“I made £6,000 by renting out clothes I never wear”

“I made £6,000 by renting out clothes I never wear”

Written by Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a freelance lifestyle journalist and former writer at stylist.co.uk. She particularly enjoys writing about homeware, travel, women’s issues and her recent move to Hamburg.

As the cost of living crisis plunges more and more people into debt, writer Megan Murray meets four women renting their clothes as a means of additional income. 

From designer-focused My Wardrobe HQ to Gen Z-favourite Loanhood, clothing rental apps have been praised for their eco-credentials, ability to build communities and, of course, the opportunity to make an extra buck or two.

But, for some women, utilising the assets sitting in their wardrobes is more than just handy; it’s financial empowerment. Whether it’s easing the burden of the housing crisis or funding medical treatments, this kind of cash can provide fiscal freedom. Should any person need to resort to renting their clothes to keep a roof over their heads? Of course not. But if this topsy-turvy political shambles of a year has taught us anything, it’s that the outlook is bleak for those affected by the ongoing housing crisis.

Speaking to Stylist, co-founder of Loanhood Jade McSorley explains that financial empowerment was her dream for the platform when launching in July 2022, “We wanted to put the power back in the hands of the consumer and allow them to make money from their hard-earned belongings, as well as showing that clothes have significant value. I am from a working-class background, so when I hear young designers and students using rental to alleviate some of their money worries, it makes me feel like rental is part of something bigger.”

By Rotation is one of the most established rental platforms in the industry and as a former investment analyst, founder Eshita Kabra says she also gets excited thinking about women turning contemporary fashion into an asset. “I’ve seen lenders leverage their rental income to create better work-life balance; one woman even quit her job so that she could spend more time with her children and actually make more money through By Rotation,” she says.

Here, four women share their stories of the profound impact that renting their wardrobes has had on their bank balances, and therefore their lives.

“I created a rental savings account just to pay for my wedding day looks”

Hurr user Cami was wary of the wasteful nature of bridalwear so she made her current wardrobe work harder to reinvest in her day.

“I already knew that I didn’t want a traditional wedding dress; the idea of spending so much money to wear something once goes against my values. I got engaged during the pandemic and the lockdown meant that we split our celebrations into an intimate ceremony with a family dinner on the beach, and then waited two years to have a big party. So, I also wanted multiple, versatile looks to suit different occasions.

“The timing was perfect as I had started renting only a few months before the proposal and as my profiles became popular, it made sense to be cyclical and put money from old clothes into new ones. Over several years I was able to make £6,000, which meant I could buy three different pieces for my wedding. I picked everything based on whether I thought I could wear it and rent it in the future. For the ceremony and dinner, I chose a white skirt suit that could work for summer events and a plain, silk slip dress that has been rented a lot since. Then, for the big day in Sicily, I bought a Grecian-style cream gown, which is more formal but would still look beautiful at a summer party. The best part has been renting my wedding outfits to other brides and seeing pictures of them on their special days.”

Rent Cami’s wardrobe here.

“Post cancer, my fertility treatment may cost £200,000 – lending is helping me save for a family”

“12 March 2020 is a date of deep significance for me: coronavirus was recognised as a pandemic, my partner and I received the keys to our new home and I was diagnosed with stage three cervical cancer.

Having a family has always been part of my plan and after miscarrying the previous year, we had continued trying to conceive but something didn’t feel right. After urging my GP to look into my symptoms, it was indescribable to realise that the issues I had been experiencing were cancer, and even more so that I was pregnant again but would need a termination immediately.

The complications of lockdown and the short window before my chemo and radiotherapy meant I couldn’t freeze my eggs, removing the possibility of one day having a child that would be genetically mine. It was devastating, but over the next two years I concentrated on getting better and considering the options for children when the time was right.

By June 2022, my partner and I had begun exploring the idea of a surrogate and understanding the astronomical costs that this involves. At the same time, I attended a friend’s wedding who had rented her bridal looks from By Rotation and she encouraged me to give it to go. I have always loved fashion and started by listing a green, flowing Ba&Sh dress, which was an instant hit. It has been an unexpected joy to connect with other women, receive their support and see the pictures of them enjoying themselves in my clothes. Some have even become friends.

We predict that fertility expenses will total £200,000, so while we have a long way to go, I have raised £1,500 by lending my wardrobe and, along with other saving methods, we hope to reach our target by 2025.”

Rent Jess’s wardrobe here.

“I was struggling to pay my London rent after my side-hustle fell through” 

Megan began renting her old sample sale finds on multiple rental platforms to help support herself when she over-estimated her finances.

“I have lived in London for a decade and it’s never been easy, but throughout that time – as many of us know – the battle to find affordable housing has been an uphill climb. I had always taken house shares with multiple people, but at the beginning of last year I found a two-bedroom apartment to share with a friend.

I was so excited to have my own space, but the rent was right at the top of our budget. I had agreed to take the larger share at £900 a month (without bills). The decision was based on my ability to freelance alongside my full-time job, but within a few months those opportunities had dried up. I was really scared. Food and London activities were becoming more expensive too, and my family aren’t in a position to offer that kind of support. I needed another revenue stream – quickly. I considered taking part-time work but a friend introduced me to clothing rentals, and as someone who hoards their sample sale treasures for years, I was perfect for it. I am the person who will do anything to own a glitter-covered, black tie dress for that one special occasion and mourn not being able to wear it more. So with a wardrobe full of party clothes gathering dust, I gave it a try.

Immediately I found success. On average, I was renting two dresses a week, which resulted in £400 extra income a month and made it possible for me to pay my rent. It encouraged me to take control of my finances and think more strategically, rather my usual happy-go-lucky attitude. I started considering what I have in my arsenal and how I can use that to improve my financial situation. Through regularly lending clothes, I was able to pay my rent and bills comfortably and feel a lot more secure.” 

Rent Megan’s wardrobe here.

“As a mum, lending has given me the financial freedom to enjoy my passion away from family spending” 

“Following fashion has always been a passion of mine and before renting I would sell older pieces on eBay to cover the cost of rejuvenating my wardrobe. 

As soon as I started renting my clothes, though, it hit me how successful this could become. Within a week I had made £140, within two weeks this rose to £350 and by the following month I had totalled £1,000. As a mum of two and partner to my husband, I am conscious of how we spend as a family and, of course, much of my earnings go towards activities, holidays and hobbies for my twins. Making this money on the side has allowed me the freedom to indulge in the things I love as a woman, away from family life.

One example really stands out: I was awarded an MBE for my services to education and aviation, and as someone who really appreciates fashion and loves to dress up, I dreamed of putting an outfit together for my visit to Windsor Castle. I bought a black velvet Saloni dress, a beautiful hat from Laura Cathcart and Gucci platforms. I wouldn’t have been able to invest in that level of outfit without rentals, and it made the experience so much more special.” 

Rent Karen’s wardrobe here.

Images: Getty, courtesy of users

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