to fit the vibe of every office party out there.
However, the only disappointing element of my experience was the lack of sizing and availability of the stock. First picking out a floor-length red off the shoulder gown by Rat & Boa, my request was denied due to all my size options being out for rent already.
Price: I was also glad to see a nice price range that included some designer labels alongside more affordable options.
Sophie was extremely accommodating in sorting the feather-trimmed red silk pyjama suit, which retails at £150, but is available to rent for three days at £50 – I found this a little on the expensive side when compared to other websites. However, Sophie assured me that price includes everything – shipping, returns, admin and cleaning, with no hidden surprises at the checkout.
Speed of delivery: Despite postal strikes attempting to ruin the chance of trying on a red silk pyjama-esque two-piece, One Hit Wonders arrived on my doorstep just under a week after I placed the initial order. I would have liked to have worn it out with friends, but it did come in time for me to share a glass of wine or two with friends round my house.
The parcel arrived late but by no fault of the rental site as they had sent it via special courier due to postal disruption that week and were – again – extremely apologetic, even sending more outfits my way to make up for it. They used Evri over Royal Mail – but the latter is their usual way of posting gifts.
Quality: Admittedly not my usual style, the clothes fit well and came in fantastic condition wrapped beautifully in the company’s branding.
Putting on an outfit that I wouldn’t have otherwise chosen pushed me out of my comfort zone in the best way possible. The suit allowed me to be comfortable while feeling like I was dressed for the festive season in a cool but classy way. It made me feel fun and added a hint of bold glamour to my wardrobe that I would usually shy away from.
If I could change one thing, the fit was a little baggy for my liking and so didn’t cut as clean a shape as I would’ve liked.
As I imagine it is with all sites of this nature, getting the chance to wear your first pick is a first come first served job due to there being only one of each item, so order early if there’s something you really don’t want to miss out on. Score: 4/5
Final score: 3/5 – The process is relatively smooth and their customer service is even better. I may not have got my first choice but there was at least plenty to choose from.
Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing Kimberley.Bond@metro.co.uk
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