High fashion at a fraction of the cost

December 29, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Guys have been doing it for years, now women are getting into the game, too. Ladies can now rent formal wear and the all-important accessories for New Year's or other special occasions. It is an idea that many wonder what took so long.

Jill Shira needs an evening gown for a formal in New York and Jaihonna German says she can save Jill tons of money.

"When we think about today's economy, it's tough out there. So why spend the money on a one-time event," Jaihonna said.

That is why she opened a new rental shop on College Avenue in Oakland called "Dress, Luxury Attire on Loan." Dresses that would sell for up to $5,000 are available for rent for $60 to $400.

Rentals have been available online for a few years, but this may be the only store in the Bay Area where you can rent an evening gown.

"It's great because you don't sink all that money into it and never wear it again or feel like what if some of the people who are there saw it the first time," Jill said.

"I get customers who walk in, men and women and they're like, 'Oh my gosh, I can rent a gown, rent a dress,'" Jaihonna said.

Jennifer Hudson popularized the concept of renting for a formal in the movie version of "Sex and the City." The scene was based loosely on websites like Avelle which rent handbags, watches and other accessories.

Avelle aims to attract budget-conscious consumers with discriminating taste.

"So this gives them a guilt-free way to have access to the product without the cost, hassle and husband factor of buying everything," Avelle CEO Michael Smith said.

Rental prices on Avelle are roughly 5 percent of the retail price and they are higher if the item is in hot demand. Similar websites include "Rent the Runway" or "Wear it Today, Gone Tomorrow."

"So we believe this is the way of the future. It's been going on for decades and we think it's actually accelerating. And this is just another stair step increase in usage and acceptance of borrowing and renting," Smith said.

And for shoppers like Jill, renting is a way to stay on budget.

"I think it is kind of a new economy concept. Not so much excess and trying to be more, you know, conscious about money and so on," she said.


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