Trisha Gregory, one of the founders of Armarium, looks through dresses at an event at Capitol Charlotte. Capitol partnered with Armarium to give customers the opportunity to rent designer gowns on April 4, 2017. There were trunk shows from Paul Andrew, Edie Parker, and Bajra. (Molly Mathis/Charlotte Observer/TNS)

How Do You Get An Oscar-Level Dress But Not An Oscar-Level Price? Charlotte Shop Shows One Way

By Cristina Bolling
The Charlotte Observer

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) A Charlotte boutique is embracing the sharing economy by encouraging the occasional renting of luxury gowns.

CHARLOTTE, N.C.

It’s spring gala season, and one of Charlotte’s most luxurious boutiques was humming on a recent Tuesday, with racks laden with silk, hand-beading and French lace from the world’s most coveted designers.

But these beauties, from designer houses such as Marchesa and Roberto Cavalli, weren’t for sale. They were for rent.

Capitol boutique had flown in the two New York-based founders of Armarium, the hottest company in the growing formal-gown-rental market (Google “Armarium and Oscars” and you’ll see). They in turn brought in dozens of new-this-season gowns for one day for Charlotte women to rent, for black-tie affairs such as (to name two this month) the upcoming Mint Museum “Coveted Couture” Gala or the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art’s “Taboo!” Gala.

Those who found favorites will pay between $300 and $1,000 for their chosen gown to be delivered to their homes (hems basted up, if need be) three days before their event. The day after the gala, they’ll pack them back into a postage-paid box and mail them back to New York.

Capitol owner and creator Laura Vinroot Poole says she decided to bring in the service because it expands what she can offer clients: With 2,500 square feet, in which she also houses a spectrum of lifestyle dressing, she only stocks so many designer gowns.

“I’m not willing to forgo quality for quantity,” Vinroot Poole said.

But isn’t it counter-intuitive for a clothing retailer to encourage renting, and possibly giving women an alternative to plunking down $900 (-and-up-and-up) for a gown? And online, no less?

Not necessarily. Exposing women to the world’s best brands, on a bit more budget-conscious, if temporary, basis, allows them the intoxicating feel of wearing luxury. (And perhaps starts them on the road toward buying it.)

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