Rental wardrobes come to twin cities

Men and women borrow dresses for events at a nominal charge

Zulfiqar Baig January 28, 2019
Men and women borrow dresses for events at nominal charge. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: With the price of the American greenback ballooning to a whopping Rs138, inflation has started to creep into every element of life. One of the aspects impacted by the rising exchange rate has been on elaborate wedding dresses — considered a mandatory expense for any wedding in Pakistan.

The societal pressure to wear elaborate dresses sporting the latest in fashion designs — paraded religiously in the infinite bridal shows multiple times a year — or face ostracisation for repeating last year’s designs, pushes. People to buy highly expensive clothes

But with new dresses costing tens of thousands of rupees, wedding dresses can be quite a strain for those hailing from lower strata of society. For such people, a new service has come to their aid — renting dresses.

Some stores in markets for wedding dresses in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi offer this facility to their patrons at nominal prices.

Stores in Karachi Company and Abpara Market in Islamabad, Purana Qila, Bara, Commercial market, Adiala Bazaar and Tench Bazaar in Rawalpindi allow people to borrow dresses for almost all kinds of events.

What is surprising is that not only women utilise this facility, but men also borrow formal dresses such as sherwanis.

The rent for sherwanis start from a modest Rs2,000 per day and go all the way up to Rs10,000 per day depending on the quality of the attire.

The prices also vary for women’s dresses. But given that the cost of these dresses is already quite high, their rent also starts at a higher rate and varies based on the extent and quality of work stitching and embroidery on the outfit.

The rent of a lehnga starts at a steep Rs5,000 for dresses worth Rs20,000 to 30,000 and can go up to Rs10,000 for dresses costing Rs50,000.

Nabeel, who runs a dress rental business, said that his family was involved in the clothing business for the past 50 years. When it was time for him to step up and claim his position in the family business, one of his friends — who was a clothing merchant — offered to supply him with outfits at cheap rates.

He added that he decided to start a rental service and bought a shop in one of the main markets of Rawalpindi and advertised his business through various physical and virtual mediums.

Claiming to be a pioneer in the dress rental business in the city, Nabeel said that he started it as an experiment after witnessing the poor economic condition of people and the wide gulf between the common man who visited his store with a desire but little spending power and the affluent who opted to frequent designers to have their dresses made.

The response he received cast out all doubts he had about the business and it even inspired some other shopkeepers in the market to offer these services.

“Nowadays, people avoid purchasing new outfits for weddings. Instead, they give priority to borrowing them for a nominal sum,” Nabeel said, adding that he gets a number of customers from the federal capital as well.

He added that apart from procuring dresses from their designated set of suppliers they also purchase used clothes from people

Nadeem Sheikh, another rental dress provider explained the process, stating that they keep the national identity card of the dress borrower as a security deposit against the outfits and the rent is charged in advance. Moreover, he said that borrowers are bound to observe a set of stringent conditions which include not washing any outfits at home even if it gets dirty.

Romail Sultan, another storekeeper, said that fancy dresses are also used in fashion shows by models.

For customer Arshad Butt at one of the stores, there was nothing wrong in renting clothes for an event.

“Wedding dresses become useless once the functions and the official photo shoot are over,” he said,   suggesting that exorbitant expenses for such dresses were a waste of resources.

Fariha, another customer, pointed out even women who belong to the upper class also consider it convenient to borrow clothes rather than to buy new ones.

She, however, added that there were just a few shops with a limited variety of dresses in the federal capital. But with Rawalpindi a larger city, they get to choose from a larger pool of designs, styles and prices.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 28th, 2019.


Bunny Rabbit | 2 years ago | Reply welcome move .when we buy costly sarees or dresses for special occasions we end up hoarding them inside for decades and decades due to sentimental value . Some of these designs and texture is so heavy that it cant be worn for any other occasion. lets just rent it out for a few days and return it back . Thats money put to good use .
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