Rent-a-dress an alternative to paying big bucks to look good

Women who want to wear new-season designer dresses to parties and events this summer but don't want to pay the big prices this can involve are turning to hire companies instead.

Dress hire companies around the country offer high-end fashion for special occasions. Dresses can be hired for about $50 to $150.

It's an idea that is popular overseas - Beyonce has lent her name to a collection of clothes, encouraging fans to hire rather than buy.

Hayley Meiklejohn, of New Zealand online hire service Dolled Up, has been operating for only about six months but said demand was strong.

Getting started had not been easy - it took investment to get a good range of clothes and some New Zealand designers were not keen on the idea of their clothes being hired. Australian designers were more amenable, she said.

Meiklejohn said each piece had to be hired about 12 or 15 times to pay off its cost.

Prices range from $75 a week for a Sass & Bide last-season dress to $300 for a new Rachel Gilbert number.

"It's still cheaper than forking out $1,100 for a dress, which I am doing. We're new but it's all guns blazing. People get sick of having to fork out for a new dress every time a friend has a wedding or christening."

Stacey Le Cren, who owns The Room, has started offering hire services as a full-package party offering for hair and beauty clients.

"If you're getting you hair and makeup done, why not hire a dress too?"

Fashion blogger Leonie Barlow, of the Style Insider, said people were increasingly keen on keeping up with the latest trends, even if their wallets could not handle it.

"If it's a special occasion, you know you're not going to get much wear out of it. You don't want to wear the same dress to numerous events."

Even top designer Annah Stretton has been hiring her own creations for the past couple of years through her venture Hire Me.

"It started when things got difficult during the recession," she said.

Hire Me offers bridal, cocktail and special-occasion dresses.

The hire range was kept small and specific, she said, so that women who bought a dress knew they would not turn up to an event where someone else had hired the same thing.

But Carol Abernethy, who used to run The Secret Wardrobe, has closed her hire business. "It's hard to keep stock current - it takes a lot of capital investment and there's always an upper limit on the price people will pay for a rental."

- Herald on Sunday

By Susan Edmunds Email Susan