Dancing to hire charges: Renting clothes could prove better than buying, but insurance is a must as an accessory. Mary Wilson shops around

WITH the return of the party season comes the recurring problem of what to wear - or, more to the point, whether you can afford a new dress.

When the occasion fails to justify the outlay, one acceptable alternative is to hire a dress and the accessories. There are many dress hire shops from which to choose, with stock usually ranging from the eternally reliable dresses made by Bernshaw to little black frocks and creations by the more expensive designers.

Most shops guarantee to clean every item between hires, and this cost is included in the hire charge, but there are less reputable shops that may put a dress straight back on the rail with just a brush-down.

Douglas Griver, managing director of After Dark in north-west London, says: 'We spend four figures a month on cleaning our clothes. Of course, before they are ready to hire, they have to be spotless and in perfect condition every time.'

He stocks, as do most shops, new-season designs, and changes stock every six months, selling off at discount. Sizes range from 6 to 20. You might find something by Terence Nolder or Belville Sassoon.

Hire charges go from pounds 39 to pounds 200, although average charges are from pounds 60-pounds 90. 'We are very flexible on how long someone can keep a dress, although it is usually for a weekend or for two or three days,' says Mr Griver.

Handbags can be hired for pounds 5 to pounds 10; gloves pounds 5; capes or jackets pounds 15-pounds 25; jewellery pounds 3-pounds 15.

Mr Griver takes a deposit of pounds 100, or the number of your credit card, to cover any unforeseen calamities, which he says are very few and far between. Most marks can be dealt with; even cigarette burns can be cut out and invisibly mended or a new panel can be sewn in.

The dress hire companies will tell you that whatever you hire is automatically covered by your home insurance policy, but for how much, and exactly what for, depends on the policy.

At Commercial Union, for example, you would not be covered for all risks, but as long as you informed them, the premium would be between pounds 10 and pounds 20, depending on the dress.

According to Paul Lowin, marketing superintendent of Guardian Royal Exchange, you would be covered under your personal belongings cover (all risks) if you have that cover. If not, and you are worried about replacing a costly dress, GRE's minimum premium is pounds 10.

There is usually a single article limit: in GRE's case, pounds 750. Says Mr Lowin: 'If someone phoned up beforehand asking to extend this to pounds 1,000 for one dress for one night, we would probably be happy to increase the limit for no cost.'

Generally, hiring customers seem to be fairly reliable about returning the goods, and most shops are quite relaxed about when. But Sarah Marques and her partner Louise Eyre of 20th Century Frox in the Fulham Road in south-west London are strict on timekeeping. They take a pounds 150 deposit and hire the dress out for three days. If it is kept longer, the penalty is pounds 10 a day. If you want the goods for more than that and say so at the time, it's an extra pounds 5 a day.

Miss Marques says her customers can also make a pounds 5 insurance deal with her to cover things such as cigarette burns or nail-varnish stains. In cases of serious damage, the repair bill is sent to the customer or taken out of the deposit. If the dress cannot be hired out again, or sold, 20th Century Frox keeps the deposit and the customer keeps the dress. Other shops ask the customer to buy the dress at a reduced price.

Pumpkin Ballgown Hire in the centre of Manchester, owned by Sandra Levin and Jane Myers, stocks over 600 dresses. Charges are pounds 45 to pounds 95 for four nights, and they say they are flexible about the length of hire. There is a 15 per cent reduction for students.

They have their own dressmaker for alterations, jewellery can be hired from pounds 10, shoes from pounds 8 and jackets from pounds 15.

Gown and Out, with branches in west London and Bourne End, Buckinghamshire, hires out dresses in sizes 8 to 28. A simple black party dress can cost as little as pounds 15, while a Bruce Oldfield could be pounds 90. Barbara Wilsher, the owner, said: 'Although people who could afford to buy are now hiring, the people who used to hire for company functions are doing it less, mainly because there are fewer parties and lots of people are just making do.'

There is no deposit needed at Cinderella Designer Gowns, with 10 branches in Scotland, but hire charges are similar. 'We expect our clients to use their own insurance to cover any repair bills. And we have only had two late returns in six years,' says Gill Greehalgh.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Accounts Payable

£12 - £15 per hour: Cameron Kennedy Recruitment: Excellent opportunity to join...

Technical BA - Banking - Bristol - £400pd

£400 per hour: Orgtel: Technical Business Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £400pd...

Account Management Strategy Manager

£38000 - £42000 per annum + competitive: Real Staffing: Required skills:Previo...

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice