When a friend first mentioned she was looking for a Sabyasachi Mukherjee outfit to wear at her cousin’s wedding in December, the immediate suspicion was she may have won a lottery or inherited a fortune.

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Clearly, consumers now have the option to rent dresses created by premier Indian designers. A handful of online and offline stores are offering such services although consumers have to go to their brick and mortar outlets for trials and fitting.

To enjoy your Cinderella moment, glass slippers et al (before you return to your original garments), you can now rent the chic stuff for between 2,000 and 10,000, or more. Secretwardrobe.in, started six months ago by Mumbai-based Jessica Gupta Nagpal, a graduate from the National Institute of Design, offers dresses from Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Wendell Rodricks, Kavita Bhartia and Ranna Gill. In Indian ethnic wear, Neerja Wadhera of Rent A Party Dress in Delhi stocks designer sarees and lehengas. She does not keep salwar kameez as alterations in this style of clothing show. Among others, she has Manish Malhotra, Satya Paul and Anita Dongre on offer.

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Sanroh Creations in Delhi does not stock designer labels but offers its own fancy wardrobe for rent. It is happy to recreate and rent any dress that you may want replicated.

If the friend, looking for a Sabyasachi dress, is any indication, the profile of consumers looking for rented dresses is intriguing. A fashionable homemaker, 40, also confessed to surfing the Net recently looking for designer dresses to rent for no specific occasion. She is not on the Page 3 party circuit. Nor is she a kitty club member. But she is impeccably turned out for shopping, children’s school functions, funerals and religious occasions.

The biggest demand, however, comes from brides-to-be looking for a D-Day costume that’s heavy, glitzy and costs a bomb. Nagpal admits that although she launched the service with western wear, she was flooded with requests for bridal wear and had no option but to start stocking wedding dresses. The names of all clients are best-kept secrets and consumers sporting the rented attires never admit to wearing them.

The notion of renting designer dresses is pegged on aspiration. Users and potential users of the service say it is a practical idea. The money saved by renting instead of buying a costly dress can be invested or used elsewhere, especially during a wedding. Given their hefty price tags, renting allows consumers the access to some of the designer labels they cannot otherwise afford.

However, in India, the rent-a-dress business is still nascent. The lack of choice in designer labels is a dampener. Wadhera says she cannot keep unlimited stock, it is a fledgling business. Sanroh Creations’ Jatinder Kumar, however, feels the concept will take off in the next three to four years and the early mover advantage will help. But the real question is why do people need to rent expensive dresses? Is it just peer pressure?

Psychiatrist Sanjay Chugh sees different thought processes among people who avail of the service. Wedding wear is expensive and usually exclusive, “something you cannot wear on an ordinary day", so renting makes sense to some. It may also make sense if your social life involves meeting the same people over and over again.

And for some, it could be the result of peer pressure or social desire of wanting to be among a particular league, he says. Sometimes one’s social perception— how one is perceived by others—becomes an important or perhaps the only way to feel secure. It makes people feel confident. This would mostly happen when our own personal or inner view of self is fragile or negative. Due to this, one constantly runs outward to seek attention, to feel wanted. If this need is very strong and borders on being harmful, it might blur a person’s rational thinking and force her to act in ways that might appear ridiculous, Chugh says. Sooner or later, a tendency to continue to behave in such a manner could make life more stressful. One might be pushing her limits just to fit in or be a part of the social crowd.

Shuchi Bansal is marketing and media editor with Mint. Comment at whatwebuy@livemint.com

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