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Rent the Runway's Sample Sale Requires a Little Digging for Like-New Dresses

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Update: As of Thursday morning, 260 Sample Sale has reduced dress prices by an additional 30% and gown prices by an additional 40%. Original discounts are reflected below.

Welcome to wedding season, everyone. Whether you're looking for a standout gown for that black-tie country club event or a short and flirty number that could be repurposed for non-marital events, head to the Rent the Runway sample sale that just kicked off at 260 Fifth Avenue this morning—if you have a keen eye and a couple hours on your hands. During this morning's preview that included both media and Gilt City shoppers, we examined the gently used goods that are marked down up to 90% off retail prices, and collected some good ones to look out for, from Narciso Rodriguez gowns to Clover Canyon day dresses. For everything else? Well, you'll have to use your own judgment.

Facing the sale space as you enter, the lefthand side has the racks with the smallest sizes, and gowns line the perimeter of the room. Fitting rooms (yay!) are in the back, but you're once again limited to bringing in 10 items at a time (don't pull any fast ones with 12 dresses—you'll get sent to the back of the line and receive dirty looks for holding up others). Long gowns line the perimeter of the store, and dresses are on racks in the center.

Gowns are available in sizes 0/XS through 14/16, with a generous amount of styles available in each size. Some great dresses we found include a long Vera Wang style for $423, a Theia gown for $185 (from $1,595) and a Marchesa Notte number for $263. Options that were a little more "stressed" (read: damaged) included a Carlos Miele piece ($176) and a Catherine Deane gown ($342).

And about that "stressing:" Always check the bottoms of gowns for tattered ends, the detailing for missing beads, and the zippers (RIP, Donna Karan gown) before deciding whether a dress is worth waiting in that fitting room line for.

Badgely Mischka ($80—$99) and Nicole Miller ($64—$85) are by far the most prevalent and least expensive brands amongst the gowns. On the other end of the spectrum, the most expensive number we found here was a Narciso Rodriguez cutout gown for $742 (from $3,500).

On the dress racks in the middle of the room, the smallest sizes boasted a lot of Hervé Leger, Elle Tahari and Lela Rose, while bigger sizes had Moschino, Matthew Williams and Badgely Mischka. The items in the best condition we found were a maroon Allison Parris dress ($78), a navy Lela Rose piece, ($185), and a Marchesa Notte dress ($174). A very distressed Bibhu Mohapatra dress was going for $683, and that was the priciest item we picked up; the cheapest was a red Clover Canyon dress with a flared skirt for $48.

For every worn-out dress that may have sat in direct sunlight in a window (see: Peter Som scoop dress, $200) or was mishandled by a customer, there's another that's pristine and miraculously discounted (see: Versace Collection gown, $364, down from $1,625). The most worn-looking sizes are in the smaller sections (0-4), and the more delicate the material, the more likely we came across snags and stretched necklines. If you're willing to get a clasp fixed or invest in a thorough steaming or dry clean, the selection is 90% shoppable. If you're looking for perfection off the rack, about 65% are in mint condition.

Styles will be replenished, but get in early before the best items are tossed around and tried on. When we left the preview about 20 minutes before the doors opened to the public, there were a good 40 people waiting to enter. See the full sale hours below, and be on the lookout for markdowns later this week.

Monday, April 6th through Sunday, April 12th. Mon 11am—8pm, Tue—Thu 10am—8pm, Fri—Sat 10am—7pm, Sun 10am—3pm.

260 Sample Sale

260 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10001 (212) 725-5400 Visit Website