Previously we covered basic wig care and styling, but before we get in too far, let’s take a look at how to wear them.
Different situations call for different ways of wearing wigs. In a theatrical production in which one person might need to change wigs many times, a wig might be placed so that it can be removed quickly. In most of our cases, however, we want one to stay put for several hours, so today we’re going to cover how to get a wig on your head, keep it there, and style it to look like it just grows out of your head like that.
If you have short hair, wearing a wig will be easy.
|For today's exercise, I have borrowed a nice model who has relatively short hair. But with straight and smooth hair like this, wigs like to pop right off. So we're going to have to create a base to hold the wig in place.|
|The standard way to keep a wig on one's head is with pin curls. They create a solid surface so that the wig won't slide around.|
|Put pin curls all the way around the hairline, and then two at the top of the head. You can add more for extra security or to get more hair out of the way, but that's the minimum.|
Put a wig cap over the pin curls and slide it back so that all the hair is off the forehead.
Now, obviously our model has thick, dark sideburns, so I'm not going to be able to put a blond wig on him and have it look normal without shaving or bleaching them.
Many people say that all hair should start with pin curls, but I can get about three curls in before I decide that shaving all my hair off would be less tiresome. Also, pin curls do add some bulk to the head, and I try to avoid that as much as possible. (I have a rather large head to start with.) There are probably as many ways of putting on a wig as there are wigs in the world. This one is mine:
|When putting a wig on long hair, start with it down and brushed. (I'd say clean, but honestly, nobody will know. That part is up to you.)|
|Divide the hair into two low ponytails. Keep them in the back, not at the sides. This part depends on the shape of your head, so feel around for a nice place to hide them.|
|Fold one tail over the back of your head. Use your fingers to make it as flat as possible and then pin it in place with snap-on hair clips or bobby pins.
Again, feel around on your head for the best place to hide your tails. I have a nice ledge under the top of my head, so I put mine underneath that, as shown at right.
|Fold the other tail over and clip it in place as well. For super-long hair, try braiding the hair in loose braids instead of ponytails. That will add bulk, but Rapunzel hair will always take up more space than a Sinead O'Connor.|
|Cover the whole mess with a wig cap. Some wig caps look like fishnet, and some look like the footies they give you at shoe stores to try on shoes. Personally, I prefer the mesh kind, but both kinds are fine and can be pinned through with hair pins.|
|Start with the wig cap on the forehead and push it back to about an inch behind the hairline. Don't cover the hairline, or the wig cap might peek out. Using two bobby pins crossed over each other in an "X" shape, pin the wig cap in place over each ear and at the nape of the neck.
Normally at this point I would do my makeup, then put on my costume, then put on my wig last. But these pictures are meant for the Internet, so I've had makeup on the whole time.
|Hold the wig in front of you with the back towards your face.|
|Hold the front of the wig in place on your hairline with your off hand...|
|... and bring the wig down over the wig cap in the back.|
|Use a mirror or friend to check for any stray hairs and tuck them into place.|
| Using a hair pin, pin the wig in place. It would seem like bobby pins would be better for this, because they're tighter. But hair pins are more effective. They're a lot like staples.
Insert the hair pin with the ends pointing forward toward your face ...
|... then reverse the pin's direction and push it in towards the back. For additional security, pop some hair pins around the wig wherever you like or feel like you need extra support. Make sure the points of the pins are pointing down so they don't drop out while you wear them.|
| Once the wig is on, make any adjustments to the bangs or curls so it looks the way you want.
As a side note, these pictures should illustrate something about synthetic wigs: They don't like flash photography. (Not much does, really.)
The previous photos were taken with the camera on a timer set to automatic. The resulting flash gives the wig that icky shininess that's often considered the major drawback of synthetic wigs. (Not to mention that it's not so flattering on me or my apartment either.)
The photo at the right was taken without a flash, and the wig looks much nicer. This is the same wig I'm wearing above.
When styling hair, don't forget your eyebrows. Fixing those is a big step towards making a wig look good and natural on you.
Naturally, eyebrows are usually about the color of one's natural hair, often a shade or two darker. When using a wig of or near to one's natural color, dealing with eyebrows is easy; just do whatever you normally do with your eyebrows (for me that involves eyebrow shadow, an angled brush, and clear mascara). And when dealing with wigs that are darker than one's natural color, it's a piece of cake. I use an angled eyeliner brush to fill in my eyebrows with an eye shadow or eyebrow powder in a color that matches the wig. A dark eyebrow pencil will also work. Here I am in a dark brown wig:
Some of us have long sideburn tufts growing in front of our ears, and those can be difficult to deal with. Often the wig will cover them, but if it will not, the only thing that can be done is to shave them or make them match the wig. The above wig is too short to obscure my sideburn tufts completely, so I use a mascara wand to color any visible hairs that peek out. Hair mascara can be a good way to apply temporary color to small places.
If you can't find an eyeshadow or eyebrow pencil that matches your wig, it's possible to make a passable facsimile by grinding up an artist's pastel on a piece of sandpaper.
Going darker with eyebrows is easy, but going lighter can be a bit of an issue. Some people insist that eyebrows must be lightened to match a white or light-colored wig, but it's very hard to do that and have it look natural. (Eyebrows can be bleached. If it's worth it to you to bleach them for a costume, I'd recommend consulting a professional.)
In the "final" photo of me in the gray wig above, my eyebrows are in their natural state. (I almost never do that. I personally like a strong brow.) Below, my eyebrows are colored with a white eyeliner pencil and powdered with a white pastel.
If you like the look, it's easy enough to do. Another option is to use a neutral eyebrow pencil. I keep a dark blond/light brown eyebrow pencil around for that purpose. It neutralizes the red in my eyebrows and makes them sort of fade into obscurity. Tweezing eyebrows slightly smaller also helps draw attention away from them. (Don't go too far or you could look crazy at work the next day. I generally just go one or two hairs smaller than my normal eyebrows.)
The darker one's natural hair, the more difficult it will be to go lighter. However, if you have very dark or bold eyebrows (I am jealous. I've been putting Rogaine on my own to try to grow awesome Lily Collins brows, but it hasn't been working.) and really want them gone temporarily, they can be covered with eyebrow modeling wax. Then you can draw on whatever kind of eyebrows you want.
The gray wig above has bangs (fringe), so we don't have to worry about the hairline. When we can't wear bangs, though, it's necessary to consider what we're going to do with the hairline.
Wigs that don't come with bangs often have hard fronts, like this one. This hairline doesn't look natural at all, does it? When you can't wear bangs and are dealing with a hard-front wig, there are a couple options. First, try to style around it. Veronica Lake-style hair swoops cover a multitude of sins.
If the wig matches your own hair color, it's possible to use your own hairline with a commercial wig.
|First, section out the front of your hair. Use a comb to separate a section going from ear to ear over the top of the head.|
|Do the back of your head like we did above, with the wig cap, but withhold the front section.|
Put the wig over the wig cap, keeping the front part of your hair out.
At right, you can see that. You can also see what happens when a camera flash hits synthetic hair and real hair at the same time. This particular wig technique won't work so hot under flash photography, because the synthetic wig will react to the flash differently than your real hair will.
|Tease the back of your hair and give it a little shot of hairspray.|
|Brush the hair back over the wig and blend so it looks pretty.|
|The real hair and fake hair match better without the flash. (This wig might not be an exact match since I stopped highlighting my hair.)|
When a wig has to be pulled back off the face dramatically, you can use your real hair for the front and treat your wig like a half-wig.
Toupee clips can be used to help any wig stick to your head. With a very heavy wig like this one, they're pretty much essential. I sewed one at the center front of the hairline, one on each side of that, one over each ear, and two at the nape.
The last way to deal with a hairline is to use a lace-front wig. These have sections of nearly invisible netting at the front of the wig, with the hairs knotted onto that to create a natural-looking hairline. (Below: this one is a Matilda from Arda Wigs, a good place to go if you need lace-front wigs in unnatural colors).
Lace-front wigs are usually much more expensive than hard-front wigs, but they can be found for relatively reasonable prices on eBay or from a variety of Internet sellers.