I believe that clothing rental services like Rent the Runway will create a massive explosion of creativity and options for everyone.

Fashion matters more to women and it has nothing to do with vanity. I signed up to Rent the Runway‘s new unlimited rental service that allows subscribers to check out 3 pieces of clothing at a time for $139 a month. This might not sound affordable or practical but for the price of a daily latte the average professional woman now has access to designer clothing with price tags upwards of $3,000. As women, we now have access to the world that celebrities and magazines have been selling us our entire lives, a different outfit for every occasion. And aspects of this are very fun. Fashion and design are great. I love those things but this more significant than a frivolous service to rotate clothes in my closet. It represents a fundamental shift in the relationship between fashion and the workplace.

Here’s why– Professional women continue to be subject to a stealth tax on beauty. They are forced to dress up for work. Arguably, this is true for both men and women but is much much much more extreme for women. They are judged on their appearance and that landscape of judgment is much harsher. You can see it in photos of Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg together. In my opinion, she’s successful enough to wear whatever the hell she wants, but in every photo, she’s in a dress and he’s in a gray t-shirt. He could’ve just rolled out of bed five minutes earlier. She’s wearing makeup. Her hair is done.

“[Hillary Clinton] had to do everything that I had to do, except, like Ginger Rogers, backwards in heels… she had to wake up earlier than I did because she had to get her hair done. She had to, you know, handle all the expectations that were placed on her.”
—President Barack Obama

These “expectations” affect women in all aspects of their lives. There’s no opting out. Women who don’t wear makeup are scored as less organized, less competent, less all of these things. A woman cannot just not wear makeup and be successful. If we have to pay this tax, let’s make the system easier.

True, Rent the Runway does have issues. Misleading marketing about which particular items are available, horrendous shipping delays, and less than stellar customer service but they’ve opened the door on access to amazing clothes without the price tag. Better still, the market for those clothes has also exploded. People who use these services can now support significantly more designers who can cater to a broader range of tastes.

I believe that clothing rental services like Rent the Runway, Le Tote and Gwynnie Bee, and their maternity wear counterparts Borrow for your Bump, and Mine for Nine – will do for fashion what Netflix and Amazon Prime have done for television – create a massive explosion of creativity and options for everyone. I am a true convert.