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Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

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I Own Nothing, Or How Renting Fancy Bags Changed My Life

I'm the ultimate It bag-toting liar.

"ShopStyle," I tell French tourists, fellow shoppers, and friendly strangers who stop to ask about my Moschino McDonald's purse. "I found it through ShopStyle, but I can't remember which site I actually bought it from!"

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Me, spend nearly $900 on a purse and not be able to recall who charged my card? Ha, please. I'm the ultimate It bag-toting liar: That fast food-themed purse hanging off my shoulder, Instagrammed by friends, and complimented by random men on the street isn't mine at all. Like pretty much every other accessory I've worn recently, it's rented. And it's kind of the freakin' best.

When Rent The Runway launched its Unlimited plan earlier this summer, I pounced at the chance to become a beta member. Truth is, I've never rented a special occasion dress from them, since I'd rather invest in a go-to gown than share a prom dress moment with a stranger. But the opportunity to play around with designer sunglasses, crazy earrings, and other things I'd never actually purchase for just $75 a month? Well, that was too good a deal to pass up.

Since RTR Unlimited works as a queue of your favorite items, you're sent up to three randomly-selected goodies at a time. You can ship them back (for free!) when you want something new, or—and here's the kicker—you can keep them for as long as you'd like. Yep, you read that fine print correctly: I have been given extreme squatter's rights to my very own, very affordable dream Moschino purse.

Now, am I participating in fool's layaway? Maybe, yeah, especially if I keep this red-and-yellow nugget for another month or two. Still, renting accessories feels like a way to safeguard your everyday wardrobe from seasonal mistakes, to experience fashion trends without having to commit to them.

Photo: Getty Images

I'm really not the type of person to splurge on a handbag. To me, a bag is where your gum wrappers, complimentary SoulCycle hair elastics, Duane Reade receipts, and flaccid Post-Its all congeal into a solid, sticky, granola-covered mass, aided by that sugar-glue residue from loose Kind Bar wrappers. To house disaster like that inside a leather bag equal to your share of rent is simply insane.

But a weird thing happened when I started going out with my silly little McDonald's purse: People were nice. Too-cool Opening Ceremony employees were overly kind. People in my exercise classes chatted me up, sparking a recurring tête-à-tête about my love for junk food bringing me to the gym in the first place. Strangers—so many strangers—came out of nowhere just to compliment me. As someone who typically spends busy afternoons dashing around in baggy dresses and floral muumuus, having a McHip bag was giving me some majorly unexpected street cred.

The next pricey bag I borrowed was a Barbara Bui Air backpack (retail: $1035), most widely known as the thing Emma Stone keeps by her side almost as much as Andrew Garfield. While I'd typically leave something this nice back home in multiple layers of dustbags, I brought it to barre class, because hey! It's not mine, so I don't have to fret about keeping it pristine for "nice occasions." It doesn't matter that no one in their right mind should be using a buttery leather bag to go to and from the gym, nothing could stop me from gliding down the sidewalk, thinking, "Do I look like Emma Stone right now?! Did you see me in Easy A? My ponytail is perfection!"

And then tragedy struck. The thin leather strap popped off when I swung it over my shoulder at improv rehearsal that night, and when I exited: torrential downpour. Rain everywhere with no umbrellas to be found, only a fine leather good clutched under my arm that needed to be protected like a paper baby. Had a friend not hailed me a cab once I pathetically announced my current bag-baby situation, would I have owed the company a massive portion of my paycheck?

According to Rent The Runway's strict-yet-vague policies...probably not. Wear and tear as well as "minor mishaps" are covered, which is likely why I wasn't charged for the strap, and why you can get away with small pen jabs and leather wrinkles. But still, the potential for danger is high, and you pay a lot more attention to clumsy red wine drinkers and the sticky texture of a table when a designer price tag is on the line.

The same goes for jewelry: Whether it's a delicate Gillian Steinhardt ear cuff ($195) or a Lulu Frost necklace ($448), you can't help but feel constant low-level anxiety the entire time you're taking these goods out for a spin. What if you break it? Or lose it?

Photo: Getty Images

To raise the rental stakes even higher, I turned to the most OG of rental sites, Bag Borrow or Steal. I'd never considered renting an It bag before, but given my new obsession with and the bizarre response to the lil' Moschino (seriously, I have never been treated better in my life), I had to experiment further. And by further, I mean I am currently in the possession of an insanely beautiful Céline trapeze satchel, which costs $300 a month to rent.

After getting over my initial panic—what do you mean the bag I see everyone carrying around costs $4,000?!—I let it sit in my apartment for three whole days, too scared to expose it to New York's unpredictable weather. When I finally bring it out of hiding, another weird thing happens. Other people don't treat me differently (a grown-up tote is less of a conversation starter than a novelty purse), but I do. I use my hands more delicately, like a little lady. I hold myself up straight, no slouching, no klutziness. I even begin dressing more like the type of person who would carry a Céline bag. I wear a crop top to the coffee shop, for goodness' sake.

Sure, I know that at the end of the day, I'm no better or different of a person because my handbag cost an inordinate amount of money. But still, carrying such a purse had an undeniable impact. Would I shell out thousands (or even hundreds) of dollars for any of this stuff? No, but for women who want to try out a fancy new look with absolutely no commitment, renting everyday accessories is pretty perfect, not to mention reasonable.

And for those who still don't understand it, ask yourself this: Would you rather have loved and lost, or never have loved at all? If we go ahead and call the bond I have with that ridiculous McDonald's bag "love," well, you know where I stand.


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