Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Tutorial: How to Make an 18th Century Wig (In Pink, Because Why Not a Pouf in Pink?)


This article previously appeared on Your Wardobe Unlockd.

In previous articles we've covered basic wig care and styling techniques and how to actually put the wig on your head and keep it there. I don't know about you, but that's enough of the basics for me. I think we're ready to jump in and style a whole wig. 
We're going to start Marie Antoinette's signature towering coiffure, the pouf. And just for fun, we're going to make it pink. 


For this project, we're going to need:
  • 1 long wig: I will be using a pink Matilda from Arda Wigs, which is a long, wavy, synthetic wig with a lace front. (Note: Arda has changed the color of the lace in their lace-front wigs since this wig was purchased, so newer models might have darker lace than the one pictured here.) 
  • Wefted hair extensions: I used two packs of matching hair extensions.
  • Hair doughnuts: I used two large, doughnut-shaped hair rats from my local beauty supply store. 
  • Quilt batting: Because I didn't have a third hair doughnut, I made one with quilt batting.
  • Hot glue
  • Hairspray
  • Washable white glue or PVA
  • Bobby pins
  • Hair pins
  • Quilting pins
  • A curved needle 
  • A straight needle
  • Thread
  • Dry shampoo or hair powder
  • Ornaments: I was in a spring mood, so I used flowers. 
As always, styling wigs the way I do it is more about improvisation and problem-solving than paint-by-numbers. So I will address the pink pouf as a case study. I will show you my process for going from "I want to make a big pink pouf" to "Hooray! The big pink pouf is finished!" Then you can decide what techniques you want to use for yourself. 
Note on glue: Back in the day when I had all the money in the world and used to make one-shot wigs to go with specific costumes, I would use permanent adhesives like clear-drying caulk and hot glue to put my wigs together. It was very fast and very easy, but that was it for the base wig--I could never use it again for any other costume. But I am probably going to want this pink wig back some day, so I set myself a secondary goal: Style this wig in a way where I will be able to un-style it later and use it again. 

Note on photos: When this article was originally written, I was  having camera troubles. Namely, I didn't know how to use one. The photos throughout vary in quality, but I hope they get the point across. 

OK. 3, 2, 1, let's jam! 

I began, as always, with a combed-out wig pinned to a canvas wig block. 


I look in the mirror and measure the distance from the center front of my hairline to the top of my head. It's three inches, so I work back three inches from the hairline of the wig and part it there, brushing all the front hair forward.

Using a hairdryer, I apply heat to the roots of the hair to change the direction it is 'growing' in. The hair now wants to part where I want it to part. Then I put the wig aside and get to working on what will be the guts of the style.

The key feature of a pouf is its height, so I'm going to want this wig tall. There are any number of ways to make a wig taller. I'm going to use these net hair doughnuts that I picked up at the beauty supply store. They're about six inches (15.2cm) in diameter, lightweight, and can be sewn through. 

Unfortunately, I only have two such doughnuts and I want taller hair than that, so I take some polyester quilt batting and hot glue it into the rough size and shape of one of the doughnuts. I then stick that in the middle of the two doughnuts using hot glue. It looks sort of like a blonde Oreo. 

Next I will cover the doughnuts and batting with wefted hair extensions in the same color as my wig. But the extensions are stick-straight and I personally find it easier to wrap hair that has some direction to it, so I'm going to curl these a bit to make them easier to work with. To do that, I wrap my extensions around a paper towel roll and tape them in place. 

Once the extensions are wrapped, I heat them with a hairdryer until it's about the temperature of hot pizza. Then I let it cool down completely before unwrapping. 

Here's what the extensions look like when I'm finished. 

Next I started pinning the wefts of the extensions around the bottom of the doughnut. 

The extensions go all the way around... 

...and keep going in circles until I run out of hair. 

All the wefts get sewn to the doughnut. (Here is where, back in the day, I would have just used hot glue and not bothered with pinning or sewing.)

Once the wefts are attached, I flip the whole thing over and stick it to a shelf using my wig stand. (This is where the hole at the center of the doughnut comes in handy.)

I take one layer of hair from the center back and pull it up over the base.

I use some hot glue to hold the ends in place. (I decide it's OK to use the glue here, because if I ever want these wefted extensions back for some reason, the damaged, gluey bits will be at the very ends and can be trimmed off.)

I take another piece from the left and pull that forward, crossing it over the one I just put down. 

Then I do the same with a piece from the right. 

When the back is covered, I move on to the front and do that the same way.

The wrapped base looks sort-of like an Easter egg. 

Now it's time to make some ringlets. 

Next I'm going to make some curls because I know I'm going to need them later, and if I start them now they will have time to dry before I need them. I make the curls by cutting a six-inch length of wefted extension, folding the weft in half so I have a three-inch length of two-ply extension, pinning the wefts to the cloth cover of my ironing board, and curling them the way I demonstrated in the first article in this series. (I'll repost that article shortly.) 

Then I do that until all the hair is used up. One package of hair extensions makes about 18 curls this way. 

Carefully unroll the ringlets so they keep their shape. Re-form them with your fingers if necessary. (Note: If you do this with your ironing board as I did, make sure to wash the cover before using it again, or else your fabric will stick to the hairspray residue. Covering the board with a piece of muslin might have been a good idea.)

With the curls made, now back to the wig: 

Put the hair-covered base on top of the wig and pin it in place.

Using a curved needle, sew the base to the wig. Be careful not to sew the wig to the wig block, because that's always embarrassing, even if nobody sees it but you. (This is another point at which young Liz would have just glued the darn thing down.)

Just to be sure that everything is placed correctly and that I did not accidentally sew the wig to the wig block, I take the wig off the block and try it on. If I did sew the wig to the wig block, it would be better to know now than when the wig is finished. 

Now that I'm sure everything is fine, I can proceed with the 'poufing'. I put the front part of the hair up and over the base just to get an idea of where it will lie and how I'm going to want to distribute the hair. 

I decide I want all the hair attached to the lace front to to back over the pouf. To help hide the wefts at the back, I want a pair of ringlets trailing down behind the ears. I section out those pieces and hold them with ponytail holders. 

Like I did when I wrapped the wig base, I take a small section of hair from the center back and fold it forward over the base. I use a washable white glue that dries clear, like Elmer's or PVA, to hold the ends in place. The washable glue does not dry as quickly or firmly as hot glue or caulk, which would make this process much faster and smoother, but I might be able to wash it out of a wig later if necessary. 

I get the top layer of hair from the back of the wig brushed over the base and glued in place. Using a hair dryer helps the white glue dry more quickly, which is useful because otherwise gravity likes to woodge the hair out of place while you're not looking. Once the top layer is placed like that, I take a piece from the center back of the wig near the base and tease the roots until it's a mess. (The reason I put the first layer of hair up without teasing is that teasing is difficult to un-do. If I want the wig back at some point and the teased hair is too damaged to look shiny and nice, this way there will be a layer of smooth hair on top of it.) 

All the hair at the back of the base of the pouf is teased. This helps obscure the wefts, which you won't want to be visible while the wig is on your head.

From looking at busts and paintings from the 18th century, I know I want a looped tail at the back of the coiffure and that I will need hair to smooth over the teased section. I separate out the tail part first, wrap the hair immediately above it around it likea ponytail holder, and pin that out of the way. the sections to the side will go up over the teased part to make it look smooth. 

I take a piece, and drape it up over the teased section and the pouf base. I glue the ends in place over the pouf base as I did earlier, with the washable white glue or PVA. The hairdryer becomes my best friend, as it makes this part a lot faster. (Right about this point I find myself wishing I hadn't made this 'wig must be re-styleable' rule. This would be so much easier with glue and tub caulk.)

I work my way from the center towards the sides, lifting hair as I go. 

Finally, all the back hair that is going to go up is up. 

I start doing the front section. I want this part to be very smooth, so I do this part in two sections, each half as deep as the amount of hair I have, so there are two layers of smoothed hair here. I start at the center front and work my way to the sides, then I go back from the sides towards the center, layering and smoothing and gluing the hair as I go. 

Yay! Now all the hair is up and smoothed over, which means our smoothing is done. The hair for the ear-ringlets is still reserved. 

Now it's time to turn our attention to styling the back again. 

I start by tying the center top lock of loose hair with a ponytail elastic. I even found elastics in pink, which is useful for this. The section I just tied will be called the "looper section" just for ease of keeping things straight. I pin that up out of the way. 

With the piece I just tied out of the way, I take all the hair at the sides, draw the pieces together, and tie them with another elastic. I'm doing this to help hide the wefts at the sides. The looper section remains pinned out of the way, but this new section made up of side pieces will now be styled as part of the tail section. I tie the whole thing at about the nape of the neck with another pink ponytail elastic.

The hair at the tail is being difficult, so I take a length of pink tulle and sew it into a tube. 

I take the hair in the tail section (including the side pieces) and pull it through the tulle bag. I hand-sew the top of the tulle bag to the ponytail holder. Then I take the top section, the looper section, and loop it around the ponytail to cover the ponytail holder and the top of the tulle bag. I sew the ponytail holder that holds the looper section to the hair wefts at the center back, at the base of what is now the pouf.

I roll the bagged ponytail over my hand carefully, keeping the seam of the bag inside. The top of the resulting tulle-encased hair loop is pinned to the base of the pouf and sewn in place. 

Next, the ear-tails are set for ringlets. 

Using bobby pins, I carefully pin ringlets to the pouf. I put some over each ear, and in the back to go over any exposed wefts or ugly spots. (This is another place where a younger me would have just glued the ringlets down, and you can do that if you want to.)

The ringlets can go wherever you like. They're very useful for covering up wefts or ugly spots in the wig. 

Another thing that is good for decorating the wig and obscuring bobby pins or styling errors is ornaments. You can't have a nude pouf, can you? No! So we need to decorate it. Anything in the world can be used to ornament a pouf. Feathers are wonderful. Stars are lovely. Jewels are fantastic. I'm pretty sure even candy bars could work in the right situation. 
Because this wig is pink and I'm sick to death of winter, I'm going to go with a spring theme and cover my pouf in flowers. 
I just hot-glue the flowers to some bobby pins. Try not to glue your flowers to the floor. 

Before putting on the ornaments, we're going to apply the powder for a nice, matte, powdered finish. For the powder, I'm going to use a regular can of dry shampoo. Dry shampoo is a big trend right now, so you shouldn't have any trouble finding it in drug or beauty stores. 
To apply the powder, hold the can about 10-12 inches (25-30cm) from the wig and keep it moving as you spray. If you rest too long or hover too close, you can wind up with a splotchy-looking wig. (If that happens, you can usually wipe some off with a tissue.) 
Pictured immediately above is the wig after a coat of powder. (The ear-ringlets were let down just before powdering.) 
Now I wanted to move the wig to a mannequin head for some final pictures. At this point, I learned that dry shampoo makes a wig very slippery. I dropped this one on the floor three or four times while trying to move it, and kicked it at least once by accident. Just a thing to keep in mind...

But I did finally get it onto the mannequin. 

Now I start sticking some flowers onto the wig to decorate it. The flowers are on bobby pins, and can just be stuck into the wig wherever.

The spring-themed pouf, powdered and decorated...

...from behind...

I could have been neater when filling the back with flowers, but they're just on hair pins and can be moved around whenever I want. 
It would also be possible to add more tube-curls to the back. 

...and poof, it's done! 


eggvip said...

No wonder these wigs cost like $300!!! You're amazing <3

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

Do you think you could use other types of wigs for this as well? Like a cheaper base wig if necessary?

Unknown said...
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Elizabeth Licata said...

Oh sure, a different base wig would work just fine. I started with this one because I wanted a lace front, but any wig with enough length and hair should be just fine. I'm a big fan of a New Look model called Linda, which has a ton of hair inside it and is really easy to re-style.

Unknown said...

I just wanted to thank you for posting this brilliant tutorial. I relied heavily on it as a reference for creating a doll sized wig. Your writing was very entertaining as well :)

Unknown said...

I'm creative but this is a frigging masterpiece. You should sell these on Ebay! I'm going to use the donuts for sure, wow this is awesome. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Lisa Durbin said...

Great Tutorial1 Thank you for the lovely tips I will be trying this out ASAP even though I don't have the costume sewn yet or an event planned, but sometimes the inspiration starts with the hair...ok and sometimes the shoes..ok and sometimes the fabric..and sometimes well you get my drift. :)

Sabrina said...

Wow I don't know if I want to wear it or eat it. It's so beautifulllll! You are gifted.

Unknown said...

how many extensions do you need?

Unknown said...

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Ab Devilliers said...

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Dressseamstress said...

Can you make me one how much