It's a scientific fact that bridesmaids' dresses suck. They’re expensive as all get out, you ALWAYS have to get them altered, and they’re overly formal enough that you’ll never wear them again. I have three bridesmaid dresses that I keep on hand in case someone asks me to prom.
Little Borrowed Dress is putting a new spin on the bridesmaids’ dress market, and the company announced a new seed round Thursday to the tune of $1.25 million. Investors include Index Ventures, a16z, Launch Capital, Neu Venture Capital, NYC Seed, Charles Smith, David Tisch, Rett Wallace and Joanne Wilson.
Launched in July 2012, the NYC-based company is taking a new approach to a dusty, tired industry. Little Borrowed Dress designs and makes its own dresses—which are actually cute enough to double as regular dresses you’d wear to a fancy pants restaurant (or another wedding, as a guest)—and rents them out at a fraction of the cost of the average bridesmaid’s dress. While bridesmaids’ dresses usually run somewhere around $250 a pop, or higher, Little Borrowed Dress rents its dresses out for $50 to $75. Or customers can choose to buy the dresses, which run between $150 and $185.
It’s essentially taking the tuxedo rental model to bridesmaids’ dresses—and it’s brilliant—the only problem being the fact that unlike tuxedos, bridesmaids’ dresses run the gamut of styles and colors and a discerning bride would have to be proactive about selecting a line of dresses from the site. That means that individual bridesmaids can’t rent a dress that the bride selected from a bridal boutique.
But founder Corie Hardee isn’t too worried about that.
“In our experience, brides are most concerned with color,” she said. “It’s popular to let the bridesmaid pick the style in that particular color and/or fabric. With our eighteen colors, we cover the spectrum of popular wedding colors and our styles have been designed so that they can be mixed and matched among a bridal party.”
The company doesn’t have any plans to partner with bridal boutiques any time soon, either. Hardee said that existing bridesmaids dress brands are lower quality than Little Borrowed Dress wants to offer, and they typically manufacture them so that women have to get them altered, which the company has gone to interesting lengths to avoid. Little Borrowed Dress claims to create dresses that will flatter any body type.
“We are very focused during the entire design process to ensure that our dresses work well on all body types. We invest heavily in product development and use innovative ways to create dresses that flatter everyone,” said Hardee.
For example, the company uses a variety of different fit models who are all different shapes, but the same general “size” so that designers can build in adjustment points to ensure that a single dress will work on any body type. Even pregnant bridesmaids can wear the dresses. You can actually see how it works on the site, which uses real women of varying shapes and sizes instead of professional models to show how the dresses work on different body types.
The company is sort of a JustFab meets Rent the Runway, but it might come up against some competition as Rent the Runway already does bridesmaids' dress rentals.
Hardee tells me that 95% of customers choose to rent and return the dresses rather than buy them, and the company has outfitted “thousands” of bridal parties to date.
The startup plans to use the new seed capital to invest in scaling the business, including a new warehouse, technology, team, and marketing.