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
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Software Development Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: Product Manager - (Product Marketing, Financial Services)

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Assistant

£13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established ...

Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive

£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links