Susan Bradley Volume 39.2

Susan Bradley
An Elegant Minimalism

NEOPRENE COAT with silk quilted belt, 2007. Model: Sara Rogers. Photographs by Paul Weber.

When you encounter Susan Bradley’s work at an American Craft Council Show, Smithsonian Craft Show or Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show, you might be surprised to learn that she works from a studio and showroom in Minnesota. Her work is sophisticated, flexible and strikingly contemporary—not qualities people from other parts of the country tend to associate with the Midwest. Yet Bradley’s work stems directly from her Midwestern heritage and experiences.

      Born in Wisconsin, Bradley grew up in Hudson, a small quiet town on the western edge of the state. She was the only girl in the family and people fussed over her. Her mother worked, but still found time to sew for herself and for her daughter. Many of the mothers of her friends also worked, and they took great care with their appearance, their make-up and how they dressed, punctuated by weekly trips to the hairdresser. (Think Mad Men without the promiscuity!)

This young girl’s environment was already saturated with thoughts of clothes and fashion design. The mother of her best friend in grade school made wedding dresses and clothing for other people. She and that friend got the scraps from those projects and others. While their mothers were at work, the girls would disappear into the sewing room after school to design and sew clothes for their dolls. Bradley admitted feeling more than a little envious of the beautiful clothes that her friend’s mother made for the little girl, and did once get a dress made by the seamstress, too. Even then she appreciated the quality of the sewing and construction.

 

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Kathleen Richert has run a studio business since 1995, designing and creating clothing and soft props for museums, theater, commercial, and private clients. She specializes in historic reproduction clothing, primarily from the Regency, Georgian, American Fur Trade, and Civil War periods. She also is in the process of writing a children’s book about various species of birds, which she will be handpainting herself. Richert met with Susan Bradley, fashionista extraordinaire, and discovered a life-long wanderer who became inspired by a foreign culture, bringing back the materials that sparked her career in creating fetching clothes that feature a timeless appeal.