Economic woes can’t stop a true fashionista, but they can force her to get creative. With clothing swaps picking up steam in the UK, a new incarnation of fashion exchange has found its grounding in the US. This alternative businesses model promotes sustainable style through rented and borrowed items, instantly expanding the wardrobes of style-savvy members without breaking the bank.
Dress Vault, a fashion network for dress borrowing, prides itself on an open-door policy that welcomes fashion enthusiasts with rotating interests. The site cultivates a social network of like-minded peers who benefit from a collective consciousness — and wardrobe. As a former beauty queen, founder Patricia Harr was familiar with the advantages of a clothes-borrowing network, parlaying the concept into a successful business. “I believe fashion has the ability to be and do many positive things for women, but only when dressing-well is not considered a luxury,” Harr says. ” Plus, what woman doesn’t want an unlimited closet of dresses to choose from?!” Relying on eBay and fashion favorite Facebook to attract new participants, Dress Vault’s growing base of members can lend, borrow and buy/sell dresses, or simply peruse the pages of stunning choices.
While Dress Vault relies on principles of community and exchange, other sites such as Bag Borrow or Steal and Rent Me a Handbag have become welcome alternatives to wistful window shopping. Both companies offer rentable products, from brand new designer purses to jewelry, shoes and sunglasses. The model appeals to those with accessory-A.D.D. or anyone who just needs something special for a certain occasion. With flexible flat rate plans, rent-to-buy options and incentivized memberships, each website has found its niche, while drawing an ever growing clientele.
This move away from disposable luxury and wasteful spending has also impacted major retailers. The practice of customers buying, wearing, then returning items has long been an unspoken plague among larger outlets, but many department stores are now weighed down by pressures that transcend their formerly overlooked dry cleaning bills. We can expect to see retailers offering to lease certain items in a new effort to avoid the senselessness of wardrobing — even if it’s still common practice on the red carpet.
We recently bemoaned the sorry state of options for glam events such as the Oscars, but it seems that people are opening their eyes (and wardrobes) to new means of clothing acquisition. As Harr points out: “The goods [are] already available, [they're just] sitting in the backs of closets across the country.” Whether you opt for exchanging dresses in a community setting or prefer Netflix-style accessories borrowing, this innovative industry will keep you freshly adorned without overwhelming your wallet.