Stars have always relied on borrowed frocks to give them the edge on the red carpet. Now a new breed of high-end rental showrooms is making it easier for the rest of us to dress up in style without making a long-term commitment to a gown or shelling out thousands for a bag that's out of fashion by its second outing. "Let's face it: most women don't want to wear the same thing to an event more than once," says Joanna Doniger of the London-based evening-wear-rental company One Night Stand. And today's rentals can be straight off the catwalks or hard-to-find vintage pieces. Some showrooms offer a consultancy service to ensure your outfit will work perfectly, whether it's for a wedding, awards ceremony or fund-raiser.
Founded by former New York Times stylist Irene Albright, Albright Inc. has catered to stylists and celebrities for more than a decade. This spring, Albright opens the doors of her vast collection to the public, by appointment only. Take your pick from a wide range of blue-chip designers including Chanel, Dior, Christian Louboutin and "probably every shoe made by Manolo Blahnik," says showroom director Patricia Black. Prices start at $500 per week for a dress, wrap, shoes and a handbag ( albrightnyc.com ). In Paris, Quidam de Revel specializes in similarly high-end vintage designer clothing, bags and jewelry, by appointment only (24 rue de Poitou).
One Night Stand--which carries everything from exquisite French corsets to the best of Italian designer fashion--prides itself on ensuring that every woman who crosses the threshold leaves with a flattering outfit. If nothing in a season's designer eveningwear collection is suitable for her customers, many of whom are businesswomen, says Doniger, she will commission a new design, guaranteeing at least 35 percent of her stock each year is fresh. "Lots of women don't know exactly what suits them; they don't have the confidence," she says. "We'll help out, style it and get it right." A floor-length evening gown is about $260 ( onenight stand.co.uk ).
The trend is spreading to a wider range of luxury goods. Bag Borrow or Steal's designer-handbag rentals, which let you borrow a bag for as long as you like for $19.95 a month, have been so successful it's expanding its subscription service this spring to include smart timepieces by Movado and Marc Jacobs and jewelry from sought-after designers such as Tiffany and David Yurman ( bagborroworsteal.com ). But be careful: though the company offers insurance against wear and tear, if the bag gets lost or broken you'll be charged a replacement fee.
Cross-country skiing has gone to the dogs. A newly popular sport from Scandinavia, "skijoring," can be a great workout for you and your canine. Here's how it works: you outfit your dog in a special harness so that it leads you through the snow. Instructors, found through local sled-dog or skijoring clubs, will teach you and your dog techniques and commands, like "Gee" (go right) and "Onby" (keep on moving), which are old mule-training commands. Any breed above 12 kilograms will do, but larger pooches are a plus. Once you've become proficient, you can search out races, but competitors don't take themselves too seriously. The basic harness, bungee link and skijoring belt cost about $175. Find them at Web sites like skijornow.com and sleddog central.com . Just make sure Fido doesn't have a bad back.
The flight to Barcelona is delayed for an eon? Hop onto the Metro and explore the capital--you may miss your flight on purpose. STROLL alongside the Debod Temple, a 2,200-year-old Egyptian sanctuary brought stone by stone to Madrid in 1968 (Calle Ferraz, in the Parque de Oeste; check times for tomb opening).
GAZE upon what some refer to as Madrid's Sistine Chapel, painted by Francisco de Goya in 1798, at the Ermita de San Antonio de la Florida (Paseo de la Florida 5, 9:30 to 8 Tuesday to Friday, 10 to 2 on weekends).
EAT tapas like chicken with almond-sherry sauce or hake croquettes at Casa Ciriaco, a culinary landmark hailing back to 1897 (Calle Mayor 84, 1 to 4 and 8 to midnight, closed Wednesdays).
BUY a package of sugared violet petals, a hard-to-find local delicacy that originated about a century ago at sweet shop La Violeta (Plaza Canalejas 6, 10 to 2 and 4:30 to 8:30, closed Sundays).
Travelers exploring the labyrinthine medina will find a stylish oasis of Moroccan and Mediterranean cuisine amid the chaos of the souks.
Ambience Antique and leather furniture in earthy hues, combined with the select low-slung sofas, exude colonialist charm while preserving a Moroccan authenticity. The music ranges from funky ethnic Moroccan to upbeat jazz.
Starters Don't miss the crispy avocado puff pastry with spider crabmeat, or the smoked-salmon mousse with ricotta cheese. The traditional selection of panaché with meat and fish fillings is also an excellent choice.
Best Dishes Cinnamon, sugar and salt come together in a surprisingly delicious chicken-filled Pastilla Marocaine. The Couscous Royal includes lamb, beef and chicken with a hefty serving of couscous and steamed vegetables.
Desserts to Die For After a big meal, the vanilla sorbet is a light and savory option, as is the orange salad marinated in a syrup made from orange-tree flowers.
Wine List Mostly Moroccan wines--Le Val d'Argan Rouge and the Cabernet Médaillon are excellent reds. But you can also find first-rate French wines and champagnes.
College students, doctors, lawyers ... what do they have in common? The need for voice recorders; and they'd all do well with the new 1-gigabyte Olympus WS320M($230; olympusamerica.com ) digital device that doubles as an MP3 player. As a bonus, the battery unit can be removed from the unit, exposing a USB port for quick and easy file transfers. You wouldn't think a small guy could do so much.
Nothing beats riding a motorcycle--except riding a handcrafted, custom-built one. Indian Larry Legacy's signature style uses hand-tooled leather detailing for the gas tanks and fenders where others typically use metallic-flake paint along with a saddle of heavy rawhide (from $60,000; indianlarry .com ). Japanese minimalist Yasuyoshi (Chica) Chikazawa creates his bikes--from the engine to the frame--according to the owner's personality (from $45,000; chicacustom cycles.com ). Tokyo's Shinya Kimura of Zero Chop designs old-school choppers around a theme, such as a cheetah hunting for its supper (from $40,000; zerochop.com ). And Arlen Ness's street customs are "a little bit longer, sleek and a little bit lower than your normal body," he says. Customers can choose parts from a 250-page catalog and build their own (from $50,000; arlenness.com ).