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The Definitive Guide To Borrowing A Garment Or Outfit From A Friend

By: Stu Bloom

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Tips for borrowing a garment or outfit from a friend that won't ruin your friendship

Tips for borrowing a garment or outfit from a friend that won’t ruin your friendship

Your good friend, a single professional, is a clothes horse.

Over the years, she’s spent a significant amount of time and financial resources developing a carefully curated wardrobe that’s the envy of your circle of friends.

She readily admits that she enjoys the shopping experience – the quest to find just the right garments and outfits to fill those gaps in her ever-expanding wardrobe.

Your priorities – in terms of both time and financial resources – are different.

Unfortunately, you have an upcoming event that you’ve just learnt about. And you’re not quite sure what to wear.

You could pull out one of your favorite dresses from the far reaches of your closet.

You know the one. The one you wore to the last 3 events you’ve attended. The Tahari royal blue silk dress with the rhinestone trim.

Or, you could decide to open your wallet and spend hours online or exploring your local mall in search of the right garment or outfit with the right fit for the right occasion.

On the other hand, your good friend has the perfect dress for your upcoming event.

So why not ask if you could borrow that dress for the evening?

It’ll save you time and money.

And, you’re pretty sure your friend won’t mind. After all, she just lent her Cavali black leather jacket to another friend.

Rules of the road


Before you begin rummaging through her closet or floating that maybe-I-can-borrow-your-dress trial balloon, here are a few tips that might save your friendship in the long-term.

[ctt template=”3″ link=”63579″ via=”no” ]17 tips for borrowing a garment or outfit from a friend that won’t ruin your friendship @ravefabricare[/ctt]


Rule out any new items

Garments and outfits that are brand new or have only been worn a couple of times should be off limits.

Your friend has probably spent a significant amount of time and financial resources searching for that garment or outfit. And she’s waiting for just the right occasion to debut her purchase.

So let your friend show it off a few times before you even consider asking if you could borrow it.


Rule out the really good stuff

If you know that a particular garment or outfit was only available in limited quantities, was jump-through-hoops difficult to acquire, was procured from an obscure source, or was relatively pricey, just move on.

After all, what if something unforeseen happened?

Such as bumping into someone holding a glass of red wine in their outstretched hand. Or snagging the garment on a rough surface or sharp object. Or stretching the garment out of shape in certain areas.

How you gonna explain that to your friend?

How you gonna replace it? In cash or in kind?

Rule out anything with unusual combinations of fabrics, skins and/or trims 

Some garments or outfits – particularly more expensive ones – are often constructed of a mix of unusual fabrics, skins and/or trims.

For example, a white linen dress with black leather waistband, collar and cuffs; a pink silk dress embellished with hand-sewn crystal beads, or a beige cotton blazer with a limited edition, hand-painted design on the reverse.

Should you stain any of these garments in any way, you’d have to find a dry cleaner with the special skills and experience to restore these types of garments.

Should you damage any of these garments in any way, you’d have to find a tailor or alterationist with the special skills to repair these types of garments.

Bottom line: Don’t even consider these garments. It’s not worth the risk.

Helmut lang white cotton, black leather and python trimmed dress with heavy self-tanning lotion on lining: Before and after restoration

Rule out anything in regular rotation 

Everyone – despite the size of their closets – has their favorite, go-to garments.

Irrespective of the occasion, they tend to gravitate to those items.

They particularly like the fabric, the fit, the style, the color.

Don’t even think about these garments or outfits. Once again, it’s time to move on.


Rule out handbags and shoes

Handbags and shoes – particularly designer and hi-fashion handbags and shoes – should also be off limits.

Despite your best intentions and care, the probability of damage – major or minor – is high.

Such as an oil stain on a fine lambskin handbag or a scuffing mark on a patent leather shoe.

And RAVE FabriCARE should know.

We see the after-the-event results everyday when clients and their friends bring in or ship us their fine handbags and shoes for cleaning, restoration and/or repair.

Gucci aqua suede handbag with salad dressing oil stains: Before and after restoration

Avoid taking advantage 

Wardrobing is a trend of dubious morality that has hit many high-end retailers in recent years.

Wardrobing involves “purchasing” an article of clothing from a retail store with the intention of returning the item for a refund or credit after the first wearing.

In effect, some consumers are treating retail stores as their extended closet.

While the term “wardrobing” might sound benign, retailers use a more descriptive term: Return Fraud.

Accordingly, many retailers have instituted “control measures” to fight this trend. These measures include:

  • Inspecting returns for signs of wear such as excessive wrinkling in certain areas such as underarms, waist, elbows and knees.
  • Inspecting returns for signs of wear such as make up stains, body oils, lotions and creams.
  • Inspecting returns for signs of wear such as food and beverage stains.
  • Requiring that returns have all the original tags affixed in a manner identical to that used by the store.
  • Requiring an original receipt.
  • Requiring that the item be returned within a limited time frame after the date of “purchase”.
  • Limiting the total dollar amount of all returns by any one customer during the past twelve month period.
  • Tracking a customer’s history of returns and instituting no return policies for wear-and-return abusers.

The concept of wardrobing should apply to your friend’s closet as well.

Abuse the privilege and you might just find your friend scrutinizing your borrow-and-return habits in the same way retail stores – even those with relatively liberal return policies – scrutinize their returns.


Ask before you take

Don’t go to your friend’s closet, find the garment or outfit your’e looking to borrow and then present your friend with the option of saying YES or NO.

That puts your friend in a very awkward position: What happens if she really wants to say NO?

The best approach is to identify the event, broach the subject of borrowing a garment or outfit, and, if the answer is OK, then suggest the garment or outfit you had in mind.

That, of course, is just common courtesy.


Acknowledge their anxiety

It might come as a shock to you, but many individuals are repelled by the idea of someone else wearing their garments and outfits.

And not all individuals believe that their garments and outfits are just “stuff” that can easily be replaced if the item is returned stained or damaged in any way.

And, even if they agree to your request, they continuously worry about it until such time as the garment or outfit is safely back in it’s rightful place – their closet.

So start any conversation about borrowing by acknowledging that she might feel anxious about the idea of lending you a garment or outfit.

Your job is to put her at ease by reassuring her that you’ll take the very best care of the garment or outfit. And, most importantly, commit to returning it in pristine condition at the earliest opportunity.

Your job might be made more difficult if your friend already has a good idea – obtained through casual observation – how you treat your own garments and outfits.


Accept NO in good faith

Some people have no hesitation in telling you NO. Without the need to dream up the “right” excuse.

Others are constitutionally incapable of saying NO. Even if their gut answer is NO.

If the answer is NO, or you sense a hesitation on their part, let it go.

Control your body language. Choose your words carefully. Minimize the pressure. And just move on.

There’s nothing more disconcerting to a lender than the pressure to say YES when the answer is NO.


Understand the terms of the “loan agreement”

Imagine that you’re renting an outfit from a garment rental company such as Rent The Runway, Lending Luxury and Couture Collective.

The rental company will present you with a standard agreement that clearly defines the terms and condition of the rental. After you’ve read those terms and conditions, you can either agree to their terms and conditions or you can explore alternative options.

Why should borrowing a garment or outfit from a friend be any different?

Why not make sure that you clearly understand all the terms and conditions of borrowing that garment or outfit?

Your friend may not immediately acknowledge your thoroughness, but after you leave, and she thinks about the interaction, she’ll intuitively recognize your thoughtfulness.

And the icing on the cake?

You’ll enhance your reputation as a thoughtful friend. And you’ll grease the skids for the next occasion you need to borrow a garment or outfit.

On the other hand, if you suspect that you might end up as a lender one day, the best time to think about your boundaries is in advance of a request being made. This way you won’t shy away from spelling them out.

Better safe than sorry.


Treat all garments and outfits with respect

In the excitement of an event, it’s easy to forget that a borrowed garment or outfit is not yours.

So watch where you stand. Where you sit. Where you climb. And who around you appears to be out of control.

Treat all borrowed items with the respect and care you would afford to your most prized garments and outfits. And your friend may just be willing to consider your loan request on the next occasion the need arises.


Admit to any damage

Damage can be defined as any imperfection in a garment or outfit that was not there at the time of purchase or at the time you borrowed the garment.

“Damage” would include a stain that the dry cleaner could not remove. Or a snag, scuff or tear in the fabric.

When you rent a car, you’ll typically inspect the outside of the vehicle for damage before you leave the rental location – even if you purchased their “collision damage” insurance.

So when you borrow a garment or outfit from a friend, why not exercise the same thoroughness?

Casually inspect the garment or outfit in the presence of your friend and agree on the nature of any existing damage.

On the other hand, if you damage a garment or outfit in any manner while the garment or outfit is in your possession, tell your friend.

Be honest, open and transparent. You might rationalize that you’ll get away with it. But you won’t.

At some point, your friend will recognize the damage and blame you.

And, even if she suspects that the damage might have been there when she lent you the garment or outfit, she’ll still blame herself for “being stupid enough” to have lent the garment or outfit to you in the first place.


Return everything in better than ready-to-wear condition

You borrowed a garment or outfit from a friend. She’s saved you a ton of time and money.

So have the courtesy to return the garment or outfit in pristine condition. Even if you received the garment or outfit in mediocre or even poor condition. Even if you only wore the garment or outfit for 90 minutes.

What do I mean by “pristine condition”?

Pristine condition means original condition or close to original condition.

It’s worth bearing in mind that you can’t transform a worn garment into pristine condition with a quick spray with Fabreeze ®. Or a quick toss into a home washer. Or the application of some DIY product you picked up at the supermarket. Or some home-mixed “stain remover” you discovered on the internet.

Your best option will be ask your friend for the name of her dry cleaner. At the very least, you should take it to the dry cleaner she uses.

But there’s an even better strategy for cementing your friendship and expressing your appreciation: take it to a cleaner locally or nationally recognized as a true quality cleaner.

For whatever reason, your friend may not be using a true quality cleaner. Fact is, she might have given you the name of a discount cleaner, an ordinary cleaner or a wannabe cleaner.

Here’s my suggestion: Call up a high-end menswear store or ladies boutique in your area. Ask to speak to the manager. Tell them that you’re looking for a true quality cleaner that can handle a special garment and ask them where they would take any soiled garment in their store’s inventory for restoration.

Then take the garment to that dry cleaner. The dry cleaner will have the technical skills to restore that garment to as close to original condition as possible.

[ctt template=”3″ link=”d7jYV” via=”no” ]To find a true quality dry cleaner, call a high-end mens or ladies store and ask them who cleans their soiled inventory @ravefabricare[/ctt]

When you pick up the item from the dry cleaner, leave the garment or outfit in the original packaging and remove the invoice.

If the cleaner has stapled the invoice to the packaging, ask the cleaner if they would carefully repackage the garment or outfit for you without stapling the invoice to the package.

When you return the garment or outfit to your friend, you can surprise her.

Tell her that you know she uses ABC Cleaners but that you were concerned that they might not handle this particular garment correctly. So you called QRS Boutique and they referred you to the most technically skilled dry cleaner in town, XYZ FabriCARE – the cleaner they use to restore any soiled garment in their store inventory.

Helmut Lang white acetate/silk and black leather trim jacket with red wine splatter: Before and after restoration

Restrict the dry cleaner from bar coding the garment or outfit 

All garments entering a dry cleaning facility are uniquely identified so that ownership of every garment is clear. All cleaners do this in some fashion or another.

Hopefully, the identification method used by the dry cleaner you select to clean your friend’s garment or outfit is temporary and does not involve gluing or heat sealing a bar code onto the garment or outfit as if it was a uniform or a rental garment.

After all, that garment or outfit belongs to your friend. Not to you or to the dry cleaner.

When you drop off or send in the garment or outfit to the cleaner, make sure to ban them from tagging the garment or outfit with a glued on or heat sealed bar code.


Return everything on a timely basis

There’s nothing more frustrating to a lender than worrying about when her garment or outfit is coming back.

Don’t wait for your friend to ask.

Don’t make her beg.

Don’t let her find it hanging in your closet or crushed in your laundry hamper.

And don’t ever think that she’ll forget about it.

If the garment is being cleaned, keep your friend informed about the status. Pick it up from the cleaner as soon as possible after completion of the work and return it at the earliest opportunity.


Offer to reciprocate

No matter how extensive your friend’s closet is, there’s probably at least one garment in your closet that your friend has admired.

Even if you never expect that friend to ever ask to borrow a garment or outfit from you, offer to reciprocate.

Something like “If there is something you’d ever want to borrow from me, please don’t hesitate to ask” will open the door to any future borrowing requests you make of her.


Send a “Thank You” card

Now that you’ve returned the borrowed garment to your friend in perfect, ready-to-wear condition, seal the deal by mailing her a handwritten card.

In these days of impersonal texting and email, it’ll be an unexpected and welcome surprise.




There you have it. Some practical tips for ultimately saving your long term relationship with your good friend.

Just follow these common sense courtesies and maybe, just maybe, your friend will open her closet to your request on the next occasion the need arises.


What’s been your experience as a lender or borrower? Please share your comments below.



Photo credit: unsplash.com/Suhyeon Choi

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Filed Under:

Garment Care


Stu Bloom

Stu Bloom is Founder and President of RAVE FabriCARE. RAVE FabriCARE, based in Scottsdale, Arizona, cares for fine garments, household textiles and accessories and serves clients throughout the USA and Canada. Stu is the author of various ebooks on these subjects, all of which are available from www.ravefabricare.com/freestuff. He is an evangelist for true quality cleaning and is a contributor to and editor of True Quality Cleaning, RAVE FabriCARE’s blog. You can find Stu on Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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