Why & How to Rent Prom & Formal Dresses

Part of the fun of special events like prom is getting dressed up! You get to wear a beautiful outfit, have fun and take photos… but it’s unfortunately a sad tale for the clothes. Typically a formal dress or outfit is purchased, has one (maybe two if you’re lucky) special nights out, and then hangs in a closet for years collecting dust until it’s eventually decluttered.

Formal wear is not only expensive but also requires more resources, labour, and energy to manufacture than your average garment, which makes the fact that most are only worn once even more tragic.

However, one amazing solution is clothing rentals!

Here’s 4 reasons why renting dresses and outfits for special events, proms, parties, graduations, or weddings (you can even rent wedding dresses!) is so much better than buying them…

And before we jump into it, a huge thank you to Kelley for modelling these gorgeous dresses, rented from The Fitzroy (pink ballgown), Beyond the Runway (sequin gown), and our local Dress Library (short green dress) 💚

Renting is More Sustainable

This is a huge one.

It doesn’t sound glamorous, but most formal dresses are essentially a lot of plastic. Clothing, and especially synthetic dresses, are incredibly unsustainable – there’s not only all the petroleum and other resources they require, but also all the energy and labour to make them (possibly by under-paid and over-worked garment workers). On top of that there’s all the waste both from the manufacturing process as well as when people are done with them.

With rentals however, 1 dress can be shared by many people – saving all the plastic, energy, pollution, and labour of producing 10x (or more) new dresses!

You Can Save Money (sometimes a lot)

Formalwear is expensive! Justly so though – it does take a lot of work to make, but it’s also a pretty penny to pay for something that only gets worn once.

Prom dresses typically range from $100 – $600 with some even costing over $1000! Rentals are much more budget friendly.

For reference, the three dresses we rented for this shoot cost:

  • Green fit & flare dress – regular price $180, rents for $45
  • Sequin mermaid gown – regular price $267, rents for $60
  • Blush pink ballgown – regular price $850, rents for $125

That’s a savings of $135 to $735!

Get a Statement, Designer, or Dream Dress

Because formal dresses can be so expensive there is often pressure to get something that is versatile and can be worn more than once. While it’s of course a good thing to get more wear from a garment, it can also mean skipping over your “dream dress” in favour of something more practical.

With a rental you can go for that extravagant, statement, or showstopping dress without the worry or pressure of “where will I wear this again?“.

If you like designer clothing, it’s also a way to wear a beautiful designer dress for a fraction of the retail price.

No Cleaning or Storage Required

On top of the price of your formal outfit there are usually also dry-cleaning costs, plus the hassle of taking it to the cleaners – with rentals, most companies take care of the cleaning for you! After your event you just return the garment.

Renting also means that you don’t need to find space to store your dress – especially great if you’re wanting a ballgown style which can sometimes take up half a closet just on their own.

How Does it Work?

Renting a dress or formal outfit is pretty simple, you either go in to try them on and reserve for a few days around your event, or order a dress to be shipped for your event. You wear it, have a blast, and after the celebration drop it off or ship it back in a pre-paid shipping box, or garment bag.

If you have more questions about how it works I have a video and Q&A all about renting clothes!

What about Fit?

This is an understandable concern with rentals and here are some ways to ensure a great fit:

Look for Local

Finding a place you can rent locally means you can try outfits on beforehand to find the perfect fit and style. Many rental services have showrooms and more and more small, local rental businesses seem to be opening up!

We got the green dress pictured from a lovely woman who runs The Dress Library in my hometown, Edmonton. She has a variety of formal to more casual dresses (include some vintage and costume pieces) for different events and styles. Another perk is that local rentals can also be even more affordable!

If you happen to be in Toronto, The Fitzroy also has a local showroom and an unbelievable selection of gowns and dresses.

Renting a dress locally not only means you can make sure everything fits and looks right beforehand but you also don’t have to worry about the shipping.

Go With Great Service

If you’re having a formal dress shipped, being able to ask a lot of questions is incredibly helpful!

The Fitzroy, where we got the pink ballgown from, has a both store in Toronto and ships across Canada. They not only have hundreds of formal dresses to choose from (available in sizes 0-18) but also amazing customer service! If you can’t go in to pick out a dress, you can book a free virtual appointment with one of their stylists; you can see the dresses and they provide suggestions based on your style and body type, and also can check the measurements to help with fit. Plus they are available 24/7 to answer any questions you might have!

After we picked out a dress we liked, they were very helpful about the fit and checked Kelley’s measurements with the dress. Based on their recommendation we actually ended up sizing down and I’m so glad for their feedback as it fit beautifully!

So my biggest tip when ordering a special event dress is: don’t be afraid to ask questions about the dress and fit, and if you’re unsure of what style, they’re happy to help! Get as much info as you need, and definitely go with a company who has good communication and is helpful with answering your questions.

Get More Than One

While most special event rentals rent one item short-term, getting a clothing rental subscription is another option. It gives you multiple items on a monthly basis with some even offering swaps during the month. Many subscription services also carry formal dresses so it could be a great way to pick out a few pieces to see what works best.

For example Beyond the Runway, where we got the sequin gown from, does both a one-time event rental starting at $60, and a monthly subscription starting at $99. Their monthly subscription allows you to rent 4 items and swap items once during the month if you chose.

With a subscription you could take time and try different options to find your perfect outfit as well as try out some other pieces in your wardrobe.

(if you’re interested in trying Beyond the Runway’s subscription, they gave me the promo code BTR621KXN which you can use for 50% you first month 🙂 )

Overall, renting formal dresses and special event clothing just makes sense!

I’ve had a great experience every time I’ve rented pieces and love that you can wear beautiful garments for a more affordable price, without the extra commitment, and also reduce the environmental impact.

If you’re interested in learning more about clothing rental you can check out my video and I also have a post of 10 dress rental services including places in Canada, the US, and Europe.


4 Responses

  1. rachel
    | Reply

    So great to learn about the Fitzroy!! I have been trying to find a sustainable wedding dress, and they have so many gorgeous options!

    • Verena Erin
      | Reply

      They really do! I SO wish they had been around when I got married!

  2. The Fitzroy
    | Reply

    Thank you so much for including us Erin!! What a great article. You really highlighted all the benefits so perfectly! And Kelley looked stunning!! XO

  3. Jenna
    | Reply

    That navy dress is so pretty! I think renting is an awesome option because you can find unique pieces too. If you live in a smaller area without a lot of dress shops it can be hard to find a unique dress that others won’t be wearing.
    Jenna ♥
    Stay in touch? Life of an Earth Muffin

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