When I was offered the chance to try out Rent the Runway Unlimited’s new kids collection, I was pretty excited. I have three girls — twins Ofelia and Indira, 2, and Tatjana, 5 — whom I love to shop for, and of course I like to take their picture plenty.
One of my daughters, Indira, is a real fashionista (she won’t even sit around the house in pajamas; she always likes to be dressed to the nines) so I was certain she would love the designer clothes and that they’d all be thrilled to play dress up — and get to unbox the shipments. (Everybody loves opening a box, right?)
But I observed a few things that were surprising: kids — at least my kids — appear to like to keep things, so after making that mistake the first time, I never over-emphasized the having to ship everything back element. And turns out kids don’t necessarily like playing dress-up on command. (I was right about the opening-boxes thing, though.)
Here are some of the biggest takeaways we found from our test drive of the Fall/Winter collection.
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What Is the Collection Like?
Rent the Runway Unlimited for kids has more than 150 items available to put in rotation, for girls only, in sizes 3 to 14. There are always winter items and warm weather items in the mix, for people in different climates and to account for potential travel.
As for designers there are a lot of options. There’s the stuff that’s so expensive, you’d probably never actually buy it, making it something fun to borrow for a special occasion like a wedding or Christmas. (The most expensive dress is an $840 Fendi Kids off-the-shoulder number that’s pretty impractical looking, but there are also options north of $400 from Chloé Kids, Marni and Philosophy that are elegant, but not so over-the-top.)
If you search based on your kids’ actual tastes, you may also find more accessible brands like Crewcuts by J. Crew and Ralph Lauren. I borrowed a Crewcuts by J. Crew mixed material dress that retails for $60 just to see if my kids would actually go for that kind of design. (Spoiler alert: they did not like it, and so I saved myself not just $60, but the $180 I would have had to shell out to buy one for each kid.)
I also discovered a few awesome brands that I didn’t know existed before, including Milly Minis, which makes beautiful stretchy knit dresses (we wore a couple at Christmas) and my own personal favorite as an adult, Diane von Furstenberg. My twins wore two silk DVF x Rockets of Awesome dresses for their first day of preschool in January and they were totally comfortable, but they also got lots of compliments. (And one benefit of the service is, if you or your kids love a piece so much that you don’t want to part with it, most items are also available to buy.)
They also have a ton of coats, including a few extraordinarily expensive ones, like a $1,352 Fendi puffer coat available to slot into the mix. Coats are some of the best value for your money. Most parents I know would never dream of spending more than $1,000 on a child’s coat. When you think about the fact that they can only wear it a couple months of the year and they’ll grow out of it anyway, it’s so obviously not where you’d naturally look to spend your money, so getting to just ship them back at the end of the season is a fun option.
I tested out coats for each of my girls. Tatjana tested out a Little Marc by Marc Jacobs green military jacket with a red faux fur hood ($288) and loved it. She was not into the satin Chloe bomber jacket, even if it does normally cost $416. And Ofelia and Indira were not really into their options (a colorful Stella McCartney teddy jacket, and a Chloe kids faux fur jacket) and instead always reached for their matching pink Janie and Jack coats from last winter. Sometimes kids have simple tastes.
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How Does the Service Work?
Rent the Runway Unlimited offers the kids collection, but it’s the same membership you would use for yourself. Because I was testing this service out for PEOPLE, Rent the Runway granted me a few extra slots to take full advantage of the service in less time, but generally, you get four slots for $159 a month, meaning you can borrow any four items at a time, for adults or kids (and you can add additional slot for another $39 a month).
If you were using this service just for kids, $159 would feel quite steep, but if mom is getting a few good business or party looks each month as part of the deal, that definitely begins to feel more practical. (In my case, I used one shipment to get a Christmas dress for each kid — and a cruise-collection Diane von Furstenberg dress for myself to wear on a little weekend beach getaway.)
And depending where you live, the returns process is either a little bit of a pain or extremely easy. For those in major metropolitan areas near a drop-off center, you can immediately free up your slots by dropping the packages off there. Otherwise you just need to get excited to drop packages off at your local UPS Store. RTR provides all the shipping materials, but you are still the one who has to get in the car and drive it there. You know yourself, and how often you’d actually be getting new items!
Are Four Slots Enough?
So here’s where the question of how many kids you have comes into play. If you had one girl, four designer items at a time would be a luxurious amount. You could practically send your kid to school in a fresh wardrobe every week, if you were super on your game with the UPS returns. (I was not.)
However, if you have a bigger family, the calculus starts to get complicated. What if they don’t have multiple sizes of one item and your twins want to have what their sister has? What if you order something for everybody and one person doesn’t like it and then you have to return it in time for a specific event? I’m not sure, in the long term, that I have the mental capacity for stressing out about my kids’ clothes. A comfortable pair of leggings and a decent shirt, or a functional cotton dress that you know is in the closet is always going to be more convenient when getting your kids dressed — even on picture day.
What’s the Best Part of the Service?
A surprising advantage is the fact that you can ship the clothes back as dirty as they get, guilt-free. The fact that Rent the Runway Unlimited insures the clothes and handles the dry cleaning gives you that extra little bit of mental permission you need to put your kid in a Stella McCartney dress and then let them go run around and be a kid.
I dressed my girls up in designer dresses for a friend’s baby shower in the fall. Upon arrival, I learned that the men were seated in a different area, so I’d be handling them on my own — and the hosts had glitter glue projects to entertain the children. (We don’t do glitter glue in our house because I’m not the kind of mom that wants to clean it up.) We came home covered in the stuff and that was okay! I packed up those dresses in the free UPS bag RTR provided and didn’t give it another thought.
So Is Rent the Runway Unlimited for Kids Worth It?
I personally found that I was less image-obsessed than I would have anticipated when it came to dressing my kids. Although my mother sews lovely homemade dresses for my kids and I enjoy dressing them up (sometimes all alike, when we go out in public, in part as a safety measure; sometimes all different, or in complementary palettes), my girls are decidedly not into frou-frou materials or overly-fancy designs. Early on we got a shipment that included some real show-stoppers: dresses by Stella McCartney, Little Marc by Marc Jacobs and Chloe. The dresses that were hits were the ones that were comfortable, not scratchy or stiff. They’re still kids, even if they’re in designer duds.
It would also depend on your social calendar. Are you at a fancy school where dressing kids is a sport? Maybe this will alleviate a lot of pressure. If you don’t have many social obligations or occasions for dressy photos, then maybe you don’t really need them to be wearing designer clothes when they run around at school and have playdates at a friend’s house. You be the judge!
And if nothing else, I would definitely advocate that the moms partake in the service to make sure that four slots for $159 a month feels worth it. Whether it’s rotating in a new business look or a dress for date night or a winter coat you return in the spring — or even just a pretty blouse so you can get in the Instagram with your kids, you may as well have a little fun too!