April 26, 2007

For Rent: Couture Handbags

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With the onslaught of formals in the coming weeks, its easy to feel like a Cinderella (pre-glass slippers and ball gowns), while trying to choose what to wear out of your seemingly meager wardrobe. Fortunately, in the absence of fairy godmothers, we all have friends, sisters and even mothers that can lend us clothes that will get us through potentially traumatic social events. But these days, there’s some new friends in town — meet Bagborroworsteal.com and Frombagstoriches.com, who just made living the fashionable life even easier. In what The New York Times has characterized as the “Netflix” for bags, these online stores give us commoners the opportunity to parade around town with the latest designers’ bags, jewelry and accessories for a day, a week or even a month by paying a rental fee. Offering such couture wares as legitimate Louis Vuitton, Hermés, Dior or Chanel handbags, one of these sites also offers accessories, such as belts and jewelry for rent.
Although prices are less accessible for us humble college students, they present an option for those with a steady and robust salary who want to lead the life of the rich and famous without having the wealth or fame that’s typically needed to back it up. Weekly borrowing fees start at a little over $20 for less expensive but trendy designers, such as Dooney & Bourke, Lori Bonn, Coach and BCBG (all handbag rental prices include shipping and $100 damage insurance). Without being a member, for example, a Coach Signature Multi Stripe Large Tote can be yours for week for as “little” as $30.00 a week, which isn’t that bad considering that the price tag is $328.00. Rental fees for pricier and more exciting and glamorous bags, such as those by French couture designers such as Chanel, Hermes and Louis Vuitton run a bit higher. Those $1,000 Balenciaga Motrocylce Bags we’ve seen dangling from the arms of many a celebrity can temporarily adorn your look for just $189.95 per week.
But for those of us who would rather spend a couple of week’s rentals for actually purchasing one of these bags, these sites are still fun to peak at the latest in handbags and other accessories. One of the U.S. sites also provides “star sightings,” featuring photos of celebrities and their purses of choice. Perusing these websites’ European counterparts can also give you a head start to some trends that haven’t yet made their way across the Atlantic. Check out the Spanish Look-and-stop.com to explore differences in taste between fashion-conscious American women and their European counterparts. The site’s list of today’s most desired bags includes YSL’s Lazo bag, Chanel’s Camelia bag; Bottega Veneta’s Butterfly Woven bag, ERVA’s Caja Cebra and Tod’s Marlene bag. Interestingly, these bags are small, evening clutches that are in contrast with larger, more casual bags featured in the U.S. rent-a-bag sites. Moreover, none of the top five European bags are even offered in the American sites. For those of us who are seriously obsessed with handbag trends, the online Purse Blog (Purseblog.com) allows visitors to share your “shallow obsessions” with other handbag enthusiasts.
So, as your getting ready for your formals or even just a special night on the town, take a look one of these websites. While you may not shell out $189.95 to borrow a quilted Coco Chanel classic, like those treasured by A-listers such as Sarah Jessica Parker, Nicole Kidman, Penélope Cruz and Uma Thurman, you’ll know what to be looking for at thrift stores or even in your mom’s closet — an unfaltering borrowing go-to for last last-minute fashion crunches.