This week marks one year since I started using Rent the Runway Unlimited. The $159/month service, which allows me to rent four pieces at a time for as long as I want, has brought me a lot of joy: I basically eliminated shopping for clothes (shoes are another story). I didn’t purchase a single coat, even through New York’s brutal winter. I became best friends with my UPS guy. I felt a ton of freedom in no longer having to panic about having “nothing to wear” before a big vacation, party, or event.
However, I have also discovered the unique pain of walking down the street, confident in a newly rented dress, only to be demoted to 46% That Bitch because there are approximately five other women in the same outfit. Is there anything inherently wrong with matching? No! Does it poke a hole in my illusion of finally having unique taste and personal style? Yes!
That’s why I, and fellow ELLE.com RTR subscribers, have come up with a list of hacks to maximize your subscription and avoid looking like a clone.
Search by “New Arrivals” first.
Every Saturday, Rent the Runway drops new items in its collection—a mix of seasonal clothing as well as accessories. I suggest allowing notifications from RTR on your phone so that you get the pop-up to search as soon as it opens up. Often times, all four of my items will come from New Arrivals that week. You’ll not only have fresher designs people haven’t checked out yet, but also will typically get clothes that still have the tags on, untouched.
Choose items that don’t have a ton of reviews.
Same principle as above, even if an item isn’t one of the “new” ones, if you check it out and it doesn’t have hundreds of photos of women wearing the piece and thousands of reviews, it’s probably a piece that hasn’t been worn a ton.
Lean into picking separates.
I don’t own a lot of dresses and jumpsuits, and RTR was a great, easy way to experiment with wearing things I would’ve never bought. That said, one-pieces are usually the most popular and likely to be similarly styled by other people. Opting instead for tops, pants, skirts, etc. to mix in with your own clothes and accessories allows you more possibilities (and less chances to get your outfit IDed as another RTR item). The other day ELLE’s Beauty Director Katie Becker was wearing this orange knitted, double slit skirt I immediately fell in love with. When she told me it was RTR, I—someone who has combed through thousands of RTR pages—was totally surprised.
You can also choose to wear the separates together for a totally different combination someone else is less likely to think of. I did that with a pink John + Jenn coat and pants from MiH here:
Go for riskier pieces.
I’ll test out bright, crazy colors, complicated, tie-up designs, asymmetrical gowns, maxi dresses with wild patterns, and tops with wild ruffled sleeves all because I can. ELLE’s Social Media Editor Ariana Yaptangco does the same thing. “I think the greatest function RTR has for me is being able to wear things that I would never actually buy,” she tells me. “I tend to go for the less safe options and choose interesting and unexpected designs (that are usually less popular rentals).” Case in point: her Self Portrait black and white lace-trimmed dress with unique sleeves:
Hold on to items for longer.
ELLE.com’s Style Director Nikki Ogunnaike jokingly mentioned that her tip is to “just hold on to things so no one else can get it,” but she makes a smart point! One of my favorite times to use RTR is during the winter, when I would hold on to incredible coats (some with a retail value of well over $2,000) for weeks, or even a whole month, at a time. Coats are expensive, so it saved me a ton of money to not have to buy any all season, and allowed me to experiment with more out-there designs (faux fur! Color blocking! Giant puffers!) instead of my usual, safe, boring black coats.
Favor solid-colored clothing.
Patterns are wonderful but really memorable (I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen the same yellow floral dress on the subway). If you really want to pass off an RTR piece as your own, the easiest way is to go for something that’s nondescript and could’ve been from any designer. I also tend to like solid-colored items because they’re easy to style. Here’s a red-orange dress from Mara Hoffman as worn by ELLE.com contributor Janell Hickman. Would you guess it’s from RTR? Nope!
Click “More from this Designer”
If you scroll to the bottom of every item on the app, you’ll see a tab that says “More from this Designer.” Do not ignore this option! It will show you pieces that never even come up on the algorithm. RTR is wonderful for discovering and falling in love with brands you haven’t tried before, and searching this way will get you looking at pieces you’re already bound to like because you loved something from the brand before.