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Rent the Runway's Jennifer Hyman Talks the Rising Cost of Prom

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Jennifer F. and Jennifer H. via Source

It's no secret that high-schoolers drop mad cash on prom (or their parents do in most cases), but a recent Visa survey has pegged a number to the night's overall cost: Survey says that 5% more dough was dropped this year leveling out to an average $1,139 per attendee. We all know a mall tux rental isn't that expensive. The dress and accessories are the number one and two culprits here, and Rent the Runway, the go-to online source of rentable dresses and accessories and Racked 38 honoree, has positioned itself as a viable solution to the prom-blem.

Jennifer Hyman, company co-founder and CEO, told us over email that she has first-hand experience, "I think I spent an entire year convincing my mom to buy me a white Carmen Marc Valvo dress for prom. So while I definitely could have done worse, I really wish I had had Rent the Runway as an option!"

As Hyman notes, renting a designer dress is an opportunity to (a) sport items from the top designers as seen on red carpets and in magazines and (b) not piss off parents and/or bankrupt them: "At the end of the day, their parents have the final say, so they can find a nice compromise by benefitting from the luxury aspect of Rent the Runway as well as the reasonable price tag."

What's reasonable for a four day dress rental? The RTR options on their handy prom page start at $50 for a BCBGMAXAZRIA dress that retails for $258 and cap out at $310 for a Narciso Rodriguez dress that retails for $2195. You get the dress for four days (or eight days for a few dollars more), and two sizing options. Badgley Mischka, Rebecca Taylor and Erin Fetherston were the most popular designers for prom-goers, and they tend to fall in the $70 to $135 range of rentals.

We were curious as to how the company replicates the in-the-trenches, store-to-another-mother-f'ing-store process (dare we say rite of passage?) that the prom-dress search can be for many shoppers. And the answer is that renters have an option to work with a personal stylist, free of charge. RTR experienced a 63% increase in calls, a 61% increase in emails, and a 40% increase in chats with its stylists this past month. "Customers often call in and ask for a specific stylist that they have worked with in the past, which has added a true personal styling dimension to our service," Fliess explained.

And in some cases, they bring the prom to the student. RTR launched their initiative "Dream Prom" yesterday, where they visited East Rockaway High School North in New York, which was displaced by Sandy last year. They took their team of stylists plus its "Prom Committee," fashion director, Lucy Sykes Rellie, Teen Vogue's Editor in Chief Amy Astley, and reality show My Fair Wedding's David Tutera, and dressed up participating girls in dresses, hair, and makeup (dudes got tuxedos rentals compliments of Men's Wearhouse). "Prom is the first real Cinderella moment in a woman's life so we're so thrilled to be able to provide this magical experience for such an inspiring and deserving school," Hyman said. More info on that here.
· Racked Editors Critique Their Teenage Prom Looks [Racked]