It’s prom season in Iowa and more online retailers are offering to rent formal dresses as an attractive and affordable option for high schoolers.
Ellen McKinney, a professor of apparel, merchandising and design at Iowa State University, is studying the growing trend of renting gowns for big occasions. McKinney says most kids love the concept.
“On the whole, they are extremely happy,” McKinney says. “They get to wear something that’s unique and special and they don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to do it. In general, they get a lot of positive feedback from other people at the event.”
McKinney says dress rental offers students who don’t have a lot of spending money an excellent advantage. “By renting a dress, they’re paying maybe 10 to 20% of what they would pay to buy it,” McKinney says. “For the same budget, they’re getting a high-quality dress that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to have.” She says it creates an edge for internet-based merchants versus the brick and mortar businesses for formal wear.
“Some of the competitive advantage of the rental service is that they offer all of this information of reviews that they can read,” McKinney says. “It lets people know, okay, how are other people liking this dress? Will I like it? It gives them confidence to order online.” Consumers are moving away from owning clothes and other products, shifting toward more rental, trading and sharing and she expects the trend to continue. McKinney’s research can be found in the latest edition of the Clothing and Textiles Research Journal.
(Reporting by Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City/Photo by Kristan Gray)