Poet chooses clothes to match her mood

CANDID CLOSET

June 30, 1994|By Mary Corey | Mary Corey,Sun Staff Writer

When it comes to fashion, Linda Joy Burke can't be typecast. Depending on her mood, she can look artistic, youthful, conservative, bohemian or eclectic.

Such is the fashion life for this performance poet and talent consultant whose closet holds wildly colored high-tops, subtle hand-painted silk shirts and somber wool suits.

Although there are days when she wears sweats to blend into the background, Ms. Burke prefers clothes that pack more of a punch.

"I can put on the oddest things and make them look nice," says Ms. Burke, 37, of Columbia. "It's one of the possibilities of being alive -- to create myself new each day based on what I have in my closet."

How has your work influenced your style?

My style has actually affected my work. I discovered when I was younger that different characters came out based on the clothing I had on. I have a relationship with clothing that's not based on trends. I'm not into fashion. I'm into creating styles. I look at clothes as costuming.

What part does color play?

I use color to reflect my mood. If I wear red, I want a lot of fiery energy around me. There are times I do black, when I need a serious, quiet and unobtrusive space. I also like yellow, gold, green and orange. I don't like a lot of pattern.

What stands out in your wardrobe?

How I put things together. If you look at my individual stuff, there's nothing that's special. But I'll wear a saffron-colored dress with a woven cap and kente cloth scarf. Or I'll have on a pair of ethnic-inspired blue and white pants, a shirt with a different blue and white pattern and a tie-dyed jacket with pink, blue and purple. I'll mix several patterns. That's African-inspired. Because I live in Columbia, I don't see a lot of that around me.

What reaction do you get?

Somebody asked, "Are you a hippie?" I can go far-out, but as I've aged I've started looking for things that are more sophisticated. I don't fit the mold of what a 37-year-old black professional woman is supposed to look like. A well-meaning friend gave me a two-piece burgundy wool suit. I wore granny boots with it.

What most influenced your look?

Watching my mother in the '60s create "costumes." I remember she was going to some party and she chained together this pop-top vest and belt. My mother loved clothing. It's in the genes.

What do you wear when you're in a funk?

I have an oversized red and black shirt with black pants and an around-the-ear ear cuff with red bangles, black feathers and silver stars.

L Whose advice would you most like to have on dressing better?

Ralph Lauren. It's probably politically incorrect for a black woman to pick a white male designer, but his style is very precise and crisp.

What's been your most traumatic clothing event?

I had major surgery four or five years ago and lost 25 pounds. I thought that I looked like a bag person. People still bash you if you're thin. They don't think that's a problem. I'm still 15 pounds underweight. I've always wanted to have the appearance of looking bigger than I am.

What are you longing to own?

I have a jacket fetish. . . . What I'd like is a good formal black jacket that is not like anybody else's. I've been looking for a couple of years and haven't found it. But it's out there somewhere.

Do you know some dressers? Let us know. Write to Mary Corey, The Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.

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