Review: Rent the Runway

This is not a sponsored post. These are my actual opinions. Seriously, RTR is basically getting free advertising here.

The Concept

love Rent The Runway. I think it is a brilliant concept. It is exactly as it sounds: you rent designer dresses for a few days for a small fee. We’re talking formal dresses that cost hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars to purchase, dresses the average woman would never be able to afford to buy. These designs are accessible because they rent for a little as $30.

The Problem

Being in your 20s & 30s means you go to A LOT of weddings. I also attend several charity banquets and balls each year since my husband works for a non-profit organization. This means that I’m attending as many as 6 or 7 events each year. In the era of Facebook, it’s hard to recycle dresses. Gone are the days when you could by one dress and wear it to every formal event (I mean, you technically still could, but it is embarrassing for some people to be seen wearing the same thing in every photo on Facebook). But what normal woman can afford to buy a new dress for every event? You’re either stuck with the cheap selections ($50 or less) that are not made well (they’re thin so you have to figure out how to wear them without showing off your undergarments, or they just don’t fit in a flattering way), or spending $200+ on a dress you’ll only wear once or maybe once every couple of years.

My Experience

Over the last two years, I have rented 6 dresses form RTR and purchased 1. I’ve had more than 6 events, but not all of them were local and if there’s one downside to RTR, it’s that renting doesn’t work well for out of town trips.

I decided to become a PRO member right away because it pays for itself in the savings you get. The perks to PRO are: free shipping, free insurance, discounts, and a free birthday dress. Shipping adds up and insurance is a really good idea because if you rip or stain a dress you can’t afford to buy, it’s a little hard to pay for the damage out of pocket. You’re essentially paying ahead for  the birthday dress and keeping all the other perks.

The best part of RTR is that there is very little work on your part. It arrives at your door a day or two before your event, you wear it, then you pack it up in the same garment bag it arrived in and drop it at a UPS box, no charge to you. RTR pays for the shipping and handles the dry cleaning.

Now the obvious risk to renting is that you don’t get to try the dress on beforehand. And trust me, when I shop at the mall I never buy something without trying it on. 9 times out of 10, I hate the way it looks once it’s on my body or it doesn’t fit because mass produced garments are not always true to the size on the label. RTR’s solution to this is to send you a free back up size with your dress. So you choose the size you think will fit and a backup size just in case.

So far, I have not had any issues with dresses not fitting. I credit this to the high quality of the dresses. These are not $30 Forever 21 dresses. These are expensive, well made designer pieces and it shows. They are made true-to-size, you can tell the material is expensive, the dresses are usually lined and very comfortable to wear. I’ve seen occasionally reviews on the website of dresses not fitting the way the consumer expected. I haven’t personally had this issue and as far as I can tell, RTR customer service is great at handling resolutions and helping you find an alternative in a timely manner.

I love that reviews are included with each dress. If the dress has been available for awhile, you can look at pictures and see what the dress actually looks like on a woman who is the same size as you. I’m currently a size 12-14, which is right on the line between regular and plus sizes. The dress isn’t going to look the same on me as it does a size 2 model in the picture. If the dress comes in plus sizes, they do often include a plus-size model in their pictures, but being right on the line means frequently it’s the largest size available and there’s no model example. This is where review pictures really come in handle.

The Dresses

So here are the specific dresses I’ve rented and worn so far.

The Ella Dress & The Like Candy Dress by ML Monique Lhuillier

Retail: $498

Rents for: $30

Event: Weddings 2015

I accessorized the Ella Dress with a wide black belt, black sandals, a black clutch and silver jewelry. This dress was so comfortable and flattering that I basically rented it twice, the second time renting the Like Candy dress which is essentially the same dress but in plum. I accessorized the Like Candy dress with gold jewelry and sandals. Teal and plum were both popular colors in 2015 and I felt on trend in these beautiful lace dresses. Plus I felt covered, which helped me not feel self-conscience about my weight gain.

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The Hanging Beads Dress by Parker

Retail: $462

Rents for: $65

Event: 28th Birthday!

This was my free birthday dress in 2015! I didn’t have an event so I wore it for a girls night out for my birthday. It was really beautiful with a lot of detail in the beading and it was also really heavy! I went for a more expensive rental since I was getting it for so little.

So that was 2015. At the end of the season, RTR actually sells most of their dresses for a fraction of retail (because they’re used) and I purchased this dress in 2016:

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The Irina Dress by Slate & Willow

Retail: $300

Purchase price: $55

This dress is similar to the dresses I rented for weddings in 2015 so I thought, why not just buy it since it’s selling for only slightly more than the rental fee? I received it and it still looks new, but they only had size 12 left and it is a little small. I had thought it would be a good investment for Fall weddings, but instead I’m saving it for when I lose weight. It’ll be a good celebratory wear when I drop the first dress size. RTR always rents out the latest fashions, but many of these dresses are pretty timeless. If you loved a dress you rented, chances are you could get the opportunity to purchase it and add it to your collection permanently. Another cool RTR perk.

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The Keep Them Guessing Dress by Yoana Baraschi

Retail: $358

Rents for: $30

Event: Fall Wedding 2016

This dress stayed on trend for being comfortable, flattering, and well-made. I wore it with black tights and boots.

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The Annabelle Dress by Marchesa Notte

Retail: $745

Rents for: $30

Event: Fall Wedding 2016

The detail on this dress is gorgeous. The black beaded flowers, the cream colored lace. This is a beautiful dress. I paired it with black leggings, boots, and a black shawl because I felt like it wasn’t as flattering as other dresses in a size 14. I think it would look better on it’s own with some cute pumps. This was a popular dress in 2016, so I wasn’t terribly surprised to find some signs of wear on this rental. The lining had a pretty large stain (I hope it was dry cleaned and not rushed out without a proper cleaning) and a tear in the lace. I suppose this was the worst experience I’ve had to date with RTR, but I didn’t feel that my event was ruined by it…I only felt it wasn’t quite as fantastic as my usual experiences. It’s still a beautiful dress for a very affordable rental fee.

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The Golden Flower Dress by Badgley Mischka

Retail: $430

Rents for: $50

Event: Charity Gala

I briefly considered wearing a floor length gown for this black-tie optional gala, but had a change of heart and felt that the bold gold color and beading of this dress would make up for the length as far as fanciness goes. I paired it with some killer heals and clutch, with simply jewelry since the dress was so bold. Comfortable and flattering as always.

Other Observations

So I obviously love Rent the Runway.

You may have noticed a trend in the dress rentals. They’re all synched at the ribs with an outward a-line-esque skirt that is mid-thigh to knee-length. I find this to be the style that is most flattering on my body. Not so long ago, I was a size 4-6, and if I was still that size I’d probably be a little more adventurous, but these days I just want to cover up all the parts of myself I’m not overly fond of. I love women who can embrace their body at any size, and size 14 is healthy for many women. But my weight gain was the result of 5+ years of sitting at a desk all day and eating very poorly. Going up 5 dress sizes in 5 years was a hit to my self-confidence. That’s why I shop for the shapes and styles that I think flatter my body best. I feel more confident when I’m not self-conscience about a less-than-flattering dress. I am working hard to adopt a healthier lifestyle, and should that result in a smaller dress side and more confidence I’m looking forward to the choices that opens up on RTR.

Golden Globes 2017

As always, the Globes seem to be the one fashion event that I consistently cover.

There was a lot of safe and boring this year, but an equal amount of edgy and risky (with a surprising amount of “misses”). There were also a few that got just the right balance or were so classically elegant you couldn’t complain.

This year’s trends included:

“Bling” Detail

Yellow

Silver/Metallics

Ruffles/Fringe

Bows

Floral (Details and themes, not patterns)

My favorites looks: Janelle Monae, Jessica Biel, Kristen Bell, Mandy Moore, Winona Ryder. Rachel Evan Wood, and Ryan Gosling (cuz, Ryan Gosling…)

Other Wins: Thandie Newton, Sofia Vergara, Huffman, Zazie Beets, Emily Ratajkowski, Lily Collins

Misses: Blake Lively, Jessica Chastain (she’s brilliant and beautiful and it was a brace choice but ultimately a miss I think…), Kerry Washington, Anna Kendrick (this dress was almost perfect but your boobs looked so weird!), Heidi Klum (literally looks like you let a kindergarten make your dress), Carrie Underwood, Nicole Kidman…and honestly…so many more.

Lastly, a quick shout out to Gal Gadot and Natalie Portman for rocking baby bumps, and to Chrissy Metz for showing us that beautiful isn’t exclusive to a size 2.

And of course the real winners, as always, were the Stranger Things kids.

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Year of the Suit

Oh Barney Stinson would be so pleased!

It is the year of the pant suit, or at least it’s Evan Rachel Wood’s year of the pant suit. In a post-Golden Globes interview, Wood explained that she’d decided to ditch dresses this awards season and if this collage of looks is any indication, she actually has held to this goal.

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“I decided early in the year not to wear any dresses to awards shows to be a gentle reminder to young girls and women that you’re not required one if you don’t want to, to really be yourself and that your worth is more than the dresses that you wear,” she said.

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While her reasons are noble, her looks are also just plain stunning. Seriously, these outfits are flawless. I’ve always loved a feminine take on the menswear (see this Angelina Jolie look), and Wood’s Golden Globes look was amazing, but seeing all the iterations of jumpsuits, pant suits, and beyond has erased any doubts—this can be an elegant, classy, and gorgeous look.

 

 

7 Tips for Having Style on a Budget: Because honestly, who has $300 to spend on shorts?

Sometimes when I read fashion magazines or blogs I blurt out things like “yeah but I’m not spending $500 on a pair of shoes!” The average woman in the U.S. is not in the income bracket where high fashion or brand shopping is practical. Does this mean that you can’t love fashion or look good? Absolutely not! Some of the most beautiful and put-together women I know dress on a budget and still look amazing.

And when I say ‘dress on a budget’ I mean that they know how to get creative. From thrift stores to sewing, having style is about knowing how to spot a steal, and when necessary: fake it. Unless you are working in the fashion industry there is really no reason to worry about labels.

So what are our tips for style on a budget?

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1. Invest in Basics

Trends come and go. For someone on a budget who is not able to spend hundreds of dollars on clothes every year getting new trendy statement pieces, it’s important to know what to splurge on and when to pass. Investing in basics is a crucial foundation for any wardrobe. For some, your basics will be as little as 6-8 pieces, for others a capsule wardrobe of basics might be more like 30 pieces. The key, though, is neutral colors and timeless silhouettes.

You want the timeless pieces to be higher quality so they will last. These are things you will wear for years and build outfits around. Basics won’t be out of style in 6 months. A dark wash jean, black dress shoes, a pair of tan slacks, a brown belt—the things you can wear over and over. This is where you want to spend the most time and invest a big chunk of your budget.

A great trick to getting nice basic pieces on a budget is buying them at the end of their season for the next year. Often that little black dress you loved in the fall is dirt cheap by spring—if it’s a classic silhouette snag it off the clearance rack for next year.

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2. Sew

There’s no need for sewing patterns or expertise. Thrift store finds or last years trends can be repurposed. All you need is some basic sewing skills. Consider taking a class at your local fabric store and investing in a gently used sewing machine (try garage sales or Ebay).

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3. Discount Stores

TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and similar discount stores are hit and miss. If you have the patience to sort through the clutter or to pop in every so often to see if you can catch a new shipment, chances are you will walk out with some great finds.

4. Don’t Brand Shop

Sometimes the name isn’t worth the price. Don’t by a purse just because it has a big designer name visable for all to see. You can find a bag just as cute with no visable name and few will notice the difference.

5. Be vague. 

OR JUST OWN IT!

Sometimes, you buy something cheap from a store that has no business selling clothes. Despite the weird cut or cheap material, you like it and find that it looks great on you. But when you rock the cheap bulk store top (whether as is or slightly altered) and someone compliments you…you’re too ashamed to answer the question “Where did you get that?”

Honey—just be vague. “Oh, I don’t remember” or “I’m not sure it was a gift” are PERFECTLY acceptable answers. If you’re super paranoid…cut the tags! NO ONE will be able to identity the brand unless they own the same item.

On the other hand, you could just decide on a NO SHAME policy. You spent less AND you look fabulous. Who gives a @#$% about the brand names anyway? Strangers don’t matter and if your friends make you feel bad for the brand you’re wearing—you might need new friends.

6. Hand-Me-Downs

Some of the most amazing and unique things that I own were handed down to me by my grandmother. Keep that stuff! It’ll come back around and you’ll have pieces that literally no one else has. If you’re young and can get  hand me downs from older friends, do it! Repurpose, and find ways to make those FREE items fabulous again!

7. Be Confident

Confidence is the best accessory. People can see if you feel insecure in your clothes, but if you look comfortable and like you’re enjoying getting dressed in the morning—they’ll envy you regardless of what you’re wearing.

xoxo Noelle

 

Drugstore Favorites

Ever since earning my esthetician license 8 years ago, I’ve been a little bit of a makeup snob. I learned a lot about how to care for skin and apply makeup, but my biggest take away was the difference between drug store, department store, and salon grade products. And trust me, there’s a difference in the quality of the ingredients used. However, the reality is, most women don’t have hundreds of dollars in their budget for the expensive brands. It’s a very privileged position to insist your clients prioritize expensive products. Luckily, the revolution of DYI natural skincare and increased awareness of product ingredients has really come along way in the last decade. However, making your own skincare products is one thing, making your own makeup? That’s another thing altogether.

When I got married and became a working mom, I quickly found that my makeup budget was much smaller and the window of time I had to do my makeup in the mornings was smaller as well. As a result, I started to prioritize. Because I have sensitive and problematic skin, I continued to splurge on really good foundation and concealer but lowered my standards on eyeliner, eye shadow, lipstick, etc. because the quality of ingredients in these products is less about your skin and more about the results you get from the product itself. And you can get good results from drugstore products.

Foundation

My favorite foundation has always been Jane Iredale‘s PurePressed Mineral Foundation, but as my skin as aged I’ve found I need more coverage than a pressed foundation can give me. Although foundation is where I choose to splurge, I decided to try the one drugstore foundation that continues to get rave reviews from makeup artists:

Loreal True Match Lumi Foundation

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This is quite possibly the best foundation you can buy at a drugstore as far as coverage goes. I was pretty impressed with how well it blended. While the ingredient list is still drugstore quality, this foundation has a reputation for being one of the only drugstore foundations that won’t irritate your skin so they are obviously doing something right.

Concealer/Powder

My favorite concealer is Bare Minerals Correcting Concealer, but in a pinch I’ll use:

Maybelline’s FIT me! Concealer

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Similar to the Loreal foundation, it’s one of the better drugstore concealers and drugstore concealers are notorious for not really doing their jobs at concealing. To set the face look, I also recommend the FIT me! pressed powder.

Eyes

When it comes to eyeliner, eyeshadow, and mascara—I don’t care as much about the ingredients because these products are not going all over my whole face. They just need to look good. Because of this, I often buy drugstore products for regular use and only occasionally splurge on a Sephora or Ulta buy. I never bother with salon products. That’s not to say that a Naked or Kat Von D pallet isn’t going to give you a pretty quality product that stays put, but if you prime and set or touch up regularly, most drugstore products will do just fine. If you are looking for good brushes or pigmented professional quality eyeshadows that won’t break the bank, check out Morphe Cosmetics.

Mascara

This is going to sound insanebut one of my favorite mascara’s is actually:

Wet N’ Wild MegaLength Mascara

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This stuff is CHEAP, but works better to give me full looking lashes than most of any mascara I’ve tried. Why? Well, because when it comes to lashes it’s not the mascara itself that gives volume and definition so much as the brush style and using a primer or curler. Seriously. I’m a big believer in eyelash primer (my favorite is Clinique’s Lash Building Primer) but brush style is huge too. Megalength has a great brush with tiny bristles that separate the lashes to make them look fuller (think the golden era hollywood beauty secret of separating eyelashes with a needle).

I also like the traditional thick mascara brush (no plastic, no weird gimicky angles) and Cover Girl’s least expensive options (Like their Professional All-In-One) are great. But if you want the best of both worlds, you HAVE to try:

Cover Girl Bombshell Volume by lashblast

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This two-step system has BOTH of my favorite brush styles and it looks FANTASTIC. Today I used a curler, primer, and this two-step mascara and my lashes have never looked better naturally. They are think, full, and voluminous. I highly recommend this mascara.

So ladies, if you can’t afford expensive department store or professional brands, have no fear! There are still options to get the look you want. And remember, makeup is meant to be fun and make you feel good. It’s not obligatory. Your worth does not change if you choose to wear very little or no make-up at all! These days I rarely wear makeup to the office unless I have to meet with a client or spend about 5 minutes on that day look. I save the fun stuff for date nights and special occasions.

xoxo Noelle

Golden Globes 2016

Despite the sporadic-nature of this website, we have consistently covered the Golden Globes runway  each year since we launched and this year was no exception. It was, however, an exceptional year. Seriously. Everyone looked amazing. I cannot recall ever thinking that about any runway. There are always so many “misses” and last year there seemed to be more misses than wins. This year, there are only a couple of dresses that didn’t seem to work (and even those aren’t that terrible) and it was difficult to pick a favorite.

Since there were truly SO MANY amazing dresses this year that I’m just going to share this link with you. This article already does a fantastic job showing you the top looks. Check it out!

Trends this year included:

  • Blush and muted rose tones
  • Entirely fringed or lace dresses
  • Solid colors (often with…)
  • Floral accents and statements
  • Glitz (Sequen) Accents
  • Mustard Yellow
  • Plunged neck lines (often covered in sheer material)
  • High neck lines with quite a few split top halters
  • Roman/Greek inspired silhouettes
  • Simple, straight silhouettes
  • Off-the-back capes and ponchos
  • White
  • Silver and Gold

There were also the usual glamorous & classy gowns in silhouettes that seem to reappear each year usually in black or other single color.

Lady Gaga was surprisingly serious with her classic old hollywood look as was Amy Schumer’s very flattering choice.

Maybe this isn’t “high fashion” of me, but I hated Jane Fonda and Rooney Mara’s dresses. I’m probably wrong about Rooney Mara as she had a very clean high fashion look last night, but I’m never a big fan of dresses that perfectly match one’s skin tone.

Katy Perry’s dress didn’t work for me either, mostly because it didn’t seem to fit quite right. Everyone has been raving about Jennifer Lawrence’s dress and while it wasn’t my personal favorite, it was a very bold and interesting choice. Olivia Palermo was similarly bold with her off-beat short Delpozo dress which almost worked, but again, didn’t seem to fit as well as you’d hope.

Which leads me to by pick for LEAST FAVORITE of the night:

Kate-Hudson

Kate Hudson is a beautiful and very fit woman, which is why this dress is disappointing. It just doesn’t seem to fit in a flattering way smooshing, pinching, and pulling in all the wrong places. I’ve never loved the tube-top band, but this one in particular seems to be missing an inch or two of material.

I’m all for bold and unique choices, but it’s a personal pet peeve when things just don’t fit the person wearing them well.

But again, there wasn’t too much to hate last night. Here are my personal favorites.

Kate Winslet, Leslie Mann, & Rose Huntington Whiteley

I love the colors, the simplicity of the neck lines, and the flowy (but straight) skirts.

Be sure to check out all the amazing looks and get inspired for the winter wedding/charity event season!

—Noelle

Lips to Love

Okay so there is this Maybelline lipstick ad out there (I saw it while watching Tyler Oakley videos) with very bright 80s-esque lip colors. And while I can’t personally pull off these colors, there is one set of lips in this montage that I was like…slow down! I love that.

So I decided after like the 7th run I should try to get a screen-shot and OF COURSE that is when it decides to change…

BUT I DID IT, AND HERE IT IS:

LipFade

THIS. See how it it’s bold inside and then subtley fades out towards the edges. I LOVE THIS. I want to learn about to do this effect ASAP.

Will report back.

xoxo Noelle