13 January 2023

Janine scours op shops to turn vintage fabrics into one-off 'upcycled' garments

| Chris Roe
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Janine Middlemost loves to recycle vintage fabric into wearable art. Photo: James Farley.

Wagga designer Janine Middlemost has been ahead of the curve when it comes to global clothing trends in ‘upcycling’ and ‘slow fashion’.

“I design and make clothing out of vintage and rescued fabrics and I’ve been doing it for pretty much all of my life,” says Janine, sitting comfortably on a brocade sofa amid racks of brightly coloured garments, artworks and velvet drapes in her Tompson Street store.

“I just find that older vintage fabrics are better quality than what you would get in the shop and much prettier too.

“I think more and more people are becoming aware of how much impact fast-fashion is having on the environment and they want something unique.”

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Janine founded her own Middlemost label 20 years ago after learning to sew from her mother and furthering her skills through study in Sydney and Wagga.

“I was always really interested in learning to make clothes for myself,” she explains.

“I wanted to look different and the only way to do that at the time was to actually design and make my own clothes, so that’s what I did.”

Janine has evolved her own unique style, scouring op shops for unique recycled fabrics and drapery and transforming them into eye-catching one-off garments.

“I made coats out of old blankets this winter and I use vintage sheets and tablecloths,” she says.

“I had some curtains in my dressing room here for about a year and it was an Ikea print that was really pretty so I took them down a couple of months ago, washed them and made coats out of them!”


Each of the Middlemost garments is unique. Photo: Supplied.

Working from her own pattern blocks, Janine says she is often steered by the fabric in determining the final creation.

“What I make out of the fabric will really be directed by how much fabric there is and what the weight of the fabric is,” she says.

“Because I only make one of each item, I try to make each piece fit a range of sizes.

“I know when I pick up a piece of fabric, whether it’ll be for a top or a coat or a jacket or pants.”

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More recently, she has begun sharing her op-shopping knowledge through regular ‘upcycled weekend adventures’.

“I take everyone on a tour of the Wagga shops and I have so much fun doing it because you’re walking together, you chat and you get to know each other,” she explains.

“Some people get really overwhelmed in op shops because there’s only one of each thing, so I help them to find good quality items, good labels, good fabrics and we customise and adapt the clothes that they’ve bought to better fit their body shape.”

Janine’s studio is somewhere between a fashion store, a workshop and an art gallery, and she takes an artist’s approach to her creations.

“The really fun thing about what I do is that I make what I want, when I want to make it,” she smiles.

“Sure, sales are great, but I’m really just making each piece individually because I want to, so each one really has been made with love.”

You can see some of Janine’s creations here or call into the studio on Tompson Street.

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