With a tape measure wrapped around her neck, Wendy Mylrea moves between the many racks of dresses she has rescued from the dump.
The Central Queensland seamstress has saved hundreds of clothes by upcycling them – taking a tired or dated piece and turning it into something new.
“I like things that are a little uneven and a little different,” Ms. Mylrea said.
Her quirky take on clothing caught the attention of fashionistas with one of her designs winning Fashions on the Field at the Brisbane races last year.
“I was so ecstatic when I won, I couldn’t believe it,” she said.
“A little country girl like me.”
An early start
Ms Mylrea grew up on a property about 40 minutes north of Rockhampton and her family encouraged her creativity.
“I’ve always created for as long as I can think of,” she said.
“When I was five or six, my mother had a needle and thread in her hand and I learned fancy work. A lot of kids wouldn’t know what it is these days.”
Her first designs were dolls and doilies to sell in local markets and from there Mrs Mylrea started working in different shops as a seamstress which eventually led to her own boutique opening in Rockhampton .
She soon filled it with yards of fabric and buttons of all shapes and sizes.
“Every time I go somewhere like an ops store or Spotlight, if I find something, even if it’s a very small piece of hardware, I can envision it in something and create something thing with,” she said.
“I have a lot of trash because I can’t throw things away.
“You’d be surprised when someone walks in and their outfit doesn’t fit, you need something on hand because you can’t pull it out of nowhere – you have to have it.”
Saved from trash
Soon after, Ms. Mylrea’s collection grew as she bought clothes from stores that were closing.
She saw the potential of taking tired dresses and turning them into something new and eye-catching.
“I help customers think about how they can recycle, and they walk away with big smiles on their faces and that’s awesome,” she said.
Ms Mylrea said the upcycling trend has grown with more of her customers wanting to turn their items into one-of-a-kind pieces.
“You can have an outfit as a base, but it won’t always fit you, so you have to work with the body and the material. Both tell you how to create an outfit,” she said.
“That’s all the individual needs and it makes them think twice about going into a store and buying an item; they can use what they already have.”
A signature style
Rockhampton resident Madonna Boodle has 20 pieces designed by Ms Mylrea, many of which are outfits that have been repurposed for different occasions.
“Wendy can do anything,” Ms Boodle said.
“She creates something for you and your fashion identity.”
One of Ms Boodle’s trouser suits was transformed into a jacket and skirt combo, which ended up winning a fashion contest on race day.
“It’s so much fun watching Wendy’s face as she brainstorms, it’s so magical,” she said.
Country at heart
When not at the store spinning the wheel of her sewing machine, Ms. Mylrea spends time on her ranching property with her husband, daughter and grandchildren.
The eccentric seamstress said she would never be found shopping for new clothes.
“Basically, I recycle what I have in my wardrobe,” she said.
“I haven’t bought an outfit in years.”