About two months ago I found myself panicking over my cousin’s wedding. I needed something that was flattering and stylish, but within my budget. Most of all, I didn’t want another dress I would only wear once and then never wear again! A lovely ice blue lace dress was calling my name—but the retail price was $400 and there was no way I could pay that. Luckily, I found out that I could rent the dress for $95 on Rent the Runway!

What is Rent the Runway?

At Rent the Runway I can rent a designer dress for more than 75% less than retail price. The New York Times has labeled Rent the Runway as “A Netflix Model for Haute Couture.” Established in 2009, Rent the Runway is an online site which has established its place in the retail industry as a way for the “modern woman with an average salary” to wear a designer gown! In this economy, most of us cannot afford a designer dress for that special wedding or glitzy party. Renting a dress (especially if you know you’ll only wear it once) is a wise choice.

How does Rent the Runway work?

It’s simple. All you do it log on to their website and pick from their stock of dresses, which rotates every three months. You’ll be able to pick two sizes (at no additional cost to you). So for the dress I was in love with, I ordered my usual size and one size up. Then you’ll reserve the dress (for four or eight days—depending on how long you need it). After the event, you’ll return the dress in the pre-paid shipping envelope. They’ll dry clean the dress, and a $5 insurance charge will cover minor mishaps the dress might incur.

Why is Rent the Runway a great idea?

Get couture without the cost: Rent the Runway features 250+ designer dresses that you can afford. Check out Vera Wang’s Noir Daffodil Gown, $1995 retail, available in sizes 0-12 and the rental fee is only $80-$100. Unless you’re a millionaire, the possibility of wearing a dress of this caliber is next to impossible, so take advantage of the low rental prices to get a designer look!

Find plus sizes: Rent the Runway also features a large variety of plus-size designer dresses for such a reasonable price. Check out this Kay Unger dress: it retails for $600, but rents for only $60! Available in sizes 14W-22w.

You’ll have your own stylist: Rent the Runway also allows you to work with a stylist online to find the perfect dress for your body and occasion. The stylists are available by email; they’ve personally tried on the dresses so they can really work with you to find the style that’s best for you.

One-stop shop: Each dress is featured with available accessories that are selected specifically for the dress. When you select your dress, scroll to the bottom of the page to see what accessories the stylists have selected to complete the full look.

5 Tips for shopping with Rent the Runway

1. Have a backup plan: I had a little black dress as a backup to my rental dress just in case! Rent the Runway will let you rent an additional dress for $32.50 (in case you’re not sure of the style and fit of your first choice).

2. Know when to reserve the dress: It’s best to reserve the dress within two months of your event. The sooner you reserve the dress, the greater likelihood the dress is in stock on the date you need it. Also, you have a greater variety of sizes to choose from.

3. Allow time for delivery: The rental time is four to eight days. Make sure to receive the dress one to two days before your event. This will allow additional time if the dress has been damaged, does not arrive in a timely manner, or if the dress does not fit!

4. Take advantage of accessories: Rent the Runway has an extensive selection of accessories which compliment their designer dresses. Take advantage of their unlimited collection. It features a three-item selection, unlimited exchanges, and free shipping both ways for a reasonable $49 per month.

5. Sign up for emails: As a new customer, I received a $25 credit towards my first order and have continued to receive additional discount offers through email about once a week. Signing up for their email notifications has seriously paid off!