As a fashion-lover (thanks mom!) I’m glad that women have much more freedom in what we can wear. There’s nothing better than putting on a new outfit in the morning that fits me like a glove, and makes me feel and look good.
There’s a problem, though: I’m awkwardly tall and weirdly shaped (big butt, small chest, long appendages, basically this:).
— princess🐘 (@mxjne) July 21, 2015
… so nothing actually fits me well. The dream dress on the rack turns into a nightmare as soon as I try to slip my body into it, my mood slowly turns sour and keeps going until I turn into a barking monster. I leave the store an hour later with half of my hair pulled out and a pair of jeans that are either too short, too big or just ugly.
Failed experiment: RTR
To free myself from the shopping nightmare, I’ve been experimenting with fashion tech companies that allow me to skip it altogether. The first one I tested was Rent The Runway. I love them because shipping is very fast, and they have a physical store here in NYC where I can pick up stuff on the go. With RTR I was wearing fancy designer clothes I would never buy myself, which felt like a delightful indulgence. However, some of the pieces were a bit too edgy – especially since I work in tech and that means I stick out like a sore thumb in my $1,000 dress with giant ruffles and a weird flowery pattern. In the end, RTR’s outrageous price point of $159/month and their lack of casual clothes turned me away.
New experiment: Le Tote
I looked around for alternatives and came across Le Tote. Le Tote is different from RTR in that they don’t carry exclusively designer clothes. In fact, Le Tote carries brands that I am familiar with: Calvin Klein, Philosophy, French Connection, Free People, and BCBG. I like that.
I love Le Tote’s clothes so much, I actually end up buying them! So much for having my closet ‘in the cloud’ and limiting actual closet space. The business model of Le Tote is clearly different from RTR. Le Tote focuses on a regular woman, with a normal job and a regular life (most likely in the suburbs). RTR is all about “elite” urban fancy feels, galas and cocktail hours. For that reason, Le Tote sells more of their clothes and they are able to keep the rental cost much lower. It’s a selling business, not renting business.
As far as the service pricing goes, Le Tote clearly wins. My first month was a whopping $34.99. If you use my coupon you’ll actually get your first tote for free! It literally costs you nothing to try, and if you’re like me, you loooove trying out new products.
My next month is going to be $69 for 4 items. It’s still a bit high, but it’s reasonable and more than half the price of RTR.
You’d think that I spend less time shopping with an online service, but I actually didn’t with RTR. For one, RTR has a poor filtering system and it takes a lot of scrolling to come by an item you really love.
Additionally, because I live in New York, I’d actually go to the flagship store a lot, which cost me time and money. Le Tote automatically suggests me items I love (based on my previous choices and the hearts I left in the app) and they have no physical stores yet (which of course can be a negative if you’re in a pinch and the dress you ordered doesn’t fit).
I love that Le Tote focuses on fit. They go way beyond RTR’s bare-minimum fitlers of body type and occasion. Le Tote actually creates a profile with all of my body measurements and if I select a garment that doesn’t fit my profile, they let me know that the fit may not be adequate. Such a small yet helpful feature!
Le Tote is not perfect. The biggest negative is the USPS shipping. My mailman is my archenemy, and the fact that I depend on him to successfully deliver my clothes is troubling. The second tote I got was lost at the post office for 3 days. I called Le Tote and their incredible customer service staff sent me a new tote right away, no questions asked. This is great, but it can’t happen all the time and with my overwork and not customer-friendly mailman it is bound to happen again. The fact that Le Tote uses USPS to send their garments is yet another signal that the persona they are targeting is not a woman living in an urban area. It’s a suburban, easy living type of a persona for whom casual clothes are needed, and USPS shipping is not a problem.
Therein lies the big problem: I am not the Le Tote target persona. I do live in an urban setting, and I do attend occasional fancy functions, which means that Le Tote is not fully solving my wardrobe problems in a way that is convenient and cost effective. So, here comes the big question: should I continue?
While Le Tote is certainly an amazing way to move some women’s closet into the cloud for an affordable price, I am not sure if I am one of these women. I’d 100% recommend this service if you live in a suburban area with a reliable USPS service and you don’t have the need to have any elegant, flamboyant pieces in your closet.
That said, I have a few days to renew my service with Le Tote, and I am still on the fence about continuing with my membership. I love the items, but as a city dweller, I worry about being responsible for lost items. Additionally, while I ended up recovering the lost tote, it did cost me an hour on the phone with the post office and another 1 hour inside of the office. That’s a lot of lost time that I don’t have in my wonderwoman schedule.
We’ll see. I like it so much that I might just give it another try.