An interesting thing is happening in the retail world: as the population of Indians living in the United States grows, and the number of Indian weddings has grown with it, the need for the right clothing for those weddings has reached a new high. Sensing an opportunity, a bunch of sari-rental websites have cropped up, all of them started by female Indian entrepreneurs.
Over at BuzzFeed, Sapna Maheshwari has written a great article about the popularity of sites like Luxemi, Borrow It Bindaas and Devi’s Closet, which provide saris and accessories available for rental, as well as garb for men. It makes a ton of sense and is why sites like Rent the Runway have been popular for guests of non-Indian weddings or other formal affairs. It's a brilliant idea. But it also draws attention (yet again) to how totally frustrating and stupid buying bridesmaids dresses is for women in traditionally American weddings.
The fact that there's no burgeoning bridesmaid dress rental market would seem surprising, if you live life blissfully unaware of the mechanics going on behind the scenes of the Wedding Industrial Complex. There's one popular site for renting bridesmaids dresses, called Little Borrowed Dress, but they don't stock styles from other dress companies, which means the bride in question has to decide that she wants to have her bridesmaids wear a dress from their company. Rent the Runway has a weddings section where bridesmaids can rent dresses from regular designers, but not really from companies that make wedding-specific outfits, which are typically purposefully bland and uniform.
To start a company that would rent out bridesmaid dresses from popular companies who make wedding-specific gear would require the participation of those companies, and they'd have to be financial idiots to agree to that. Additionally, it's easier to rent a sari, given that you only have to fit the blouse and the rest just wraps. At least, that's according to the way bridesmaids dresses are sized in today's market.
Conspiracy theorists or realists know that the bizarre sizing used by bridal companies that requires every single bridesmaid dress to be altered to perfectly fit the woman in question is done purposefully, to make renting or reselling difficult, if not impossible.
In the grand scheme of things, is this important? If you're an American woman, which means you will probably be a bridesmaid at least once, given that the average bride has at least four to five bridesmaids. These women will have to spend at least a couple hundred on a dress that we all know they will not wear again – and they'll have to do that a few times over, while brides will hypothetically (ha ha no way) have to buy a dress only once, and they do have rental options. For some women, this is particularly painful, especially if they don't like the chosen dress, as I learned during a recent Say Yes to the Dress: Bridesmaids binge. One particular episode featured a bridesmaid who, at first, seemed unnecessarily bitchy about the dress she was going to have to wear for her best friend's wedding, until it became clear that the real stress was that, "Krista doesn't have money to pay for the dress," she explained tearfully while referring to herself in the third person. And on a less individual level, it's adding to a culture that has become dependent on a retail market filled disposable clothes, which has great ecological and human rights repercussions we're all too familiar.
Images via Twentieth Century Fox