But thanks to an emerging group of fashion rental houses, it's now possible to borrow a beautiful garment for a special occasion- and then hand it back once you've danced the night away in it. Zoe Lem, who owns London boutique Mysugarland, now offers a hire service of dresses in her capacious vintage department, and is soon to extend the service to a selection of designer pieces, describes outfit hire as "the perfect recession solution to the party season; it's a great way to try a style, era or colour before you buy"
Lucy in Disguise, the vintage clothing house established this year by Lily Allen and her sister Sarah Owen, also offers a hire service, to allow everyone access to their extra special pieces they have sourced from around the world. Their party selection includes vintage Dior gowns which cost £2,400 to hire, but a less daunting £420 to hire.
Other companies offering an online rental service include girlmeetsdress.com and theclosetliverpool.com. These both have a large collection of new and recent season designer wear, from edgier designers like Erdem to classic glamour from Diane Von Furstenburg and Marchesa. Prices start at £49 for two nights with your dress.
And if you're worried about teaming your hired Prada dress with last season's Primark heels, you can also hire decadent accessories to provide the missing piece of borrowed glamour. www.cinderella-me.co.uk rent out shoes from Louboutin, Jimmy Choo and Rupert Sanderson for £45 a week, while www.fashionhire.co.uk has a massive range of designer handbags, including the Mulberry Alexa, which you can borrow for a month at a time.
As Mysugarland.co.uk's Lem points out: "women want choice, and at these times they want a low price tag, so by hiring rather than buying they can wear something much mo More