Ten gorgeous designer dresses to rent for any holiday occasion

The holiday season can get expensive. You want to look your best at every event you attend, but buying new clothes can be pricey. Meet Rent the Runway, an online service that provides customers with designer dresses, accessories and jewelry for rent at cheap prices.  

AP Photo/Lord & Taylor/File
A model showcasing ladylike dress by Carmen Marc by Carmen Marc Valvo.

It goes without saying, but the holiday season can get expensive. I'm not just talking about the money you have to shell out on thoughtful presents and groceries that somehow disappear the moment your family walks through the door, I'm talking about the events. Christmas dinner with the family, New Years Eve out on the town, your best friend's Christmas party, your office holiday party, your cousin's winter wedding...the list goes on and on. You want to look your best at every party, dinner or gala, but who can afford to buy a new dress for every occasion?

If this is a question that's been plaguing you since your last glance at your overflowing calendar, I'm about to introduce you to something that will blow your mind: Rent the Runway. This online service provides customers with designer dresses, accessories and jewelry for rent at prices that won't break the bank. These are dresses from designers like Moshino, Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, Vera Wang and Zac Posen, which retail for hundreds or thousands of dollars, available to rent for under $100. I have a serious dress hoarding problem where I buy an expensive dress, wear it once, and then let it sit in the back of my closet for years, so Rent the Runway is an invaluable asset for me. I can rent a dress for either 4 or 8 days, and they'll send me two sizes of the same dress in case the one I ordered doesn't fit.

They've got hundreds of dresses to choose from, which might be a little overwhelming. So I decided to do the work for you. I made a list of 10 possible upcoming occasions, and handpicked a dress option under $100 for each one. Enjoy!

Occasion 1: A Classy Dinner Party -- Tibi "Piece of Cake Dress" -- $35-45 rental ($690 retail) 

The winter months are riddled with dinner parties, because nothing is more comforting than stuffing your face on a cold night. When dressing for a dinner party, you want to look classy without being too fancy, and the dress should be comfortable enough to sit down in. You probably don't want to go with anything too tight lest you eat too much, so I chose this fit and flair style, which looks good on almost everyone. It accentuates the waist but hides any belly you don't want poking out, and I also love the sexy but subtle high neck/low back combination here.

Occasion 2: The Office Holiday Party -- Kay Unger "Sequin Rain Sheath" -- $50-$60 rental ($600 retail)

This is always a tricky one. If you're dressing to impress at an office party, you want to be conservative and professional with just a touch of sparkle, and you certainly can't wear anything too tight or revealing. This dress is a perfect mixture of everything: it's form-fitting without being too tight, long sleeved and high necked but still sheer, and the sequin sheath will make you shine from across the room.

Occasion 3: A Friend's Holiday Party -- Allison Parris "Down the Middle Dress" -- $65-$75 rental ($350 retail)

When you're among friends you can let your personal style shine without fear of judgement or side-eye. The perfect dress for a boozy Christmas party is fun and flirty while still being seasonally appropriate, which is why I opted for this wine-red dress. It might be cliche, but there is something so perfect about a red dress against white snow, and the deep v-neck and sexy pleats in the skirt make it a perfect fit for even the wildest holiday celebration.

Occasion 4: A Holiday Gala Event -- Reem Acra "Florence Gown" --$70-$80 rental ($3,000 retail)

I've actually never been to a gala, but I've always wanted an excuse to wear a long, fancy gown that flows behind me as I descend a marble staircase. Clearly I've given this a lot of thought. I may or may not be able to con my way into a gala this holiday season, but if you have one already in the books, please wear this gorgeous Reem Acra gown for me. It's so ethereal and flowing, I feel like a fairy princess just looking at it.

Occasion 5: A Dinner for Two -- Erin Fetherston "Gold Trim Sheath" -- $50 rental ($295 retail)

In between all the craziness of the holiday season, it's important to take some time for romance. Whether it's a first date or a 10-year anniversary dinner, you want to look your best when you step out with that special someone. It's hard to go wrong with a little black dress, and I liked the gold detail on this one--it really gives the whole look a special holiday feel. This dress shows off a hint of cleavage and a lot of leg, so I think it's perfect for a hot night out on the town.

Occasion 6: New Years Eve -- Badgley Mischka "Draped in Gold Dress" -- $60 rental ($750 retail)

The glitziest of all holidays, NYE is the time to go big or go home. There are very few occasions where it's socially acceptable to wear a shining gold dress covered in sequins, so why not flaunt it while you can? I absolutely adore this little drapey gold number, which seems like something a Greek goddess would have in her closet. This is a plus sized style, but if you're looking for a similar sparkle in a smaller size, try the Badgley Mischka "DaCruz Shimmer Mini" which, at $30, is making me reconsider my strict "no strapless" policy for my upcoming NYE adventures.

Occasion 7: Christmas with the Family -- Erin Fetherston "Green Light Dress"-- $60-$70 rental ($325 retail)

While I usually dress for comfort at my family's holiday celebrations, I know a lot of people for whom the occasion warrants a trip to the mall. If your family is a formal bunch, or if your holiday traditions include a night at a house of worship, you're going to need a dress that's formal and conservative while still being comfortable. I like the idea of a green dress (to match your Christmas tree!) and I think this dress's sparkling green skirt and high crew neckline is perfect for a formal holiday with the family.

Occasion 8: A Winter Wedding -- Robert Rodriguez Collection "Azure Swirl Mini" -- $30-$40 rental ($600 retail)

It's always a good idea to add a pop of color that isn't red or green to a winter wedding, and that's why I love this dress. The color stands out, the pattern is adorable, the fabric is reportedly thick, and while the neckline is modest, it's got a short skirt that will look good with both sheer pantyhose or dark tights.

Occasion 9: A Holiday Theater Event -- Carmen Marc Valvo "Rosette Envelope Dress" -- $85 rental ($425 retail)

A lot of families have age-old holiday traditions like going to see the symphony orchestra play seasonal tunes, snagging tickets to a performance of The Nutcracker, or heading to a Broadway show. This beautiful pink dress is classy, conservative and just a bit flirty--the ultimate dress for dinner and live entertainment with family, friends or a significant other. I really love the flower pattern, the slight puff in the shoulders and the modest length of this dress. This could also work well for a winter wedding if the Robert Rodriguez dress is too short for your liking.

Occasion 10: Ugly Sweater Party -- Assorted Sweaters -- $15

That's right, you can even rent an ugly sweater. While the $15 price tag is a bit steep considering you can find truly hideous holiday sweaters for less than $5 at your local Goodwill or Salvation Army, it's still a fun idea to rent something you're definitely never going to wear again!

So what do you think of my picks? Love 'em? Hate 'em? Agree or disagree with my reasoning? Let me know in the comments, and definitely include a picture if you end up renting a dress of your own!

So what do you think of my picks? Love 'em? Hate 'em? Agree or disagree with my reasoning? Let me know in the comments, and definitely include a picture if you end up renting a dress of your own!

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