Closet Envy: Marsha Burnett
by Alexandra Phanor-Faury
“The way a person dresses is a direct reflection of their spirit and mood. It’s a silent form of expression and sometimes rebellion,” says manager, producer and director Marsha Burnett of her penchant for dressing up. In Burnett’s case her closet encompasses a myriad of styles and silhouettes to satisfy the London native’s evolving aura be it classic elegance or 70’s dancing queen. Nevertheless, there are staples hanging in Burnett’s colossal closet. The owner of full service production and tour management company, Conduit Artists Management and Musical Directions is a self-described “print fanatic”, loves sparkle and she’s got a soft spot for jumpsuits and wrap dresses. Travelling the country and the world working on projects for a diverse roster of clients which include The Lincoln Center, Black Girls Rock! Awards and Heineken, Burnett almost always takes time to peruse the local vintage shops for frocks from the 50’s and 60’s to introduce into her designer wardrobe.
Essence.com got a chance to dig deeper into Burnett’s style philosophy, find out what she picked up at a thrift store while recently attending the Essence Luncheon and, of course, chat about her fabulous closet.
Essence.com: How would you describe your style?
Marsha Burnett: My style is pretty eclectic. It all depends on the opportunity for glamour and my mood. I gravitate toward classic cuts, color and recreating era looks. Coming from Britain, I have always had a punkier fashion sense.
I only really came in to my style in my 20's. I primarily get my clothes at vintage stores. Where ever I am, I visit vintage stores. Other than that, I pick up designer pieces at showrooms or when I’m working a photoshoot. The benefits of having stylist friends!
Essence.com: What one clothing item best represents you?
MB: The jumpsuit.I have them in all styles: from day time silk classics to sequined evening disco.
Essence.com: Who are your style icons?
MB: Diana Ross. I also love the ease with which Sienna Miller wears clothes.Marni Senofonte has immaculate style. It’s amazing to see.
Essence.com: How big is your closet?
MB: Big! We turned a bedroom into a dressing room to accommodate our wardrobe. There’s one floor to ceiling wall of shoes and two walls of clothing racks.
Essence.com: Describe some of your all time favorite pieces?
MB: I have a penchant for 80's party dresses. You will find lots of those in my closet. Tracy Reese gold and pink sheath dress, that I’ve been wearing again and again for at least five years. I enjoyed when Stella McCartney was designing for Chloe and I have a couple items. My favorite being a heavy knit poncho slash caftan. My other favorites are mostly flirty day dresses by 50's and 60's designers with conservative knee lengths, but plenty of pleats, drapes and ruffles.
Essence.com: When it comes to color and print where do you stand?
MB: I am big on color and sparkle! But I’m even more of a print fanatic.
Many of my pieces are from the 70's era, so it goes without saying that there's a lot of psychedelic prints in my closet. My favorite print shoe is the YSL canvas leopard pump.DVF printed wraps are a staple. Betsy Johnson has fun with color, print and texture. When I'm in a pinch, I can always run in and find something that works for me.
Essence.com: Who are your favorite designers?
MB: I love designers that rejoice the feminine form and aren't afraid to use sparkle, ruffles and color. I love Tracy Reese, Temperley, Christian Louboutin, Camilla & Mark, and Mara Hoffman.
Essence.com: What do you wear on a usual day?
MB: I work in the arts and there is a higher tolerance for my off-beat sense of style.
My wardrobe choices can be as kooky as I like. For instance, yesterday I wore a vintage khaki flying suit with gold accessories. Depending on my date book, I will head to Harlem for a wardrobe change or go to the function straight from my show.
Essence.com: What are some of your latest purchases?
MB: Christian Louboutin burgundy pumps that are so ridiculously high, I get dizzy just thinking about them. While in Texas for SXSW, I picked up an amazing 70's full length, high neck black and gold lame dress that I can’t wear until next winter. In L.A. just before the Essence Luncheon, I ran into a thrift store on and found a beautiful off-white trench coat, perfect for cool spring evenings.
Essence.com: What are you dying to get your hands on?
MB: I would really like a new pair of silver dancing shoes and a cropped leather biker jacket.Oh,and the Camilla & Marc Ainsley slip dress.
Essence.com: What style rules do you stick to?
MB: Never show cleavage and full bare legs. It’s either one or the other.
Don't try to match all your accessories, keep a tailor close and dress for yourself!
Essence.com: What is your fool-proof outfit?
MB: A well-tailored sheath dress that ends at the knee and a pair of killer five inch heels. You can’t really go wrong with that on.