THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Rental sites make it easy and inexpensive to look red carpet ready

By Anne D’Innocenzio
Associated Press / March 6, 2011

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NEW YORK — Want to have a Cinderella moment without breaking the bank?

If you have always wanted to wear a designer gown and jewelry and make people gawk, a growing number of businesses will indulge your fantasy.

You’ll just be renting, but no one should be seen in the same outfit twice anyway. And you’ll be wearing the designers’ high-end lines so enjoy the savings.

“Where luxury had been exclusive, the Internet has made it a commodity,’’ says Dudley Blossom, of LIM College, a fashion school in Manhattan. “This is fundamentally changing the way the average person is accessing luxury.’’

Here’s how to look fabulous.

The gown: Forget the little black dress. Renting, you can take big risks because you’re not investing as much. Try a new style or color. Just make sure the outfit you choose flatters your figure, says Anne Fritz, coeditor of the fashion and travel blog Thejetsetgirls.blogspot.com.

At Renttherunway.com you’ll find the current season’s designs from 130 top names, like Vera Wang and Badgley Mischka, outfits that sell for up to $3,500. The fee of 10 to 15 percent of the retail price includes dry cleaning. An extra $5 for insurance means you don’t have to worry about staining or tearing the dress. (Just don’t lose it, or you’ll be on the hook for full price.)

When your four days are up, you just slip the dress into the prepaid envelop the company supplies and drop it in the mail.

Renttherunway.com cofounder Jennifer Hyman recommends setting a start date one or two days before your event or paying extra for an eight-day rental if you need to travel with your gown. She also suggests calling the company’s customer service line for advice on styles and fit, and requesting the same dress in a backup size, which is free. Order a second style for $25.

With 25,000 outfits to choose from, the most significant limit is that nothing’s bigger than size 12 because designers generally don’t make ampler clothes.

The accessories: Lots of sites rent jewelry, handbags, and shoes. Both blingyourself.com and bagborrowandsteal.com, recently renamed Avelle.com, offer a broad array. For a fee from $6.55 a month to $60 a year, Avelle.com members can choose from more than 3,000 items to borrow by the week or month.

At lifestyleforlease.com, rent up to four pairs of new or gently worn shoes at a time from more than 80 designers, such as Prada and Jimmy Choo. A membership (starting at $3 a month) lets you accumulate points to earn free and lower-price rentals.