Love the shoes, but not the price? Learn about clothing rental.

TLC

Cash is tight but a girl’s gotta look good, right? The solution: rent or borrow. Apparel and accessory rental and lending sites are the hottest services to come to the rescue of cash-strapped fashionistas in this economy. For fancy shmancy events or just to mix things up over the weekend, these sites cater to fashion addicts, recessionistas or those that simply want to try out some new styles.

According to Iconowatch Blog, “Cash-conscious clotheshorses are looking for creative and savvy retail alternatives to help them stay in style without spending a lot.”

Men, after all, have been renting tuxedos for decades, while women have to spend hundreds on a special occasion dress, says Keren Charles, personal stylist and owner of fashionENVY in Atlanta, a dress rental service started in October 2008. Her customers rent dresses for as little as $20 for three days, plus dry cleaning, for proms, weddings, cocktail parties or even a hot date. Although she caters to a local clientele, you can find her beautiful dresses on Dress Vault, too.

Dress Vault is a community of stylish women with clothes to spare. Their tagline is: "Why buy when you can borrow?" The concept is that users join to borrow, lend, or buy/sell dresses (only dresses). The suggested rental price is 15% of the dress’s original price, plus shipping, for seven days total. The lender handles the cleaning. Founder Patricia Harr says, “What woman doesn’t want an unlimited closet of dresses to choose from?!" The site is good for bargain hunting, too. 

But you need a handbag to go with that dress, of course. At Bag Borrow or Steal, you can rent designer handbags, jewelry or sunglasses by the week or month. Prices range from $15 to $150 a week, with discounts for members. Rent Me a Handbag offers not only handbags but also shoes and clothing (for men too). Not sure how I feel about renting shoes, but if you want impress someone with a pair of Christian Louboutin’s without spending $1,000, this site is for you.

The JC Report says these services appeal to those with “accessory-A.D.D. or anyone who just needs something special for a certain occasion.”

Ilus of New York’s founder Linda Pratka says that her shop/site “enables stylish trendsetters to showcase the latest fashion without the hassle of dry cleaning, cluttered closets or wasted investments.”  While her high-end designer dresses and gowns are absolutely stunning, they will set you back about $100 for a three-night rental. So you probably want to reserve this site for when you get invited to an event that your ex is going to be at and you want to look killer.

Also check out Wear Today Gone Tomorrow to borrow dresses, tops, jackets and skirts from top designers like Caroline Herrera, Dolce & Gabbana and Jill Stuart at 70% to 90% of retail per week or month.

Many of the sites offer purchase plans in case you fall totally in love with the item and don’t want to return it.