This Clothing Rental Subscription Is My Secret to Trendy, Loud Outfits Without Fast-Fashion Guilt
When a friend told me about a clothing rental subscription called Nuuly in 2019, I couldn't imagine spending nearly $90 a month on clothes I didn't get to keep. But after I saw some of the show-stopping pieces she was renting, I signed up, too. I've been using Nuuly since October 2019, and I have to say: It's one of my favorite subscriptions, and delivery day is always a monthly highlight. With over 50,000 current subscribers, I'm not the only one who's fallen in love with the service.
I don't want to exaggerate, but with Nuuly, I've finally been able to dress like myself. I have a bold, loud style, so I need more than a basic capsule wardrobe. However, properly budgeting for clothing has always been an issue for me. I'm hesitant to spend too much on bright clothing that might go out of style, and I feel guilty for frequenting cheap fast-fashion sites so that I can try out a new trend for the season. With Nuuly, I can satisfy my need for wild outfits without depleting my wallet or feeling guilty for contributing to a fast-fashion world.
How Does Nuuly Work?
Nuuly currently has two categories: Nuuly Rent subscription service and Nuuly Thrift, a resale marketplace.
Nuuly Rent is the subscription service I've been using for over two years. You can freely browse lookbooks and clothing before you sign up to get a taste of their offerings. To sign up for Nuuly Rent, you create a profile, set up your billing account to charge $88 a month, and then pick six clothing items to rent for the month. You can rent any six items, whether the standard retail price is $30 or $300. You also have the option to add on two "bonus items" each month, but you can't rent over eight items at one time.
Once you've worn your items for a month, you can pay a discounted retail price to keep any pieces you feel in love with, or you can return all six items in your reusable Nuuly bag with the provided return label (you don't have to worry about washing the clothes before returning). Once you return your items, your virtual bag "unlocks," and you can fill your Nuuly bag with six new things to rent.
Nuuly Thrift is a resale marketplace where you can sell and purchase gently used items from other individual sellers who are looking to upcycle their clothing. This portion of the site operates in regular payments as well as Nuuly cash that can be spent on the Nuuly Thrift site or any other URBN brand, such as Anthropologie, Free People, or Urban Outfitters.
I've only recently begun using Nuuly Thrift and while I appreciate its commitment to sustainability, I'll be focusing this honest review on Nuuly Rent since I've been using that subscription for much longer.
My Overall Rating for Nuuly Rent: 9/10
- Six new clothing items each month
- Return label provided
- Reusable bag provided
- You can re-rent the same item
- No need to dry clean or remove stains before sending back your items
- No late fees
- Pause or cancel at any time
- You can change sizes month-to-month
- Easily ship to a new address if you're moving around
- New styles added regularly
- Stylized lookbooks for inspiration
- Petite, plus, maternity, and vintage sections
- Massive jacket and coat selection
- Save items to your "closet" daily
- Customers review and post photos with clothes
- Sometimes you'll receive clothing that is brand new with tags
- Item availability changes daily
- Inconsistent shipping windows
- Sometimes an item is worn-looking
- Flawed friend referral program
I've been impressed with the balance Nuuly strikes between consistently adding new options while keeping classic favorites around, too. Sky Pollard, head of product at Nuuly, said the company uses a data-driven approach to see what Nuuly subscribers want. Nuuly's team can see what styles and sizes customers are searching for on the site and what items they're saving in their closets. Nuuly then uses that information to see what trends are emerging. At the beginning of the pandemic, the company pivoted quickly to offer more chic and cozy loungewear. And once things started opening up again, Nuuly had fun options for music festival tops and vacation dresses.
Nuuly currently offers thousands of styles from over 300 brands, including Citizens of Humanity jeans, patterned dresses from Farm Rio, and show-stopping late-night outfits from LoveShackFancy. They even provide some outdoor activewear, like snow bibs, ski jackets, and bike shorts. Nuuly is an URBN brand, so about half of its inventory comes from Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, and Free People. If any of those brands are your vibe, you'll enjoy plenty of clothing options to suit your style. However, the company is always adding new brands to the mix. When I first started using Nuuly, I rented a ton of Free People and Anthropologie petite clothing. Now, Farm Rio is usually the first thing I fill my Nuuly bag with. I love that I can still discover brands while ensuring I have some trusted, perfect-fitting items in my bag.
Packaging and Delivery
Your six items come in a reusable, zipped-up bag that includes the return package label. Once you've worn your items for the month, you keep anything you want to buy and return the rest by dropping off the bag at a UPS store. If you order a coat or two in the winter months, your Nuuly shipment might arrive in a box instead of a bag, but you can also reuse the box to send back your items at the end of the month.
The items ship to and from Nuuly's Pennsylvania facility. I live in Brooklyn, and sometimes I get my Nuuly bag the next day. Sometimes it takes two days. Nuuly operates Monday through Friday, so if you fill your bag on Friday night, it might not ship out until Monday morning. In that case, I usually keep my previous month's clothes over the weekend and try to get one more wear out of my pieces before returning them. If I'm traveling, I update the shipping address to get my Nuuly delivered to wherever I am at the moment. I can still use the original return label (even if I change locations).
If I want to have my Nuuly clothing for an important event or vacation, I make sure to give some wiggle room of two to three days to account for the shipping inconsistencies. Shipping delays might be more on the UPS side of things than the Nuuly side, but I still take it into account. You can also send your month's Nuuly bag back early and move your billing date to an earlier time if you are eager to get new clothing. It's very easy to do, and there are no extra charges.
A big reason for my Nuuly love comes from the guilt-free joy of trying new clothes every month without contributing to the cheap, fast-fashion world just to wear a crochet top for the season. But how sustainable is Nuuly's approach on the factory side? I've gotten several new-with-tags items in my bag over the months, so does that mean they're only renting out an item two or three times before retiring it? I asked Pollard for some insight.
When you return your Nuuly bag, the clothes go through a deep-cleaning process, followed by an inspection. The items then go to the repair team, which handles sweater shaving, stain removal, and more.
"You'd be surprised at the ability of the team to salvage things," Pollard said. "The repairs team can swap out a lining if something gets torn or replace a zipper. Stains are the biggest cause of an item getting damaged out, but they have tools and steam machines that they use — they work really hard to get things put back into the cycle."
Not only do your Nuuly clothes come in a reusable bag after going through a cleaning and repairs process, but Nuuly is also getting creative when it comes to upcycling clothes. The company has created a section on the site called re_Nuuly where it reimagines a retired item's look with the help of its team as well as creative partnerships in the community, such as the recent re_Nuuly x Hum + Bee collaboration.
Style Inspiration, Your Nuuly Closet, and Honest Reviews
I have a formula to make sure I get the most out of my Nuuly subscription: one fun coat, one jumpsuit or dress, two bottoms, and two tops. Since pants are a tricky fit for me sometimes, I stick with brands I know fit me well (Paige, Levi's, and Citizens of Humanity) while I take more risks with tops. When exploring new brands, I rely heavily on customer reviews and pictures. Nuuly fans are extremely honest in their reviews. They provide pictures, give feedback on the fit, and share how they styled that piece. If I'm still unsure of sizing after reading through the feedback, I'll look up the size chart to be safe.
I feel pretty confident in my style and subscription strategy, but Nuuly offers a lot of inspiration and help for someone who needs a little more guidance. It sends out style inspiration emails that are honestly just beautiful to open, and the Nuuly Instagram account shares helpful tips on how to build your bag as well as fun ways to style certain pieces. When searching the Nuuly site, you can filter by specific brands, categories, or looks, like "winter cozy."
Whenever I have the urge to do some online shopping, I pull up Nuuly, scroll through the new looks, and save them to my "closet" for the future. This little hack saves me tons of money because it fulfills my need to scroll and "add to cart" without purchasing anything.
I'm not the only Nuuly fan on our editorial team. Several InStyle editors and writers are also Nuuly subscribers, including Amina Lake Abdelrahman, who says she's only been using Nuuly since October 2021 but is already "obsessed."
Nuuly is $88 a month, and you get to rent six items for that price. Your price is fixed, whether you rent a $2,000 coat or a $100 sweater. You can add up to two bonus items for $18 a piece. If you don't return your items by your billing date, there are no late fees, and I love that flexibility. It's just up to you to decide how you want to maximize your subscription.
Nuuly often runs promos for $10 off your first month. It also has a friend referral program where you can send a friend $10 off, and if they sign up, you also get $10 off. However, I've referred a handful of friends directly to Nuuly via a code or an email, and I've never gotten a referral credit. I suspect this is because the email or code will send them to the website, where it prompts them to sign up as a new customer for $10 off. Since the friend referral is also $10 off, there's not a lot of incentive to double-check which $10 credit you're applying. When I reached out to customer service about this, they said my friend should follow up with customer service to ensure I got the credit. I feel like that's a lot to ask for a friend to do. At the end of the day, my friends all got $10 off their first month, whether I got a kick-back for it or not.
When I consider the original retail value of everything in my Nuuly bag, it's usually around $1,000. And I'm only paying $88. I'm so happy that the price has not gone up since I started subscribing to this service. For me, this price is justifiable for the vast coat selection alone, and I have a few friends who choose to subscribe only during the winter months just to try out fun designer coats.
Nuuly offers a chat option with a customer service representative during business hours Monday through Friday. Besides the unsatisfactory resolution to my referral credit inquiry, they've been pleasant and quick to chat with, and I've always conversed with an actual human, which I appreciate. If an item doesn't fit or something is wrong with it, customer service is quick to give you a bonus item on your next Nuuly bag. This doesn't immediately resolve the issue, but it makes you feel a little better about the situation.
Nuuly Vs. Rent the Runway
Rent the Runway is another popular clothing rental service that was ground-breaking at its conception. With Rent the Runway, you can rent one outfit for four or eight days (an excellent option for wedding guest attire or a weekend away), and the company also offers monthly rentals on four, eight, or 16 pieces. Its four-piece rental subscription is $89, while Nuuly's six-piece subscription is $88.
Rent the Runway offers different subscription plans to meet their customers' needs, while Nuuly Rent offers one all-inclusive membership. I've used Rent the Runway for weekend rentals and the monthly subscription, and I don't have anything negative to say about it. But for me, Nuuly is a better value, the clothes are in better condition, and the selection fits my style better than Rent the Runway's options.
Who Is Nuuly Good For?
Nuuly is good for someone who is adventurous in their clothing selection and loves the thrill of trying out new clothes. With so many wildcard options, you can make a statement in a brightly-colored coat or a fun patterned jumpsuit without any commitment. It's also great for someone experimenting with switching up their style, whether that's leaning into more feminine options or just throwing in a super-bold item to try in their Nuuly bag. Is fringe making a comeback? Maybe, maybe not. But you can rent a fringe jacket and see how it feels to be "the one with the fringe jacket" in your friend group for a month.
Nuuly is also good for someone who changes sizes often or who falls into a petite, plus, or maternity category. I often fluctuate between sizes, and with Nuuly, it's no sweat. If I have a few extra pounds one month, I'll up my size or choose cozier clothing. If I'm down a size, maybe I'll get some tight pants to prance around in. Nuuly also has amazing petite, plus, and maternity sections. A friend of mine who is a new mom loved that Nuuly offered chic maternity options and even great flexible postpartum outfits so she can still have fun clothing and feel good in her body while it makes its way into its post-baby size.
Who Is Nuuly Not Good For?
I have never bought anything from my Nuuly bag, even though I have fallen in love with so many items. For me, the fun is getting new clothes every month. Adding in the "Should I buy this? Should I not buy this?" element takes the fun out of it. While the retail prices are discounted, sometimes you can find better deals straight from the store.
Of all my friends who've tried Nuuly, only two stopped their subscriptions early on, and those two are both expert online shoppers. They buy trendy clothes all the time, so for them, adding clothes to their Nuuly bag and not getting the fit just right was more trouble than it was worth. They'd rather shop for deals and pay for the clothes themselves. So Nuuly isn't good for someone who already has their closet figured out and likes it that way.
Nuuly markets itself as casual, everyday wear, and I've found this to be true. So if you're looking for lots of date night options or want to try multiple sizes in a dress to see which one fits best, this might not be the subscription for you. While there are certainly plenty of dresses and upscale options, you can't order two sizes of the same outfit, so you'd be taking a chance on the fit. And there's no guarantee of a specific dress's availability if you have your heart set on a particular item for an event.
Pollard said that's something the company is aware of and that Nuuly is always trying to strike the balance of having enough availability for its customers while not having so much availability that you show up to a wedding in the same dress as another guest.
Nuuly: My Take
If it's not clear by this point, let me clearly state it: I am a huge fan of Nuuly. After subscribing to something for a few years, it's easy to become bored, but Nuuly is always keeping it fresh with new, trending items. And at this point, I live for the compliments. When I wear a rented Nuuly item, I always get compliments. At a Brooklyn holiday mart last year, someone complimented my sweater, and I said "It's from Nuuly!" Two other girls nearby turned around and said they were wearing sweaters from Nuuly, too. We all laughed, and this kind of spontaneous joy really sums up my experience with Nuuly.
It's fun to browse and save items to my closet, explore new trends without too much financial commitment, and have a revolving door of loud clothing in my wardrobe. As someone who is petite and curvy, I love that there are so many flattering options for me, and I will continue to subscribe to Nuuly as long as the price is justifiable. My Nuuly subscription keeps me from buying fast-fashion clothes and partaking in impulse shopping, but it has also helped me nurture and really come into my own style. And I feel really proud of that.
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