Rent the Runway: making fashion accessible without the stereotypes

Trying to find clothes that fit can be hard — especially when most e-commerce fashion sites use very particular body types to display their outfits. If you’re not tall and thin, browsing through page after page of garment-clad models offers you no indication of how the clothes will look on you once you buy them. Rent the Runway, an e-commerce site that lets you rent high-fashion garments for a fee, is breaking the mold and attempting to change the “models only” trend — by featuring user-submitted photos of everyday women wearing the clothes themselves!

Jezebel covered the story, explaining that the photos women send in come “complete with height, weight, and chest size.” Rent the Runway has found that women are extremely receptive to this new tactic, and online shoppers are clicking on the real photos twice as much as the photos featuring models.

Unfortunately, though not unexpectedly, there has been some backlash against Rent the Runway’s “radical” choice. Marc Beckman, the head of the Designers’ Management Agency, expressed disdain at the newfound “accessibility” of the luxury clothing. Luckily, no designers have removed their clothing from the site, and Rent the Runway’s founders are sticking by their decision.

This is awesome. Why is having varied representations of all body types on an e-commerce site such a novel idea? If you ask me, the entire clothing industry should be making an effort to include individuals of all body types in their advertising. It would likely increase their profits — after all, we buy products that are targeted at us specifically — while simultaneously refuting the idea that only tall, thin women can be models.

If Rent the Runway begins to see some really positive feedback from their new marketing strategy, the trend will begin to catch on throughout the fashion industry — and you can help make it happen! Don’t forget to vote with your wallet; if you’re looking to rent some luxury clothing, do it through Rent the Runway and let them know you appreciate their marketing techniques. If you’re not in the market for clothes, you could write the company a letter of appreciation, or, at the very least, spread the word to your family and friends!


Hailey Magee is a Women’s and Gender Studies and Politics double major at Brandeis University. Her foremost interests include media literacy and empowerment of young girls. Hailey hopes to one day pursue a career in the political arena and become an advocate for gender equality.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *