Rent the Runway: Bridesmaid Dresses

That won't get shoved in the back of your closet after the wedding

by Meg Keene, CEO & Editor-In-Chief

Top Photo: Left: Domino Dress, by Badgley Mischka ($65); Right: Catch The Wind Dress, by Trina Turk ($60–$70). Our apologies that these models look so sad.

Two months ago, when I went to LA to see the Emmy red carpet, I used Rent the Runway for the first time. We’ve written about Rent the Runway before (you can see our wedding dress RTR roundup back here), but I’d never used the service. Here is how it went: I picked a dress, and paid for rush shipping. (Don’t do this, btw. I didn’t have another choice, but my shipping was the same price as my rental.) They delivered two dresses in two different sizes (so if I didn’t fit into what I thought I would fit into, I was still covered.) I had a choice between the four-day and the eight-day rental, which was nice. The packaging was cute, the dresses were cute, and it was overall a win. On the downside, the dresses showed a little bit of wear. Nothing that wasn’t totally reasonable for a dress rental service, and nothing that bothered me. And, I spent hours lost on the website trying to figure out what I wanted. I hate to complain about there being too many options, but there were almost too many options.

Before I used the service, in my mind, Rent the Runway was more rent the RUNWAY. Like, I figured it was just a service to rent expensive designer dresses to show off, and that’s just not particularly my bag. What I didn’t realize is that while you can, for sure, rent really amazing designer dresses, you can also order really affordable ones (think, $30 rental), that are probably nicer than anything you’d buy (think $600 dress). That in short, it was going to be my go-to solution for weddings where I was a guest or fancy parties, where I didn’t have anything to wear. Because hand to God, I have a collapsible wardrobe thing in the basement, just for my sparkly and vintage dresses. I really really don’t need any more party dresses (not that anything will stop me, but I could use some slowing).

Where I really got to thinking was how kick ass RTR would be for bridesmaid dresses, particularly mismatched bridesmaid dresses. (Though, hint, they have a bridesmaid section, but I’d skip it.) We all know the hell that is picking matching bridesmaid dresses, but we don’t often discuss the hell that is mismatched bridesmaid dresses. As someone who did it, I can attest that it’s painful. There is a constant tug of war between wanting to be the laid back bride who’s like, “Oh, wear whatever you want,” but also wanting to be the laid back bride who’s ladies show up in flawlessly mismatched super chic outfits, just on accident. (Is that too much to ask? Yes, yes it is.) It’s equally hellish as a bridesmaid, because you want to wear something that your person is going to love, and you also don’t want to spend a fortune, and it is so, so, confusing. Short version of the story: picking bridesmaids outfits is often just sort of awful. So I loved the idea of picking a unifying theme (“black” or “sparkles”) and letting your ladies pick their dresses. They could send you a link to approve, and you could make sure the dresses all felt reasonably cohesive. Then your ladies spend whatever they choose to spend (but you can get some hot dresses for $30), and they return the dress after the wedding, with pictures as proof of how hot they looked. (Also, for a change, their plus size section is filled with smoking hot dresses.)

This, I think, is a sort of brilliant use of Rent the Runway. So with that in mind, I’ve rounded up some mismatched bridesmaids collections that I think are sort of killer. Someone please do this. Send pictures.

(Note: my criteria for selecting dresses is that they had to rent for less than $100. Your ladies can choose their own price point, but I figured even those of us who like to wear super-expensive-dresses-we-could-never-otherwise-afford-for-a-day are not going over $100 on a rental. And. If you’re feeling SUPER nice, Rent The Runway offers gift cards. Perfect bridesmaids gift? I’d say yes.)

MODERN: 1. Popover Dress, by Erin Fetherston ($50); 2. Geometric Gold Sheath, by Hunter Bell ($65); 3. Sea Shimmer Pant, by Contrarian ($50); 4. Side to Side Sheath, by Theia ($90)

BRIGHT: 1. Diamond Cut Dress, by Nanette Lepore ($30); 2. Sea Shimmer Dress, by Contrarian ($85); 3. Lace Me In Teal Dress, by Monique Lhuillier ($70–$80); 4. Cyndi Dress, by Halston Heritage ($70–$80)

DARK: 1. Josephine Dress, by Jill Stuart ($60); 2. Mesh Well Dress, by Yoana Baraschi ($65); 3. Lace Face Off Sheath, by Lina Turk ($35); 4. According Dress, by Camilla and Mark ($85)

HOLLYWOOD: 1. Fifth Avenue Showstopper Dress, by Badgley Mischka ($35); 2. Mini Sequin Pixie Dress, by Mark & James by Badgley Mischka ($30) (What I actually wore in Hollywood—two thumbs up); 3. Chrysler At Night Dress, by Badgley Mischka ($30); 4. Sprinkle The Sequins Shift, by Vie La V ($40–$50)

This page contains affiliate links that help with APW’s bills, but all the items featured here are items that we genuinely like and would purchase ourselves.

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. She has written two best selling wedding books: A Practical Wedding and A Practical Wedding Planner. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in Oakland, CA with her husband and two children. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit

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  • Jules

    *sigh* I LOVE every single Hollywood dress you have there. I have been dying for an occasion to rent this:

    Also, the rush shipping explains why my emergency gown from RTR to Vegas was so expensive. But it was totally worth it! It was a surprise trip, so I didn’t pack anything for it, and it was a much nicer dress than I could have purchased anyway.

    • Meg Keene

      I know. If you do this, warn your ladies about rush shipping. I was all, “!!!!!!!!” because I was only given the gift card with a few days warning. It’s why I rented something cheap (and hot though), I wanted to save some cash for a party of my own!

  • Fiona

    Oh my WORD! Someone needs to have a wedding ASAP so I can rent one of these dresses…

  • Budgeting Babe

    I just told my bridal crew to pick out their own navy blue dresses and it worked awesome. Thanks to APW for opening my eyes to the possibilities! They all love their dresses and will wear them again – and most got them pretty reasonable prices, too. Some of these beauties are from Old Navy and Kohl’s. Bet you can’t tell which ones ;) Love the idea of renting. I shared a similar link but all my ladies wanted something they could keep.

    • Meg Keene


      • Budgeting Babe

        Thanks mama!

  • LOOOOVE this! I put together a Pinterest board with a heinous amount of options/inspiration for my bridesmaids (they were instructed to wear anything black or gold with an emphasis on sparkly) including a ton of stuff from RTR. I think all my girls ended up buying their dresses, but renting is such a neat option!

    Our bridal party ended up less Pinterest-esque mismatched and more “this is a group of good looking people who just happened to be mildly coordinating and hanging out together on this rooftop.” Which was PERFECT for us.

  • vegankitchendiaries

    There is a constant tug of war between wanting to be the laid back bride who’s like, “Oh, wear whatever you want,” but also wanting to be the laid back bride who’s ladies show up in flawlessly mismatched super chic outfits, just on accident. (Is that too much to ask? Yes, yes it is.)

    I did this. And it worked. I was only “projecting” laid back, though. I buried my feelings of “Oh God, will this work?” and with no communication between ladies at all they miraculously came out with Pinterest-level mismatch.

    PS. PLEASE someone have their bridesmaids wear matching sequined cropped “sweatpants” with skyscrapre heels because holy crap THAT looks so good.

    • KC

      That is amazing.

    • Sarah

      Stunning! Great colour :-)

  • TeaforTwo

    You know what I want to see on RtR? Maternity formalwear. Because if there is ever a fancy dress (except maybe your wedding dress) that you are only ever going to wear once, it’s the one you bought for a black tie wedding at seven months pregnant. Are you listening, Internet?

    • Word.

    • Meg Keene

      Me too. There are a few things I think you could make work, but for realz. FOR REALZ.

    • River

      This would solve my MOH’s problems so hard….Make it happen, RTR!!!

    • guest

      Check out I don’t find them to be as good as rent the runway, but for maternity you gotta take what you can get.

  • Meg Keene

    Oh SERIOUS BIG TIME HINT. When renting, look at the reader pictures. The dresses often don’t look the way you think they’re going to on real people. Some of them look way better, some look way worse. And some that I thought would look all indie-edgy, looked southern-sorority in every single picture. And you know, nothing wrong with that, but it helps you figure out what will fit your style in person.

    • Yes! One of my fave things about RTR!

      • KateS

        ditto! also helps when trying to decide on accessories. so useful!

  • Sarah

    So you guys posted about brideside a little while ago…yeah, I signed up immediately because my bridesmaids are all over the continent. Turns out that you get a stylist when you sign up, and mine has been coordinating with all my bridesmaids to get a mismatched styles with shades of purple thing going, and I think its going to look AWESOME, and I didn’t have to coordinate any of it, and my bridesmaids appreciate being told what to wear within parameters, but they still get to pick out a dress in a style and shade of purple that they like. Its pretty much win win win.

    • Meg Keene

      That’s AMAZING. I did not know that was how it worked.

      • Sarah

        APPARENTLY. I am so thrilled, because I was dreading having to coordinate that mismatched style look (that I love from pinterest, obviously) and picking out colors that go together without being matchy. Yeah, it’s pretty awesome.

  • I love RTR for accessories too…I rented the clutch I carried on my wedding day from them!

  • KC

    Ha! The *very first thing* I thought was “the model on the left looks so sad!” – and bam, you covered it and also bam, *that is incredibly unusual on APW and incredibly normal everywhere else* (for people in fancy photos to look glum, I mean).

  • Yay RTR! I wore #1 in the Hollywood section for my dancing dress at my wedding. I had never used RTR before, but I had a feeling that by Saturday night, I was going to want to get out of my big poofy dress and into something that made me feel like myself. But I also really didn’t want to spend any more money! Also, I wanted it to be special, but figured I would be wearing it for all of an hour, maybe an hour and half. So RTR was perfect! I ordered it for $30, the dress came Thursday, I tried it on and LOVED it, I threw it in my bag to take to the wedding, and after the cake was cut, I ran out to change, and ran back to the reception room. Hilariously, “these hips don’t lie” was playing when I came back in, so I could take my new husband right out to the dance floor to shake all those sequins with Shakira. Such a fun moment! It’s funny—my sister said at her wedding she never wanted to take off her wedding dress, so I wasn’t totally sure how I would feel that night, which was part of the reason I didn’t want to buy another fancy dress. But I was so ready to take the damn thing off! The one problem was the next day, when I needed to bring the RTR dress to a UPS drop off place, and I could NOT understand my GPS directions in my post-wedding delirium. I think if I had just known I could go to Staples, that part might have gone more smoothly. :)

  • Stacy {Woodsy Weddings}

    Love the Hollywood Collection. This is a great idea to use their service and get your Bridesmaids in a dream dress for your day.

  • Bsquillo

    Um so I realize this is about bridesmaids dresses and not wedding dresses, BUT SOMEONE PLEASE GET MARRIED IN THIS:

    Send pics! And cake.

    • Meg Keene

      I’m feeling a tiny bit mixed on RTR for wedding dresses… just because the dress showed more wear then I think I would have loved for my wedding dress. BUT. I love that people do it, and I want to see pictures!!! I was planning to do a RTR wedding dress roundup, but came away feeling like bridesmaid dresses was maybe the smartest possible use of the service. And, obvs, wedding guest outfits.

      • Jules

        Definitely depends on the dress! I actually had to cut the tags off mine when it showed up. (Backup size had tags too.) Based on the fact that there were almost no pics of that gown, I could have guessed it was newer. I grabbed the size from another Badgley Mischka of nearly the same exact design. But avoiding that gamble on the wedding day is understandable.

    • That is gorgeous!

  • Lindsey Pop

    I’ve been a huge fan of RTR (rented dresses from them for everything wedding-related and I’m never buying an expensive dress again) and I’m renting a dress/earrings as MOH for my BFF’s wedding this weekend. My pro tip: pick your top two dresses and pay to rent them in advance in the sizes you think you’ll want. This way you get to try them on in your home and assess them in person! Then contact RTR on the website to return them (for fit or just not being right – they just have to be back in the mail the next day) and get a credit to your account (which should post within 10 days of the return) – then you can use that credit to rent the dress for REAL in the size you want for the actual event!

    Other tips: if the event is on a Saturday, have the delivery date be Thursday (then you put it back in the mail on Monday) – that way, if nothing fits and you’re panicking, they will be able to overnight something else to you on Friday. And always search for discount codes; you can usually find one for $20-25 off.

    • Lindsey Pop

      PPS! If you know you’re going to use it for more than 1 event, paying $29.95 for RTR Pro pays for itself basically right away. You get free insurance/regular shipping (or a discount on rush shipping) for a YEAR, plus a free $50 credit for your birthday. (I promise I don’t work for them, I’ve just found them to be really wonderful and I love spreading the joy!)

  • Rachel

    My bmaids wore RTR! and they were perfect! I actually got the idea from another friend who I was a bridesmaid for who had us do RTR. I didn’t notice any signs of wear in the dresses. They were such great quality, the fit was awesome (the two size option is wonderful) and they were so comfortable. We do have the bonus of being in NYC so I was able to go to the showroom with a couple of my maids and have them try the dress on in person. I thought about doing mismatched dresses but in the end it was stresses me out more than making things easier. But I never thought of doing mismatched RTR. That’s a great idea.

    What I liked most about RTR was the price. I just couldn’t justify asking my friends to pay over 200 bucks for a dress they’d never wear again. The rental price is so much more reasonable. I really wanted to rent a reception dress for myself from RTR, but my budget was maxed out.

  • Anon

    Editz: laid back bride who’s ladies –> laid back bride whose ladies

  • Julia

    I love RtR, but that is a terrible photo. All I can think about is how hungry those models look.

  • macrain

    I mentioned this during happy hour once before, but I used RTR for some wedding related events and had a myriad of things go wrong. The dresses I ended up with were not remotely close to what I initially had rented, which could spell disaster for a bridesmaids dress, even if they aren’t completely matching.
    I think a company like Little Borrowed Dress- which I visited in NYC and considered for my bridesmaids-is much more attuned to the special needs of weddings than RTR. I think they have some work to do if they want to be a better option for brides and bridesmaids.
    In fairness- after I posted that comment about everything that went wrong with my shower and bachelorette party, many commenters responded that they’ve used RTR many times and have never had a problem. Based on my own experience, however- it would be really tough for me to recommend this as a safe, non risky option.

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