Creating Standard-Setting Costumes Takes Passion, Research

Pensacola – Mention costumes any time, anywhere at the University of West Florida, and chances are you’ll hear about Glenn Avery Breed.

Breed, an associate professor in the theater department, teaches a variety of theater courses, including costume construction, musical-theater history and costume history.

But, when he’s not teaching, Breed oversees costume design for theater department productions.

“There is nothing better than sitting in the audience and hearing the oohs and aahs when costuming helps tell the story,” Breed said.

On a recent October morning, Breed was in the costume shop on the University’s Pensacola Campus supervising about eight students who were completing their required hours for Production and Performance class. All theater majors take Production and Performance, or “P and P,” as they call it. They spend a number of hours each week working and getting shows ready for production. Besides costuming, the students work on lights, sets, props or other tasks integral to the running of the department’s myriad projects.

In the costume shop, people were dropping by for fittings, scurrying across the hall to search the stock of costumes for certain items, ironing fabric and stitching identification tags into costumes — to name a few of the tasks that were happening. Breed presided over it all.

He used a laptop computer to consult lists of measurements, refer to photos as references and search for possible online sources where he might purchase vintage clothing or other necessary costuming items.

“I like watching students formulate ideas and gain experience and apply what skills they’ve learned in class to different projects,” Breed said.

Senior Kendall Dayton works on a piece of fabric using a machine in the costume shop.

Breed paused while helping one student accurately measure another student for a costume to discuss the appropriate amount of fraying a certain pair of blue jean shorts needed to look authentic. The shorts are to be used in the department’s production of “The Great American Trailer Park Musical,” which will be performed the last two weekends in October. A few minutes later, he was helping someone with the gathers in an apron that will be worn when “A Christmas Carol” is performed in December.

“I get to make characters who they are by what they wear,” Breed said. “Making good costumes that help tell the story is what I’m passionate about.”

His students pick up on his enthusiasm.

“He is a great teacher because he has a passion for the arts,” said Kendall Dayton, a senior majoring in technical theater, costume design and construction.

Dayton said Breed taught her the importance of studying the script, caring about the characters, researching and knowing the styles of the period in which a show is set.

“You have to care,” Dayton says, “Otherwise, why bother? I care about my characters and want them to look the way they are supposed to. Glenn taught me that.”

Besides being a full-time instructor at UWF, which he has been doing for 11 years, Breed also owns and manages his own business called Wardrobe Witchery. The company, founded in 2013, is a full-service costume design, production and rental company located in Pensacola. It specializes in opera and musical theater and has a large stock of period costumes.

Witchery has supplied costumes for 60 shows since the company’s founding. This year alone, Witchery is scheduled to work on 30 shows. Several of those shows are for the Pensacola Opera, a relationship that Breed credits with the founding of his business.

“I have been designing costumes for the Pensacola Opera for the past 10 years,” Breed said. “When I first came to UWF, there was already a relationship in place with the Pensacola Opera.”

Glenn’s teaching position and his position as a small business owner complement each other.

In addition to being exposed to the cutting edge of professional costume design, his students get the opportunity to build their design portfolio by working with elaborate pieces with which Breed’s business works.

“Glenn is totally dedicated, organized and creative,” said Edee Mathews Green, one of the two full-time stitchers Breed employs at Witchery. “He is a great teacher who is always looking out for the students’ best interest. His enthusiasm and energy are impressive and contagious. He is a wonderful person to work with.”