Five Favorite Things: Rob Bradford
All photo credits Cody Kinsfather and Rob Bradford
Favorite Five is a new series where we’ll go into the homes of some of Dallas’ coolest kids and document their five favorite things. Know someone worthy of a nom? Type it in the comments below.
Rob Bradford is a costume designer and vintage collector with just the right amount of sass. He once suggested a friend try a little makeup by saying, “How about we put a little paint on the barn, m’kay?” He sums his life philosophy with a sports analogy: “I don’t want to work too much, just enough to keep food on the table and travel when I want. It’s like skiing. If I’m going too fast, I’ll just fall on my butt and stop.” And he explains his Victorian style saying, “I’m drawn to darker stuff like rich velvets, brocades and taxidermy. None of that Laura Ashley shit.”
Bradford grew up watching Victorian films and is pretty sure he was born in the wrong era. And yet, his costume design definitely wasn’t. Throughout his career he’s created light, “crystal-y and bright” designs for plays; runways; Vegas showgirls; and exhibits like the one currently running at Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, and another that will run later this year in Vienna.
His love of fashion hit him at a young age and was born of necessity. He couldn’t find any clothes he wanted to buy so he started making them — first for himself, then friends, and eventually, the entire drama department at his high school. Clothing design is his first passion, his bread and butter and all those other expressions, but a quick tour of his home and you know this guy has style for days. He also has a picture of himself and RuPaul that he didn’t even mention and we forgot to ask about it. That can happen when you’re surrounded by perfectly crafted vignettes. Bradford shops everywhere; he has favorites in several cities, considers New Orleans his home away from home and will hit up a flea market in just about any state. There he finds the treasures that comprise his favorite things, which rarely rotate because when Bradford gets something the way he likes it, he tends to keep it that way. As for his other treasures, well, you can find those yourself at one of his two booths at Dolly Python.
The Lady Wall
Bradford loves an oil-painted portrait and he likes this lady a whole lot. She’s from the early 1800s and a friend found her at a thrift store, proving once and for all that when you have an artist’s eye, you don’t have to spend a small fortune. At least not all the time. Also in this collection: a marble Napoleon (Bradford went through a total “Napoleon phase”), a small sample of his taxidermied bird collection, and a prop bugle from MGM that was removed from the mantle for styling purposes. Bradford demands perfection, even in photos.
Like we said, Bradford loves an oil painting. Originally painted in upstate New York, Bradford found The Banker at Brimfield, a massive flea market that takes several days to dig through. Rounding out The Banker’s vignette is a lodge hat (another relic of his Napoleon phase) and, of course, a taxidermied bird.
His Grandfather’s Cowboy Hat
Growing up in Texas, Bradford’s grandfather always had the finest cowboy hats. It was his one splurge. Recently, his grandmother found the cancelled checks that were used to purchase every single hat and gave them to Bradford. His cataloging and collecting was handed down like all the photos he began storing in suitcases after a fire in 1992. That way, in case of emergency, he can grab the suitcases and haul ass out of his house. And then maybe stop, drop and roll, but let’s not get carried away.
Back in the day, hygiene wasn’t a high priority, but looking sharp was, so men would have one shirt and multiple collars. After the collar was thoroughly soiled, they’d take it off and replace it with the next one. A display of collars is the perfect décor for a dressing area and also a little nod to Bradford’s truest love, fashion.
The Other Lady Wall
At a high-end retailer in Dallas, these arms were used as a top hat display. In Bradford’s home, they pretty much do the same thing. If you look right below, there’s a portrait of a Creole woman that Bradford absolutely loves. Though it’s decades old, she looks both modern and at home on the wall of much older portraits. She also looked pretty legit on the set of Benjamin Button, which is where she was originally placed by Bradford’s set-designing friend.
Get the Arts & Culture Newsletter
Find out about arts and culture events in Dallas and offers you won't hear about anywhere else.