Dressing up

A high-fashion rental service emphasizes expensive, rare designs from established brands and newcomers

Designers include Etro and J. Mendel
Designers include Etro and J. Mendel

With the endless number of parties on the social calendar, even those blessed with ample New York City closet space may find themselves running out of room for all of their couture. While some choose to store clothes using Garde Robe, for those who embrace the Marie Kondo-approach to life and prefer not to own an excess of items, a fashion startup claims to have the perfect solution.

Armarium is the brainchild of Trisha Gregory, the former head of PR at Salvatore Ferragamo, and Alexandra Lind Rose, a former fashion designer. Their app, which just launched in June, allows users to rent high-fashion statement pieces and accessories for four days (you can extend it for a price) — just enough time to admire yourself wearing it in the mirror at home, be seen wearing it out and bring it back. Unlike similar rental clothing services, such as Rent-the-Runway, Armarium’s emphasis is on more rare and expensive pieces from a mix of established brands like Etro and J. Mendel and up-and-coming ones like Pepa Pombo and Edeline Lee.

The app is not only for events either, and Gregory says they rent a lot of clothes to clients going on trips. Because of the demands of looking good for Instagram photos, “people want to pack a suitcase that matches their destination,” she says.

“Why not step out of the box, try a new brand
or a new trend that you might have been
intimidated to try before?”
—Trisha Gregory, Armarium

For New Yorkers who prefer to try on their outfit before committing to it, the company has a showroom with styling services on 52nd Street that is chock-full of gowns and accessories. Some of them, like a mesh dress from Mugler with metallic spikes, do seem a little out there, but Gregory recommends keeping an open mind when using their service. 

“You’re not committing to the full-price purchase. So why not step out of the box, try a new brand or a new trend that you might have been intimidated to try before?” she asks.

In that spirit I began my appointment. I was attempting to find a dress that might work for an upcoming celebrity-filled dinner party I will attend. Instead of my go-to basic black silk dress I usually wear to such events, I decided to be a little bold and go for a statement piece I would literally never wear again, what Gregory calls a “one-hit wonder.”

Most of the dresses that were available to try on in the showroom were predictably small. As a size six, I felt like an enormous monster flipping sadly through the racks of narrow dresses (there are other sizes to rent on the app).

Luckily my stylist, Stephanie Espinoza, was able to find a good selection of fit-and-flare dresses that could accommodate my wider hips. A silk floral dress from Etro was lovely but too hippyish for me, while a green sequin tunic dress from Nina Ricci made me feel like a chicly wrapped Christmas present.

Then, like Goldilocks, I tried on dress number three, an Alberta Ferretti “illusion butterfly dress” from her spring/summer 2016 collection, in which the wings of a Monarch butterfly were replicated in silk and organza. The dress retails for $6,790 but rents for $680 on Armarium.

After a few clicks on the app, the dress was ordered and ready to arrive the day before my party. Easy as pie. The only hard part will be giving it back.