The next time you fancy a dress you don’t own just yet, turn to the mushrooming flock of online rental stores

Have a closet full of clothes, and yet nothing nice to wear? Here’s a solution, virtually. Enter the rent-me markets that allow you to access your dream wardrobe: book it, rent it, wear it and return it. It’s a great option for those who do not wish to buy expensive clothes used only during special occasions.  So customers can go online, search by date of their event and choose a dress. After using it, the dress is sent back and the companies even take care of the dry-cleaning. Some companies charge a small deposit amount along with the dress. The concept is gaining steam in these tough financial times.

“You can rent designer outfits for roughly one-tenth of what you’d pay in a retail store. It lets you keep with the latest trends and your changing whims,” says Mumbai-based fashion designer Sonia Mehra, who runs Dial-a-dress site that offers on rent Indian and Western clothes. She has a lot of clients from Kochi and Hyderabad and also taps into the college market with good discounts for young party-goers.

Not everyone would want to splurge on a sequined attire or a resham-embroidered lehenga-choli that would be rarely worn. And most women are reluctant to repeat outfits on social occasions. This inspired Jessica Gupta from Mumbai to launch Secret Wardrobe.com that stocks creations by Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Jade, Malini Ramani and Masaba Gupta for rent.

“There are people who are hesitant to wear clothes worn by others, but the response to the concept has largely been encouraging. The trend has caught on even more with celebrities borrowing outfits for events too,” says Jessica.

Maintenance and size are the twin challenges these services face. “Sometimes alterations are an issue and we put in a lot of effort to maintain the clothes so that they never appear used or shabby,” adds Jessica.

If you can look stylish at a price that you can afford, then why not, asks U.S-based Swati Narra, co-founder of Luxemi.com that offers on rent high-end apparels and accessories to the Indian-American community. “For the seeker of variety, the options are mind-boggling. There are saris, lehengas, gowns, jewellery, sherwanis, Western dresses and much more..”

With rising costs, people are looking for ways to shop better and smarter. Besides, the life of a designer garment in these days of fast-changing trends is short. “It also saves you the guilt of your expensive saris or dresses lying in the closet. No wonder people are opening up to apparel renting,” adds Sonia.

With Instagram and Facebook profiles, every individual feels like a celebrity. Social media has become a huge part of our culture, and documenting outfits is integral to it. Once you attend a wedding or a function, the outfit you wore is there for everyone to see. And people don't want to be seen in the same outfit repeatedly. So next time you need to attend an award function, party or wedding, the outfit of your choice is just a click away!