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March 2017

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Project(s): Wig/hat hybrids!

The class i'm teaching this semester is actually entitled "Millinery and Wigs" in the course catalog, and as such, part of my responsibility in the class is to cover the topic of wigs. I give a lecture on wig and hair-related topics--an overview of things like how various kinds of hair extensions are installed, the differences between wig types (like, how a lace-front wig differs from a skin-top wig), types of hair used in wigs and hairpieces and the like. I don't have them make any traditionally-constructed wigs or hairpieces, because I don't feel that a project of that sort would make sense in the context of our program. (If a student were particularly interested in making ventilated lace-front wigs, i would point them towards a summer job in the wig department of somewhere like the Utah Shakespeare Festival or similar. And if they were interested in it career-wise, they wouldn't be in our program, which doesn't offer a graduate concentration in wigs and makeup.)

What i do ask them to consider in terms of a project, is the concept of wig/hat hybrids--ways in which you might solve structural or elaborate period hairstyle shapes using principles of millinery construction and other crafts artisanship skills. (The "Bawd" hairdo from the recent PRC Pericles production is a good real-life example of what i'm talking about here.)

This project is always a lot of fun because it's definitely one where there are an infinite number of possibilities--in hairstyle options, materials used, ways to achieve looks. I did the project along with them, so the first set of photos behind the cut show my step-by-steps, then at the end are pictures of the students' projects as well.

I decided to do this project, partly because i usually have six students in the class and this semester i only have five, so i've been doing them all just for another project to discuss, and because then i have a sample project going on ahead of theirs to illustrate construction steps. I also felt it would kill two birds with one stone, since i have been invited to a Dia di los Muertos party at the end of the month for which costumes are suggested. Those who know me well know that for me, "costume party" usually boils down to "What kind of ridiculous crap can i put on my head?!"

For my "research image" shapes, i was looking at trying to create a stable, lightweight, somewhat realistic version of the long-but-tall beehive style. I looked at images of soul singer Amy Winehouse, old pre-Elvis-wedding-teenage pix of Priscilla Presley, and Elvira's vampier look (as opposed to the spiky rocker-beehive-hybrid thing she had for a while). I wanted the wig to evoke those styles, but be stagier, Hairspray-esque, and also to have some creepy dia di los muertos elements. I wasn't trying to replicate this image, but i really liked its spookiness and sinister look, since generally i think of that kind of beehive as kind of a slutty car-hop sort of style. I wanted to make a wig that would have the same sort of effect on the viewer.

I bought two wigs to cut up and use parts of in this project.
This bob wig was one of them.
I also got this wig in auburn as well.

I wanted to incorporate a bunch of orange roses into the beehive portion.
I used wire strippers to remove the plastic from the "stems" so i could arrange them
using only the wire part of the flower-stem for a foundation.

This is the beehive portion of the second wig, removed from the rest of it.
It has its own integrated buckram dome built into it already.

Buckram base, mulled and covered with spandex.
This gave me a good sturdy foundation to build the hairdo on.

The back half of the beehive wig attached to the base.

This is what it looked like inside at this point.
The back of the original wig comes down beyond the
foundation so it will fit snugly to the head.

The two wigs, layered together on the buckram base.

Remember the beehive part i cut off a couple steps back?
I attached it to this styrofoam skull with pins and glue.

The skull will form the foundation of the beehive on my wig. It was originally skull-colored, but i painted it with rust-colored acrylics so it would be in the same color range as the wig. In the above photo, you can also see the wire (the "staple"-like thing in the center of the crown, which goes through the skull and forms the two wire struts sticking out on either side of the bottom) which i used to attach the skull to the wig. I bent the bottom struts of the wire into a sort of rounded headband shape and stitched it to the buckram base through all layers. Because the skull is styrofoam, i could just shove the flowers into it like it were a floral arrangement.

I also made a little floral "tiara" to camouflage the join at the base of the skull in back.

Completed wig, front view.

Completed wig, side view.

Completed wig, rear view.

And, student projects:

Raffia "Gibson Girl" style by Randy Handley

Yarn updo with research image by Amy A. Page

"Greek statue" hair with research image by Candy McClernan


Holy cow, you are awesome.

I imagine that every time you step out the door, you have to kick aside stacks of Goths who slept on your doorstep overnight, begging for that wig.

It's beautiful and outrageous and... wow.
Those are some nice wig-hats! I like the range in looks.

And thought-provoking as well (inspriring). Maybe next year, for halloween (since it seems like I'm not doing anything this year).
Really wonderful. I always get so much out of your tutorials.

wow, i feel like i might actually knock someone down and steal that wig right offa their head. DAMN.

i am at a loss here. This is beyond awesome. Simple solution w AMAZING results.

What is the "Greek Statue" one made of? It looks like fired porcelain but I'm thinking it's something more ingenius (and lighter).
It's made of ethafoam backer rod, which is found in any hardware store in a variety of diameters. She coated it in flexible white glue, then painted it with acrylics.
I'd love to see at least one picture of your fully assembled costume!