4 times to rent instead of buy — your outfit

The cost of special occasions

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The cost of special occasions

Life’s special events often require expensive attire. Unfortunately, special-occasion wear is often donned once, never again to see the light of day.

Naturally, we rationalize this outlay of cash. After all, who can put a price tag on memories? But every time you catch a glimpse of that exiled gown waaaay in the back of the closet, your wallet sighs a little.

Don’t make your wallet sigh. There’s another way to look photo-fantastic for life’s big events: Rent your outfit.

Online fashion rental companies Adorn.com, Mine for Nine, Mountain Threads and Rent the Runway can make you look like a million bucks at a fraction of the cost — and without the guilt.

“This generation is so different; everybody is renting something,” says Nadine Zaun, owner and chief style consultant at Adorn.com, which rents high-ticket diamond jewelry.

How does it work? What’s the selection like? You probably have even more questions, but relax. These growing online companies have you covered — for less.

Maternity: Forget the temporary wardrobe
Maternity: Forget the temporary wardrobe

Maternity is a fashion nightmare for most moms-to-be. The clothes you like don’t fit; the clothes that fit, you don’t like. What to do?

Marisa Moss founded Mine for Nine LLC in 2009 when friends complained that it was impossible to find stylish maternity wear.

“There are so few brick-and-mortar maternity stores anymore and only one nationwide chain,” says Moss. “If you live in a small town, you’re even more limited.”

Mine for Nine rents a full line of suits, dresses, coats and casual wear at 75 percent off retail. There are other online sites similar to Mine for Nine that rent whatever a mom-to-be might need to wear. Search by occasion, by designer or by price.

Moss says renting helps moms-to-be look and feel their best throughout their pregnancy. “This way, you’re wearing clothing that fits you right now and is stylish as well,” she says.

Can’t afford couture? Rent it!
Can't afford couture? Rent it!

Love fashion but have a fear of commitment? Rent the Runway and other similar online sites offer the uncomplicated and less-costly relationship you’ve been searching for.

Rent the Runway is the brainchild of Harvard Business School students Jenny Fleiss and Jenn Hyman. It is just one site that allows folks to rent couture dresses and accessories. Their site offers designer duds at up to 90 percent off retail.

“The products we’re offering are really around the experience of all of these magical events in your life and the fantastic feeling that a woman gets when she puts on an amazing designer dress,” says Fleiss.

While you might not purchase a $1,450 Herve Leger coral sheath, now you can rent it for about $150. Rentals on sites like this usually are for four to eight days.

Rent diamonds online? Believe it!
Rent diamonds online? Believe it!

Where jewelry is concerned, you have two choices for the big day: Look OK in jewelry you can afford or look OMG in rented diamonds.

Zaun, a 36-year-old mother of four, first worked for and now owns Adorn.com, the Kansas City, Mo., online jewelry rental business that’s been around for five years.

“A few years ago, the mother of the bride would have said, ‘That’s OK for you but not for me,’ but now most of my business is mothers of the bride,” says Zaun. “It’s become part of what you do: You rent a car, you rent a dress, you rent diamonds.”

Other sites are also loaning out jewels, including BagBorroworSteal.com. For a fee, you can (temporarily) have the bling you’ve always wanted.

“It’s for the pictures that last forever,” says Zaun. “We’re like Netflix but for diamonds.”

Hit the slopes without the luggage
Hit the slopes without the luggage

The cost to outfit your whole family for a winter ski getaway can be Rocky Mountain high. Lugging those extra gear-laden bags through the airport both ways is no vacation either.

Enter an ingenious alternative: Rent the ski clothes, and have them waiting for you at your mountain destination (or pick them up on your way to the slopes).

“We don’t offer equipment because there are plenty of places to do that at the resorts,” says Myles Libby, marketing manager for Mountain Threads, a Denver company.

Many ski towns are popping up with this new service, even overseas. Customers who bond with their slope ensemble may even be able to purchase the pieces online during a post-season sale.

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