Myth #3: If I wear the sponsors’ products, the judges will like me more

With confirmations retail giant and excellent supporter of Fashions on the Field Myer has signed new deals with both the Victoria Racing Club and Australian Turf Club to sponsor their future Fashions on the Field competitions, I decided to investigate the truth behind wearing sponsors’ products and receiving an advantage from certain judges on the panel.

Unfortunately, or fortunately (depending on where you’ve sourced your outfit from), the answer to the title myth seems to be “no”. Yes, there are sure to be some judges on the panel who represent the major sponsors of the competition, but what about the rest of the judges? How would they know who’s wearing an outfit from X store, and who’s wearing an outfit from that store’s competitor? Let’s look at some hard evidence, starting with 2008 Myer Fashions on the Field national winner Kirsty MacGillivray.

Kirsty MacGillivray (centre), winner of the 2008 Myer FOTF. Photo from VRC.

Kirsty MacGillivray (centre), winner of the 2008 Myer FOTF. Photo from VRC.

Case Study 1: Kirsty MacGillivray

Kirsty was an employee of main sponsor Myer’s department store rival, David Jones. Dressed head-to-toe in products she had bought from the store using her employee discount, she won the judges’ votes in the Melbourne Cup Day final, Victorian final and national final, even though there were judges on each panel from Myer. The details of her outfit were broadcast during each final (as happens with all finalists), so it would have been clear to the Myer reps that her outfit was DJs-centric. They didn’t care, and voted her best dressed.

Case Study 2: the amateur designers

We’ve all heard of the design students who have somehow found time during their studies to whip up an outfit and walk away with the major prize. Sarah Schofield is perhaps the best known of the bunch, with the RMIT graduate proving her 2006 national win was no fluke by also winning on Derby Day 2008 and Melbourne Cup Day 2011. While it’s true that she’d gained experience from mentor, master milliner and regular Fashions on the Field judge Richard Nylon, no one could deny her true and unique talent for racewear design, which later took her to Paris to work for some of the world’s most prestigious fashion houses, such as Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton.

Sarah Schofield's Fashions on the Field wins, from left: 2006 national winner, 2011 Cup Day winner, and 2008 Derby Day winner. See photo credits for sources.

Sarah Schofield’s Fashions on the Field wins, from left: 2006 national winner, 2011 Cup Day winner, and 2008 Derby Day winner. See photo credits for sources.

Our very own Angela Menz is of course another member of the winning amateur designer brigade. Although she’s very adept at styling, I think Angela’s super unique sense of personal style is best channelled by her own designs, and I’m not sure her outfits would have the same impact if they were sourced from other designers or clothing stores.

For most of these designers, they create their own outfits because they simply can’t find what they want in-store and, luckily for them, the judges have sought to reward their innovation, rather than to discourage it.

Case Study 3: the international raiders

Much like the Melbourne Cup itself, in recent years there has been the occasional international entry which has caught the judges’ eyes, and slipped through to pass the finishing post first ahead of the local pack.

New Zealander Lorraine Cookson was the first (and, so far, only) international contestant to win the national Myer Fashions on the Field competition at Flemington. The 45-year-old horse breeder won the Melbourne Cup Day final (and, in doing so, squeezed me down into second place), then went on to claim the Victorian final, and finally the national prize. Her outfit was perhaps more international than herself, with the tweed jacket and silk-satin skirt being designed by Lorraine but tailored in Hong Kong, and the velvet trilby coming from Auckland milliner Dollie Vardin. Lorraine had previously won the prestigious Mercedes Prix de Fashion award at Ellerslie Racecourse in New Zealand in the same outfit, taking home a brand new Mercedes that day, and a swanky new Lexus at the Melbourne Cup Carnival.

2007 national winner, kiwi Lorraine Cookson, and 2010 Derby Day winner, Ireland's Martha Lynn. Photos from VRC and The Age.

2007 national winner, kiwi Lorraine Cookson, and 2010 Derby Day winner, Ireland’s Martha Lynn. Photos from VRC and The Age.

Irish milliner Martha Lynn claimed the Derby Day main prize in 2010, which shouldn’t really be a surprise if you’ve ever seen the standard of contestants in Irish best dressed competitions (they would given Australian ladies a definite run for their money, any day!). An accomplished best dressed competition entrant back in Ireland, Martha adhered to Derby Day colour rules in a 60s-style white shift with embellished shoulders and one of her own millinery creations to shine on stage while the torrential rain poured down.

While I am in no way trying to discourage anyone from buying their raceday looks from a competition sponsor or judge (I’ve made many a late dash into Myer over the years, looking for last minute finishing touches or, if completely desperate, entire outfits), just be aware that purchasing your looks from a sponsor or judge will not provide you with any advantage in the competitions. And, really, it shouldn’t. While the main sponsors of course hope that you will choose to wear pieces from their store, what we all really want is a fairly-judged competition, and one where anyone can win – provided they truly look the best on the day.

Photo credits: Victoria Racing Club,, and The Age.

By Lisa Tan