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Startup allows you to rent dress, save bundle

Posted at 5:48 PM, Feb 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-29 02:13:05-05

Wedding season is just around the corner, but before you buy your dream dress, a startup says you can save up to 85% percent if you borrowed it instead.

"The average designer gown starts at $3,000, but the average bride only has $1,200 allocated in her budget for a dress," said Ashley Steele, the co-founder of Borrowing Magnolia, an online bridal boutique that wants to disrupt the way brides do the dress. "The modern bride -- she's smart, she's savvy, and she understand it's just not practical to spend a huge amount of money on a garment that she's going to wear for generally less than eight hours."

She thought -- women are already sharing homes on airbnb, sharing cars on Uber, why wouldn't they share designer wedding dresses, too?

So, Borrowing Magnolia acts as a middle man, connecting people who want to rent out (or sell) their wedding dress to brides who want to borrow it at a dramatic discount.

"It's incredibly simple," said Lisa Moses, a Denver designer who loved the idea of renting the Vera Wang gown she walked down the aisle in to another bride looking for a dream dress. "It's a material thing, and that's not really a big deal for me. It's more like I married the coolest guy ever and that's who I'm with for the rest of my life, so that's reminder enough."

She applied through the site and her dress was accepted for rent or sale, so for a $49 annual fee, it will soon be listed.

"So this is one of the most popular dresses in our collection," said Ashley Steele, showing off one of the more than 650 designer gowns in the Athens, Georgia warehouse where they do business. "This is a Vera Wang Gemma gown. The gown would retail for $5,500, you can borrow it from our collection for $1,075."

On average, the rental fee is about 30 percent of retail value and we found dresses listed for rent or sale for as low as $275.

"We allow in-home try-ons, which we believe is a very personalized, luxurious way for women to shop for their wedding dress," said Steele.

The company charges a $49 fee for the first dress tried on and $29 for dresses after that, and those fees can be applied to the rental fee or sale price if a dress is selected.

Reversible alterations are allowed, and Steele said most alterations are reversible.

The dresses are shipped to brides 10 days before the wedding date and must be returned four days later, although Steele said they can be flexible if more time is needed for alterations.

Borrowing Magnolia accepts dresses bought in the last five years with an original retail value of at least $600.

Steele said they will also dry clean and mend dresses for a reduced cost.

"We manage that entire process for the dress owner, make it as easy as possible for them and get them a check at the end," said Steele. "If, after a year you want to pull your dress out,  you absolutely can and we send it back to you at no charge."

Moses said she spent more on her wedding dress ($2,500) than she had budgeted ($1000) because she was planning all along to sell it.

But by renting it a few times for $525, she could make even more money for her next big event.

"This was the last ultrasound that I had," she said, proudly showing a photo. "I'm eight months pregnant. More money for the baby!"

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