It sounds like an amazing deal: pay one flat fee each month for access to a revolving closet of designer pieces. But does Rent the Runway Unlimited live up to the hype or the price tag? This is the story of my RTR Unlimited rebound.
Rent the Runway offers two subscription services: Unlimited and Update. Unlimited allows you unlimited shipments of four pieces at a time for $159 a month. Update allows you one shipment of four pieces for $89 per month (you can add pieces for an extra cost). Both services promise to change the way you dress.
I subscribed to RTR Unlimited twice in the past two years. Both times, I cancelled my subscription within three months. Here’s the tale of two tries with RTR.
My First Glance at Unlimited
The promise of designer fashions delivered on demand was a powerful motivator to join RTR. I happily put down the money for the Unlimited subscription after finding a promo code for $60 off of my first month. And as I spent an evening “hearting” favorite pieces to create a wishlist of fashions, I thought expectantly about all the money RTR would save me.
My first shipment was scheduled to arrive on a Tuesday before I left for D.C. on Thursday to attend a handful of work and personal events. But Tuesday came and went with no box. I called RTR and was informed that my shipment was delayed at a transit facility in Oregon and wouldn’t arrive until Friday. All of my carefully chosen fashions would be for naught.
When I arrived back in Spokane, having nowhere to wear a bevy of cocktail dresses and a sequin blazer, I returned all of the items unworn and waited for my next shipment.
A full week went by before I received an email saying a new shipment was headed my way. Add in four days of delivery time, and it was eleven days from the return of order one to the arrival of order number two.
I opened the zip top garment bag like a kid on Christmas morning. But when two of the pieces were the wrong size and a third was much more sheer then the photos made it out to be, I was disappointed again.
After two lackluster shipments in a month, I decided to give RTR one more chance to wow me. I waited nine days for my next delivery, and while the shipment had three wearable pieces, I found that working them into my wardrobe wasn’t as easy as anticipated. It was at that point I decided that RTR wasn’t for me.
My Second Try with RTR
In the run up to my wedding, I thought renting dresses for pre-wedding events made more sense than buying a handful of special occasion outfits. So when I received an email inviting me to try their wide selection of white dresses for summer (were they reading my mind or my Google searches?), I took the plunge. But my RTR rebound lasted just two days.
One of the dresses in the solicitation email was an Alexis dress that I had actually wanted to buy but was out of my price range. So I clicked on the e-mail link and encountered a message asking me to subscribe in order to add the dress to my next delivery. Subscription purchased, I broke through the paywall and discovered that the item wasn’t currently available for shipment.
I was disappointed, but hey, not every item will be available when you want it. Instead, I selected a handful of white dresses and a clutch and, with a full week until my wedding, pushed send. But the next day, I received the bad news that my shipment could not be delivered to Montana before the Labor Day wedding. I called to cancel the shipment and my subscription.
Bottom line, both experiences proved to me that RTR Unlimited is made for people who live in major cities. If you live elsewhere, you’re at the mercy of an unpredictable logistical process. And $159 per month is too large an amount of money to feel like you’re having a B-level experience compared to your metropolitan brethren.
Have you tried RTR Unlimited? And if so, do you live in a major metro area or a smaller place? I’d love to give readers a picture of other experiences, especially if it worked for you better than it did for me.
Saw It On Social is a feature about the products and services that fill our social feeds and entice us with promised of life altering experiences. RTR Unlimited, like all SIoS products was paid for with my own money. I wanted to like it, but it just wasn’t a good buy for my circumstances.
I subscribe to the Update and it works pretty well for me. I get most orders in 2 days (I live just outside San Diego), and whenever I’ve had an issue with sizing or quality, RTR has fixed it fairly quickly. That said, it can sometimes be a real pain to contact customer service. I usually just leave my # to get a call back… which may take an hour or two. Thankfully they did just make it easier to pause your subscription with the click of a button (you used to have to call), which is what I do for months when I know I don’t have any events or travel.
Always appreciate you honest reviews..
Just wanted to chime in to say, for what it’s worth, I live in Manhattan and also cancelled my RTR Unlimited subscription due to issues with availability and delivery times, so living in a major city may not necessary solve those logistical problems!
Kate Nye says:
I’m in Chicago, and several of my friends/coworkers swear by RTR Unlimited, and haven’t mentioned the logistical issues you’ve had. However, I’m on the upper end of straight sizes/lower end of plus and the selection in that range is just…not even close to worth the money.
Agree with this. I’m in the 12-16 range. While Unlimited was worth it when I had 4 formal events in 6 weeks (got 2 very nice black tie dresses, which was worth the cost right there)… overall, there just aren’t enough new styles for upper range sizes to make it worthwhile. I ended up doing 3 months of Unlimited, but as I near the end of month 3, I’ve basically rented everything that suits my style and would even be a “fun add” to my style. I was excited that they seemed to add MMLaFleur items, but they’ve been limited in sizes whenever I check my hearts. I’m done after this month.
Kimberly Anderson says:
I live in Atlanta and subscribe to Unlimited. I have had great success on receiving my new items in a timely manner (often within 2 days of placing order). I also heard that there is a difference between West Coast and East Coast – with a quicker turnaround for East Coast residents. If it didn’t come so quickly – I would definitely rethink the situation, but it’s helping this 8 month postpartum mom manage while her body transitions to a new normal.
I live in D.C. and used RTR unlimited for roughly 6 months last year. When prom season hit, it took 45 minutes on hold to reach customer service and all the orders were severely delayed. Not to mention all of best clothes get rented instantly, so I was stuck with my very last choices… I would consider going back if they fixed their customer service/fulfillment issues. In the meantime, do not waste your money!
I’m on my second month of RTR and still deciding if it’s worth the money. I live in Philadelphia and have not had any issues with shipments with the exception of a one day delay once. I did receive an email from then the other day basically saying sorry for any delays but we’re upgrading our system and it will be a better experience soon. So hopefully that helps some of you all.
I’m still not convinced it’s worth the money but it may be a personal problem as I have a lot of clothes and I am STILL buying new things.
I love RTR unlimited, although I’m still on a $139 rate for 4 pieces, and I pause it every few months bc I find it is a little expensive for my budget. I primarily use it for workwear and fun stuff I would only wear occasionally, but if I have an event I will usually try to work it into my shipments.
I agree with you that shipping can sometimes be unpredictable and even sometimes pieces you choose and confirm get canceled. Or you get them and they don’t fit at all, or worse, they are dirty.
However, I am in DC, so usually my shipment arrives next day, and I return my clothes to a WeWork so I get to pick my next shipment immediately, so I get A LOT of clothes. I usually assume about half the ones I get won’t work on me for whatever reason.
I do unlimited along with every other girl in NYC, and here it’s amazing; however, I can see how in any other city it wouldn’t be as appealing. For what I used to spend on fast fashion (probably less than), I’m able to get new clothes and repeats of old favorites most days of the week. I’m in close proximity to the flagship and an instant dropoff center. For example, on my way to work this morning I dropped off two pieces and have two more already out for delivery that will be in my hands before I got to bed tonight. It’s great for the office, travel, and special events and has made me so much more adventurous in my fashion choices.
Check out Armoire (https://www.armoire.style/). As a start-up, their customer service is great and they have such a fun collection. I’ve been using it for over a year, and I love having new items to wear all the time.
What brands do they have? Do they have petites? I always feel like I more likely to pay if I can see the clothes first…I hate that you have to register prior.
Michelle Loprieno says:
My favorite brands they carry are Adriana Papell, Rachel Zoe, cupcakes and cashmere, Boden and Zuri. They all have Paige jeans in almost every color. There customer service is also too notch so I would email and ask them about petite sizing. If they don’t carry it they are very open to suggestions.
I’m on my 3rd month of Update. 4 items and you keep them a month. I have learned to just plan to always need to send 2 back and pay the extra $13 to swap them. Still, it’s about $100/month for 4 items and so far it’s meant I’m barely shopping but always have new clothes, so I’m saving money and I like it.
To add to that, I signed up before I knew I was pregnant, but did find out a week or two later that I was. So, first two boxes were normal work clothes. On my third box, I strategically chose dresses to hide the bump bc I don’t want work to know yet. This is great bc I’m wearing clothes I’d never usually wear (busy patterns) and they accomplish my goal without needing to actually buy them.
Next month I’ll probably start renting maternity items, and I see $100/month to still feel stylish through pregnancy to be pretty reasonable.
I find reading reviews and looking for pics of people shaped similarly to me to be really helpful when choosing items.
I subscribe to RTR update, so I get 4 pieces a month for $89. I use it primarily to pad my work wardrobe, and find this works well for 3 seasons when I travel a lot to countries where I don’t have an adequate wardrobe to handle the weather (Houstonite going to Munich in January) or if I’m going to conferences or meetings where I like to look a notch above my pay grade.
So far I think the pros outweigh the cons. I am a standard size and shape so this helps. Some things I’ve learned so far:
(1) If something is consistently reviewed as ‘a little short but OK with leggings’, that means you can see all the good china when you wear it and you should never, ever wear it to work
(2) Own 2 good camis – black and white – and you can basically wear any wrap dresses or sweaters
(3) Don’t filter the reviews by ‘people like me’, you’ll get only good ones. Instead filter by newest and search for the people built like you (primarily height)
(4) Make the most of your spend! You might like that J Crew dress, but you didn’t spend $90 / month to look like J crew 😉
(5) Keep an open mind and rent one piece a month that stretches you a little bit 🙂
I like update and will continue to be a member, especially since they just added a distribution center outside of Dallas which speeds my delivery.
Denise Cooper says:
Forgot to mention, I’m in Houston. The Dallas area distribution center made it a whole new ballgame for me 🙂
Fan from boston says:
“All the good china” – I don’t know you but I love you. Looking forward to having a reason to use that in real life.
I am now going to be using the phrase “all the good china” as well.
I tried RTR for awards season and had a pretty meh experience as well. Nothing was ever able in my size and I was booking shipments in LA and NY…
I also just started RTR Unlimited and live in DC – for me it’s been great and I really like it so far. I’ve found some new-to-me designers and it’s been fun to “go outside the box” from what I typically wear.
I usually send 2 back at a time so I can get a pretty steady rotation of items (2 in, 2 out). You can also send one back (at your own cost) so when you get that one spot open again it’s shipped back to you in another bag… so you get 2 bags going!
I’ve found it to be great for both workwear and date-night outfits. I also haven’t purchased any new clothing in the two months I’ve had RTR… so I think it may be actually saving me money!! 🙂
I do RTR and I live in Manhattan. A lot of my friends do as well, particularly those that work in media, fashion, etc. It’s insanely convenient here because you can drop clothes off at WeWork locations and immediately order new things on the app for same-day delivery. There have been hiccups (a stained dress, late delivery, etc) but I can’t deny that 4/5 of my weekly outfits are from RTR. I just started a new job and it’s been hugely helpful in the transitional period. But for those outside of the city or on a budget, probably not worth it.
I have Unlimited and used to frequently rent one-off pieces for events. I LOVE it. It is especially good for keeping my panel/speaking engagement/TV interview wardrobe fresh. I almost exclusively rent dresses and tops as my pant rentals have been bad on fit. Agree with poster who said to rent higher end instead of J. Crew–I pay for this to wear clothes way above my typical budget. I’m in DFW area, so the new distro center here means my returns are processed the next day and I get new shipments often in just a single day.
I have subscribed to Unlimited for about a year and really like it. I live in the SF Bay Area, and shipments come when they’re supposed to 99% of the time. It is also a big plus to be able to return to WeWork locations, cutting down the turnaround time even more, and I’m rotating through lots of pieces every month. They have such a big selection that I have no problem finding enough stuff I want to try that’s actually available, and I love being able to wear designers that would otherwise be totally out of my budget. It seems like a lot of people have customer service problems with them, but I haven’t experienced any, knock on wood. RTR has definitely cut way down on my fast fashion and special event spending, and continues to be well worth it to me a year later.
I live in New Orleans and do Unlimited and love it. However, I completely understand the frustrations with shipping delays and understand how it wouldn’t work for women who aren’t in major cities. I agree with another poster – if you can get two black bags (purchase something and get a spot to open up, and then you can get a new bag is one way to do it) going, you can get more rotations of clothes. I do wish the shipping timing was quicker. Before RTR opened the TX facility, all of our shipments were sent to New York and some of the UPS boxes around town magically overnighted it, so turn around was great! Back on the two day shipping now that they have the TX facility.
Okay ladies…I have to ask…have you ever received something and couldn’t handle…the smell of it? I know I sound crazy but I have serious allergies and a really intense sense of smell and some scents…not necessarily body odor or dirt per se…set me off on the migraine train. I am that person who has to wash everything I buy before I wear it and I would imagine these clothes are all dry cleaned…but what if not a dry clean item? And yes I know I’m atypical.
Not atypical – i wonder the same thing! It’s been holding me back from trying RTR.
I find That the clothes have a typical “dry cleaner” smell, since everything has been dry cleaned and then encased in plastic before being shipped. I’m pretty sensitive to scent and it’s never bothered me.
I cancelled my subscription because EVERYTHING showed up smelly. It all had the same, very distinctive smell (didn’t smell like a dry cleaner to me). My husband noticed it too.
Do have to agree with this… these a very distinct RTR smell to the clothes a lot of the time… kinda like cigarette smoke that’s been tried to be covered up?
Most of the time it isn’t enough to bother me but a few times, it’s been unbearable.
I actually really enjoyed my RTR unlimited, not everything fit, but living in the Amtrak corridor it was pretty much next day arrivals. Then they opened their new distribution center in TX – totally understand why they did – they need to serve the rest of the country, not just the NE, but the delays and uncertainty. Trying to determine if it would be there before I traveled or if I should send to the hotel at my conference destination. It became too much.
I was an Update subscriber but cancelled due to poor quality. The clothes always looked extremely worn (and in a few cases, even showed up with ripped seams or buttons missing). Also, the clothes were smelly. Not like they hadn’t been washed smelly, but still, smelly.
I have been an Unlimited subscriber for almost 3 years and LOVE it. I live in a major city, so that does mean turnaround time is fast–2-3 days–and I work in a business/creative formal environment, both of which are key for the best experience and make it worth the money. It’s true, sometimes the things I want are not available, but that’s why I have a very long list of hearted items, divided into “Summer Work” “Winter Work” “Weekend” “Weddings & Parties”, etc. so that I always have options I like that are available. I also find that I spend a lot less on clothing because I have RTR. I’m less motivated to buy new things for each season, because I know I can supplement and try new trends with RTR. Definitely not for everyone, but it’s been a really great addition to my life.
I live on the east coast in a major city and generally got deliveries in 2 days. I ultimately cancelled my subscription because nothing I wanted was ever in stock.
I live in NoVa, work in DC, and did RTR Unlimited for about six months last year. I cancelled because of the shipment time issues as well, so YMMV even in a big city (I don’t live or work close enough to a WeWork for that return option to be practical for me, unfortunately).
My biggest complaint was that there are no length measurements on dresses. “Hits at knee” is a useless metric… the shoulder-to-knee distance on someone who’s 5’1″ is entirely different than on someone (*cough*) who is 5’10”. I returned about 2/3 of the dresses I ordered without wearing them, because they were shorter than I anticipated even after browsing photos and reviews.
However, they did have some spectacular dresses, and I found a few items (like a killer Jill Sander sweater!) that I never wanted to send back. I think that if you can afford the cost, it’s worth at least trying for a few months to check out designers/labels that you might otherwise not have in rotation.
I’ve used Unlimited twice, for about a year each time with 5-6 months in-between. I love the concept and, since they just opened a facility about 25 miles away, found that my clothes were coming super fast – I could return on Monday and have something new by Wednesday or Thursday. that said, I found that it wasn’t really helping me curb my spending so I cancelled just last week. It’s fun, but not $170/month fun for my every day life.
I have used Rent the Runway unlimited for over three years, and I am obsessed with the service. I joke that I should be their lobbyist if they ever need one! I have urged at least 5 or 6 women to this service as well, and everyone at my office knowsI use it, even the men. People find it fascinating that I rent the bulk of my wardrobe.
However,I live and work smack in the middle of DC, which is why it works so well for me. I agree with others that not living not on the East Coast could really impact delivery service. As a former Montanan as well, I can’t imagine using it in a more rural setting as well as the turnaround would be atrocious. Maybe for a special event, but not unlimited. However, for those of us in a major metropolitan area, the WeWork drop off situation has completely changed the game.
I track my RTR usage meticulously and I get about 12-15 wears of RTR pieces a month, which covers me for my professional and personal obligations. If I time it right and use the WeWork drop off, I can get a new item almost every business day. Granted some items don’t fit well, but I also keep a spreadsheet of my faves and their fit notes so I can start to figure out my sizes with favorite brands. As a bonus, RTR curbs my addiction to shopping SO MUCH. The $200 I spend a month is about the same I would spent for one new dress, and I probably would buy at least a new dress a month. I get so much more out of my RTR subscription, and I feel like it’s ecologically friendly as well since I am not supporting fast fashion.
Unfortunately, I have received several dresses with stains on them over the past few weeks, and always with dresses that have been in rotation for longer periods of time. It was clear that RTR attempted to get the stain out, but under harsh fluorescent lights in an office, the stain lit up light a neon sign. I took the time to point this out to RTR and suggested they remove the older items from their inventory.
Anyways, clearly I love RTR Unlimited and would urge anyone in a major city to give it a shot.
I used RTR Update during the last three months of my pregnancy and it was a lifesaver. Not only do they have maternity items (which look like maternity items), but they had a selection of regular clothes that would accommodate my girth (hello, shirt dresses). It was worth the $89 per month, not to have that stuff cluttering my closet once the baby arrived. I will say, I would just rent the same couple of items on repeat, once I found ones that worked well.
i had a similar experience in a mid-sized city in northern CA. I actually really enjoyed all the clothes i picked, BUT my items were being shipped to/from the west coast and the turnaround time ate too much into my month.
EDIT: shipments were coming from the east coast and transit to/from me added a lot of time to the month. it didn’t seem like they had a west coast distro at the time, but maybe the new TX center others have talked about would change that?
I use RTR Update and love it. Reasons it works for me are as follows:
1) I hate, hate shopping. Instead of bopping from website to website, I can just pick all my clothes from the app.
2) I’m tall (5’11”) and have a difficult time finding clothes that fit me. In my experience, designer brands tend to fit me better, especially in the sleeves. However, I’d quickly go broke buying them. This way, I can rent and then buy them at a discount if I want. I always read the comments very carefully and look for reviewers who are a similar height/weight to get an idea of what fits and what doesn’t
3) I have dozens of items that I’ve bought to wear for one occasion or another and now sit unused in my closet.
I’m in Detroit and have never had an issue with shipping time or customer service.
I’ve used Rent the Runway Unlimited for about 2 years now. I attend many work holiday parties and wanted an economical way to have work appropriate holiday wear. I continued my subscription through my pregnancy and now 9 months postpartum. Using it as my maternity wardrobe I was able to buy a very few true maternity pieces. I mostly sized up and wore stretchy styles. I would highly recommend for anyone to consider as their maternity wardrobe. I’ve had a few issues but have found them to be resolved pretty quickly with customer service. I’ve even been able to rent an extra 5th piece if something was unsatisfactory. Over the summer I considered cancelling my membership bc they were only adding what I would consider to be weekend/party clothes but recently there has been a significant uptick in work appropriate clothes. I live in Shreveport, LA so my no means a large town and never had an issue with delivery. Since they’ve added the TX distribution center my deliveries are even quicker (2 days or less). RTRs CEO has sent members several emails recently apologizing for poor customer service. It seems that they grew quicker than they were able to expand their operations. Seems to have improved recently. I will say I try to only rent from newly added styles bc they tend to keep items in the rotation longer than they should.
I subscribed last year because I had 3 weddings in 3 weeks plus some other events. I live in Houston and was also disappointed with the turnaround time for the shipments. There was also a rather limited selection of formal dresses that could be added to Unlimited, so I ended up having to pay for a single rental for the black tie wedding, which made the Unlimited price only slightly cheaper than paying for the individual rentals (even with the first time discount).
Michelle Loprieno says:
I have had very good experiences with Seattle based Armoire!!
I no longer buy nice sweaters. I rent them and let someone else handle properly washing them!!!
I’d like to throw out another plug for Armoire.
I am currently testing both RTR Unlimited and Armoire. Armoire is less sophisticated (e.g., user interface, the closet function feels limiting, the selection is smaller, they do not have the same designer brands, and I wish they had an app), but it is plainly and simply more customer-centric and a better overall experience. Full disclosure, I live in Settle so my shipments arrive pretty quickly. But I’ve been trying to get hold of RTR for nearly a week because they did not send me the right packaging to return half my order, and I cannot get hold of someone or manage to hear back. Meanwhile, I’ve rotated through 2-3 shipments (each with 1-2 pieces) with Armoire.
It’s made getting dressed each morning more simple and fun, and paired with basics in my own wardrobe (I would second that you should have a black and white cami), I somehow feel more confident when I go to work than in my own clothes.
Armoire only shows you so many options at a time, which is a pain, but it starts to learn your taste. You should “heart” everything you like because those are categorized separately and you can always see if they are available (no matter what else you are being shown). I share this because it’s a tip someone passed along to me and it has made a world of difference in my experience.
Armoire is probably 1/10th the size of RTR, and I think as they grow, they will continue to put out a better product. And they hired a new head of product this week!