Shop Talk

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Rent The Runway opens first showroom at Henri Bendel and it’s a wow

Rent the Runway, the online designer dress and

Rent the Runway, the online designer dress and gown rental company, has opened its first brick-and-mortar showroom at the Henri Bendel flagship store on Fifth Ave. (Credit: Rent the Runway)

Ever walked into a high end boutique and gotten scared by the snobby sales lady and the astronomical price tags, so much so that you’re afraid to touch the clothes no less try them on? (Uh, yeah.)

Forget about it. Rent the Runway, the online retailer that has been renting designer duds since 2009 just opened a swanky new showroom (its first) at the Henri Bendel flagship on Fifth Avenue where you are encouraged to try on and rent designer duds for a fraction of the retail price.

Located on the second floor of the elegant building, some 1,400 luxuriously appointed square feet have been dedicated to designer clothes including brands such as Badgley Mischka, Vera Wang and ML Monique Lhuillier. Here find a plush lounge area for relaxing, six well-appointed fitting rooms and a sales staff (referred to as Go-To Girls, though ours was a guy) that can’t wait to help you and obviously enjoys the process. They’ll happily pull clothes before your visit, create a style profile, provide one-on-one styling consultation and help you create an overall look (there are accessories available here too). Each fitting room is equipped with a scanner and an iPad for the Go-To Girl to scan your try-Ons which are then uploaded into your “virtual closet” — this to be viewed later as a reminder for future reference.

The real benefit? While many women have been over-the-moon with the company’s online rentals, some of us need the tactile experience of trying before buying (or renting in this case). And there’s also the fun -- (“a Cinderella experience,” says company chief executive and co-founder Jennifer Hyman) -- of slipping into highfalutin frocks with deterrent price tags such as a body con dress by Prabal Gurung that retails for $2,395 and rents for $300. Or just spending a lot less dough for say, a super cute Rachel Roy number that retails for $368 and rents for $60. And the inventory changes everyday with a rotation of some 175 designer brands.

And don’t fret about size if you’re a curvy type. In September, the company introduced RTR Plus which goes from sizes 14 to 22 offering looks from designers such as Carmen Marc Valvo, Adrianna Pappell and Kay Unger.

You can reserve a dress for an upcoming event, but there’s also the instant gratification factor here. Your boyfriend is surprising you with a romantic dinner after work but you look like a shlub? Run in and rent a sassy little cocktail dress right then and there for that night. Your big boss wants you to attend a black tie charity event in his stead? Go here. And with that, head downstairs to Bendel’s main floor — a makeup Mecca — and have your face done in keeping with the occasion.

“This is where aspiration meets convenience,” says Hyman. “Women can alleviate their fit concerns . . . and more confidently book dresses for the entire season.”

Bendel’s stopped selling clothes in 2009, which makes this lovely rental boutique a welcome oasis in the store’s sea of fab accessories, jewelry, makeup and gifts.

The Rent the Runway showroom is located at, 712 Fifth Ave. on floor 2M. It’s open everyday from 10 a.m. — 8 p.m. except Sundays, when hours go from Noon until 7 p.m. Walk-ins are welcome, but you might be better off booking an appointment at www.renttherunway.com/HenriBendel.