Rent the Runway vs. Nuuly Clothing Rental Review

By mzaxazm

Whether you’re tired of seasonal closet cleanouts, sick of outfit repeating, or interested in a more sustainable wardrobe, clothing rental is an increasingly popular solution to fashion boredom and waste.

The 2008 series-inspired film Sex and the City gave us a glimpse into this market when Jennifer Hudson’s character showed up to work with a steady rotation of designer bags. “It’s a rental,” she said. “Like Netflix for purses.” That concept got legs the next year with Rent the Runway, which was later followed by several similar services, including Nuuly in 2019.

Our team personally tried these two popular clothing rental services to better understand the benefits of clothing rental and to see which service is better in terms of clothing quality, versatility, and user experience.

What’s In Store

People / Madison Yauger

The main difference between Nuuly and Rent the Runway is the types of clothes offered.

Rent the Runway: RTR has tons of outfits geared toward parties, vacations, weddings, work, and daily life, as well as seasonal collections, designer spotlights, and even accessories to go with your other rentals. It’s best known for formal dresses and party wear, but it also has good staples for the office and daily use, such as denim, blazers, slacks, and blouses.

Nuuly: Owned by Urban Outfitters, Nuuly has unlimited access to the brand’s inventory of jeans, blouses, and other casual staples, plus sister brands like Anthropologie and Free People. Though more well-known for everyday clothes, Nuuly also carries formal wear and office staples. It’s a good option for high-quality pieces that blend seamlessly into your day-to-day wardrobe, including sun dresses, basics, and outerwear. 

Rent the Runway Overview

People / Madison Yauger

Plans: 5, 10, or 15 items per month | Delivery: Free shipping, arrives in 1–3 days | App: Yes | Returns: Can return or swap items at any time, and there’s a pick-up service offered in the app | Sizes: Numerical (0–22) and standard (S, M, L, etc.) | Cancellation: Pause or cancel at any time

What We Rented

Rent the Runway has a vast collection of tops, bottoms, dresses, and more to expand your closet beyond basic capsule pieces. According to the brand, it carries more than 800 labels, including celebrity favorites like Tory Burch, Diane von Furstenberg, and Jason Wu.

A day or so after you place your order, the shipment arrives in a zippered bag with each garment sealed in plastic and on a hanger. You can keep the items for as long as you have the membership — but the point is to swap them out.  Once you schedule a return, which you can do conveniently in the app by marking off the pieces you’re sending back, you’ll open more “spots in your closet” for additional orders. So if you return three out of five pieces, you can rent three more in the next order. Return labels come in an inner pocket in the bag.

When scouting new looks, you can “heart” pieces that catch your eye in the app and save them to any “lists” you’ve created. For instance, you might make a list of vacation outfit contenders or dress options for rehearsal dinners. With your outfit inspiration organized in one place, these lists allow for easier decisions and quicker future orders.

Deal Alert!

Get 20 percent off your first one-time rental with code GETDRESSED and save up to 40 percent on your first month of a subscription with code STARTJUNE.

You can wear everything without worry because the membership price covers incidentals like wine spills and small snags. And no need to launder: Rent the Runway has an intense dry cleaning program that takes care of that for you. 

If you decide to keep anything forever, you can purchase individual pieces at a discounted rate. And if you’re unsure of the monthly membership but need a few things for an upcoming wedding or vacation, you can rent individual items for four- or eight-day periods with two sizing options to ensure a good fit.

Nuuly Overview

People / Erika Reals

Plans: 6 items per month | Delivery: Free shipping and return labels | App: Yes | Returns: Can return at any time, but must bring to UPS | Sizes: 00–18 standard and petite, 16–34W/1X–5X plus | Cancellation: Pause or cancel at any time

What We Rented

The Nuuly subscription has similar benefits to Rent the Runway but with a focus on more casual pieces from 150+ brands like Madewell, Lilly Pulitzer, and Farm Rio, plus in-house labels from Urban Outfitters and Free People. 

Users can rent six pieces per month. To receive new items, Nuuly requires you to send all rented items back (excluding any purchases), and your subscription billing date has to pass. Your bill date is set regardless of when you return your previous order, so it’s most effective to swap your clothes on a regular cadence tied to that date. The Nuuly bag comes with a prepaid return label, which you’ll need to bring to a UPS Store or dropoff location.

The membership fee covers laundry and repairs; in fact, the brand encourages you not to wash anything before returning to maintain the quality and integrity of each garment. (No need to tell me twice!)

When it’s time for your next Nuuly order, the site’s My Closet feature makes it easy to pick your new pieces. This lets you plan ahead and curate a selection of items that you can save for future installments.

Rent the Runway v. Nuuly Review

Rent the Runway

People / Madison Yauger

Style Points

  • User-friendly app for easy orders and returns

  • Dedicated pickup service

  • Multiple options for short-term rentals

  • Large inventory of high-quality formalwear and dailywear

Disclaimer: A one-month free-trial was provided by Rent the Runway for this story.

For my Rent the Runway evaluation, I opted for a 10-item plan with two shipments over the course of a month. I found RTR to be an efficient and user-friendly clothing rental service. I had a few minor issues with fit — one jumpsuit was too tight on my chest, and one dress wasn’t as flattering as it looked in the photo — but in general, the sizing was pretty accurate. 

The app makes it really easy to place orders, swap clothes, and schedule returns. There’s even a pickup service option where a UPS courier retrieved the garment bag from my doorman on the scheduled return day. (You can also indicate a package room or other pickup location.)

I wore most of my outfits to the office and for dinners, brunches, and some after-work events. I tried a range of dresses, jumpsuits, rompers, and skirts and felt the quality of each was quite good. At the end of my trial, I succumbed to buying two of my picks.

Shopping writer Cai Cramer has tried both services and prefers RTR. She did a one-time rental of a few pieces for an Italy trip, exploring museums in Milan, sightseeing in Florence, and indulging in the vineyards of Tuscany. “Everything looked brand new and fit as described, and I loved the slacks so much that I decided to keep them,” she says. Cramer loves to experiment with her wardrobe, and RTR offers a wide variety of styles to play with, from preppy to eclectic.

For elevated office dress codes and social calendars packed with weddings, events, and Instagrammable vacations, Rent the Runway is the better option.  


People / Erika Reals

Style Points

  • Trend-forward inventory with contemporary everyday styles

  • Smaller, portable garment bags

Disclaimer: A two-month free trial was provided by Nuuly for this story.

Senior shopping editor Erika Reals gave Nuuly a whirl this year and found it to be refreshingly efficient and convenient. She’s a former Rent the Runway member and loved her experience with the brand, but after trying out Nuuly, she’s switching allegiances. 

Nuuly’s defining qualities are its affordability and more casual style. Since Reals’ wedding guest era is slowing down, she doesn’t find herself yearning for designer dresses anymore and instead seeks rental options for “casual weekend brunches, date nights with my husband, vacation outfits, and workwear for the office,” so this service better fits her current life.

The main inconvenience for Nuuly is having to drop off returns at a UPS location, as pickup is not available. However, Nuuly’s reusable garment bags are much smaller and more portable than the RTR bags Reals recalls from her membership days, which makes it less of a hassle. 

Another dual-service user who prefers Nuuly is associate shopping director Erin Johnson. Johnson only turns to RTR for wedding guest dresses now (since you can rent two sizes) and favors Nuuly for more trend-forward everyday wear. 

“I love getting a fresh rotation of office neutrals, date night dresses, and some wildcard trendy items every month without having to stress over the price of each item,” says Johnson. While she’s had varying experiences with the quality of Nuuly clothes, in cases of a few well-worn items, the customer service team offered additional benefits and bonus items for future orders. 

Nuuly has dresses nice enough to wear to a casual summer wedding, but it doesn’t carry a huge inventory of designer labels like its competitor. However, it’s slightly cheaper: Nuuly offers six clothing items for $98, compared to Rent the Runway’s most affordable plan of $94 for just five items. 

If you don’t have many fancy events on your calendar and are just looking to supplement your everyday wardrobe, Nuuly may be the better choice for you.

Is Renting Better Than Buying?

People / Madison Yauger

Sustainability: Renting is definitely a better way to fill your closet than buying trendy pieces that you’ll trash or donate when they’ve run their course. On the other hand, this clothing is used. Though both services tout state-of-the-art cleaning programs, our staff received items with excess wear and tear and, in a few cases, odor.

Sizing: Renting is similar to online shopping in that selecting the right size is always a little bit of a guess. Read the size charts and take measurements, if necessary, to ensure the best fit. 

Savings: If you stick to a capsule wardrobe and rarely stray from it, then a clothing rental service might not make sense for you. But if you frequently buy clothes, then a $100-monthly membership is a sound investment in keeping your clothing fresh. With a five-item Rent the Runway plan, that boils down to just under $1,200 a year to rent 60 additional clothing items that would each cost hundreds to own.

Surprises: Clothing rental a great way to discover new brands, push yourself outside of your fashion comfort zone, and try a new style you wouldn’t have bought otherwise.

Why Trust PEOPLE?

Madison Yauger is a shopping editor with decades of experience buying clothes, but she’s fairly new to the renting game. She brought her fashion experience, knowledge of materials and styles, and her discerning eye to the Rent the Runway catalog during her month-long evaluation of the service. 

Erika Reals is a senior shopping editor with nearly six years of experience in fashion and beauty writing. She used Rent the Runway in 2019 to help fill out her wardrobe for vacations, workwear, and weddings. For this review, she tried Nuuly for the first time to compare the two popular rental services.

Erin Johnson is an associate shopping director who has been renting her wardrobe since 2019. She has used both Nuuly and Rent the Runway, and she loves renting clothes because it lets her flex her creativity without sinking too much money into a single trendy item.

Cai Cramer is a shopping writer who loves to stay current on fashion trends but hates wasteful fast fashion. She’s turned to both Nuuly and Rent the Runway since last fall to pad her wardrobe for vacations, cocktail parties, birthdays, and the office.

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