I was kindly invited by Myer and the VRC to once again judge WA state final of Myer Fashions on the Field on my usual “friends and family” visit enroute to Melbourne for the Spring Carnival. Praying for better weather than last year, the rain held off until the close of the competition then proceeded to hammer down, with gusts of wind foiling those with insecure headpieces. But the Melbourne-like weather was probably just a warm welcome for the new WA state finalist, who will no doubt encounter similar conditions at some state during the Melbourne Cup Carnival.

I would like to stress just how hard a task it was to judge this year. Ladies of WA, you’ve certainly stepped up your game. Behind the smiles and giggles with my fellow heat judges, this year’s Myer Fashions on the Field ambassador, Rebeccah Panozza, and last year’s WA state finalist, Kate Watts, were fluttery nerves and the feeling of sickness at having to dismiss so many beautifully turned-out entrants in the space of a minute or two (we would loved to have deliberated for longer, but as the event was held right beside the mounting yard we were on strict time limits).

Don't let the smiles fool you - judging is hard! L-R 2013 WA winner Kate Watts, 2014 Myer Fashions on the Field Ambassador Rebeccah Panozza, and Lisa. Photo from instagram.com/beccypanozza.

Don’t let the smiles fool you – judging is hard! L-R 2013 WA winner Kate Watts, 2014 Myer Fashions on the Field Ambassador Rebeccah Panozza, and Lisa. Photo from instagram.com/beccypanozza.

I’ve been asked quite a few times what I look for when I judge. The answer is simple: someone who has an outfit not only worthy of winning the WA state final, but worthy of winning the whole competition. In my opinion, there were several women worthy of winning the WA state final but only a few that, once put up against the rest of the state finalists, would stand a genuine chance of securing the national title. When I judged the SA state final with Angela back in March, this was the criteria we used, and this is what enables us to be ruthless when we judge in the early stages. Harsh, I know, but don’t we all want a competitive national final?

I also look for an outfit that has a degree of “effortlessness” to it; an outfit that doesn’t look contrived. I never really understood this notion when I used to compete, because I wanted to win or do well so bad, I put too much effort into my outfits. It’s only been in the last few years of non-competition I’ve stopped putting major effort into my outfits, and have received a lot more compliments than when I tried harder. I’m not saying “don’t try”, just “don’t try as hard” – that degree of desperation really does come through, and at the end of the day, it’s just a competition.

Back to the event, where Rebeccah, Kate and I miraculously whittled down the 100+ entrants to three preliminary finals before the rest of the esteemed judging panel joined us. Sitting alongside us were Kerry Davenport from Myer, The Amazing Race Australia contestant Sally Yamamoto, Morrison founder Kylie Radford, celebrated designer Aurelio Costarella, The West Australian fashion writer Pip Christmass, and Sunday Times fashion editor Claire Davies. Together we chose 10 fabulous ladies to compete in the WA state final, all of whom sported ensembles of a very high standard.

The final 10 for Myer Fashions on the Field WA state final.

The final 10 for Myer Fashions on the Field WA state final.

The field seemed to be divided into full, feminine skirts (think Betty from Mad Men) and slim-cut, midi pencil skirts (more like Joan). Exposed knees were definitely out, placing the attention on ankles and calves – so beautiful shoes were a must. Structural headpieces ruled the day, with hats from Perth millinery favourite Reny Kestel adorning several of the finalists.

Janey McGregor was the second runner-up in pastels and moody florals.

Janey McGregor was the second runner-up in pastels and moody florals.

One of those clients, Janey McGregor, was named as the second runner-up, wearing a pretty pastel pink skirt with a moody charcoal grey floral top, and a coordinating pastel pink headpiece.

First runner-up was a familiar face: Jaydee Paino, the 2010 national winner of Myer Fashions on the Field. Proving she still has what it takes to out-do, out-dress and out-glam the majority of the field, the Queenslander almost stole the WA winner’s sash in an A-line, panelled frock in square lace and spot mesh by in-the-know London label, Self-Portrait, paired with a stunning petal-brimmed boater by Amanda Macor.

2010 national winner almost stole the winner's sash in this Self-Portrait number.

2010 national winner almost stole the winner’s sash in this Self-Portrait number.

But the West Australian crowd was pleased to see the WA winner’s sash bestowed upon a local entrant, Northam-based real estate agent Nikki Gogan. Nikki, who is no stranger to Fashions on the Field or to Flemington’s Melbourne Cup Carnival, even made the Derby Day final last year but went one better this year in her home state, wearing voluminous Maticevski and a bespoke Reny Kestel hat.

The winner, Nikki Gogan, in Maticevski and Reny Kestel.

The winner, Nikki Gogan, in Maticevski and Reny Kestel.

She cleverly requested the Maticevski team to alter her dress, as it originally featured a large, midriff cut-out (big racing no-no), which they filled in with the same fabric as the shoulder panels. Reny produced a two-tone wicker straw boater with a Jekyll and Hyde-like personality to complement the Maticevski dress (florals on the front, geometry on the back for both designs), and the outfit was completed with an Olga Berg clutch and Louboutin poppy-red pumps.

Closer detail of Nikki's winning ensemble.

Closer detail of Nikki’s winning ensemble, including triangular leather segments on the back of her vertical wicker boater.

Forsaking her fiance, Nikki will now travel to Melbourne for a “trip of a lifetime” to the Melbourne Cup Carnival with her race-loving sister, Dani, where she will compete in the national final on Oaks Day.

Although all of the interstate finals have now been completed, there is still time to enter Myer Fashions on the Field during the Melbourne Cup Carnival at Flemington on Derby, Cup and Oaks days. Ensure you register online first, and by October 30 at 5pm EDST to enter as on-the-day registrations are very limited.

By Lisa Tan