I have a love-hate relationship with dressing my children. I’m the first to admit kids’ clothes are the cutest. But my two daughters have opinions, and getting them dressed, fed, and out the door in the mornings can sometimes feel like a full day’s work. I’m not going to lie: There have been tears and tantrums all before 8:30 a.m. more than a few times. To mitigate morning melt-downs, I’ve wised up and we’ve gotten in the habit of getting my older daughter to lay out her clothes for the next day before she goes to sleep at night.
Right now, she’s on a pants-only kick. Leggings paired with an undershirt and sweater are her chosen uniform for school. Meanwhile, the younger one only likes dresses. If you come near her with pants, she’ll lose it. Luckily, we’ve landed on a handful of kids’ brands we really like and buy the same staples from these places on repeat, but inevitably within a few months, the kids have grown out of what we’ve got, and we have to start over. Holes appear at the knees almost instantaneously, and pajama bottoms that we bought in a bigger size somehow look like capri pants after only a few weeks. It’s a cycle of consumption.
Leave it to Rent the Runway, a company founded in 2009 by Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss and now has a valuation of $1 billion, to come up with the solution. Next week, they’re launching Rent the Runway Kids on their hugely popular site and app and are poised to change the way parents (and their offspring) think about children’s dressing from here on out.
My daughters tried it for a week and reveled in the ability to pick and choose what they might want to wear easily without the weight that comes with a forever purchase. My older child was immediately drawn to a silky Philosophy di Lorenzo dress that, with its hard-to-care-for fabric, never would have made its way into our collective shopping cart as an actual purchase, but as a one-time rental? Bring it on. My younger child selected a sleeveless Stella McCartney dress covered in colorful fruit that was a little too springlike for the still brisk temps we were facing in New York City. Buying it in the appropriate size at that point in the season would mean risking her growing out of it by mid-July, but with a rental, you don’t have to worry about such mundane things. Done and done! She hasn’t taken it off since it arrived.
“It was such a natural extension for us,” says Jennifer Hyman, cofounder and CEO of Rent the Runway, who is about to give birth to her second child any second. “We have so many members who are moms, and they are primary consumers for their family. Rationally, everything you buy for your child isn’t going to fit in a few months. When you’re purchasing you’re prone to making decisions that are not necessarily what you love. Should I really spend the money on this and invest in this if it’s not going to fit a few months later?”
These are questions I’ve certainly asked myself when ogling an adorable designer dress meant for a mini me. I love it, but clicking purchase would be crazy. I do the “per wear math” (a.k.a. how much the item would cost per possible wear), and it just doesn’t add up. The speed with which kids grow coupled with how messy life is when you’re under ten doesn’t justify the expense. “We remove that burden,” Hyman says. Out of necessity, Rent the Runway has the single largest dry cleaners in the country. “Kids are messy. We own the burden of the stains—enabling customers to have fun with their kids.”