Hiring a suit for a black tie event or wedding is nothing new for men. We don’t think anything of it when a woman buys a wedding dress while her husband-to-be hires his outfit for the day, often at a fraction of the price.
It’s one of many ways the silent expectation gap affects women. Make-up, hair cuts and colours, manicures, styling equipment; there are so many things women have to spend their money on. When I say ‘have to’, I don’t mean that there’s a law about it, of course. Just that if a woman chooses to opt-out, she will be punished for it. (That’s a discussion for another blog post.)
But now we women have a new option for event attire. Hiring an outfit is the latest fashion trend. On the plus side, it helps solve fashion’s eco-problem, by ensuring that dresses are worn over and over again, instead of being worn once and abandoned at the back of the wardrobe.
In simple cost-per-wear terms, there’s no doubt it’s a more expensive approach. But only if you can guarantee at least five wears out of each item of evening wear you own. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but for some showstopper outfits, you might well wear it less than that. Take my wedding dress as an example. I’ve only worn it once.
You could argue that renting perpetuates the idea that you should only be seen in an outfit once. I’m inclined to agree with you. But, as my husband reminds me, when it comes to driving huge change it’s often more effective to gradually ‘steer the ship’ around than attempt a revolution.
In the meantime, many women I know (me included) love getting dressed up. I get a lot of enjoyment from planning my outfit, getting my hair and nails done, and putting on a costume that clearly separates the day-to-day from the special occasion.
So now I factor dress hire into the cost of attending an event, alongside my mani-pedi, cocktails and taxi home. Because while I wholeheartedly want to tackle today’s climate emergency, I also want to have fun.
We millennials are often railed at to stop taking part in fast fashion by switching to ‘investment pieces’. But my generation wants to feel less defined by what we own and more by who we are and what we experience. It may seem counter-intuitive, but this new form of fast fashion could just help us have our cake and eat it.