Costume Prep: How to Curl a Synthetic Wig

by Tess Adair

 

 

I like pulling costumes together. It’s the only kind of crafting I actively seek out. So it follows that Halloween has always been one of my favorite days—it’s the only one with a ready-made reason to make a costume.

 

I tend to put a lot of thought into my costumes. I have never worn a costume that was completely store-bought, and I have never gone as a Sexy anything. (Though this year I considered going as BDSM Captain Picard. Wasn’t sure I could pull off the bald cap.) When I was a kid, I had a penchant for choosing men to dress up as. I was Ricky Ricardo, Davey Jones, the Brave Sir Robin from Holy Grail, Alan Rickman’s character the Metatron (from Dogma,) and my favorite—Harry Potter. Oh, and of course—the year three of my female friends went as Playboy bunnies, I went as Hugh Heffner. Because of course I did.

 

There were women, too: Calamity Jane, the Pony Express rider and one of my earliest heroes, and Cleopatra, monarch extraordinaire. And the generic hippie, witch, fairy (who was of course from a specific Shakespeare play but was still really just a fairy.) And one Dead Cheerleader.

 

Two years ago, I went as Rogue from X-Men. It was the first time in years, possibly since high school, that I’d put in the effort to really do something, and it felt great. Last year, I femmed it up more than I ever have, yet still managed to keep my history of cross-dressing intact: I went as Adore Delano, my favorite drag queen.

 

I’ve been debating all summer what I should do this year. Then one day last week I remembered that I have this amazing wig from Etsy that I never get to wear, and it is close to perfect for an excellent character: Rose Quartz from Steven Universe.

 

If you’ve never watched Steven Universe—first of all, you should. But more importantly, here’s a picture of Rose Quartz:

Rose Quartz 1

Honestly, I’m usually not a fan of cartoons. But this one’s pretty great.

 

So, I have a wig that’s the perfect color. And I have a top that will make an excellent upper half to a Rose Quartz dress. To finish it up, I’ll just need to make or get a skirt, make a little star piece, and fix up the wig. (If I have time, I also wanna make a pink sword.)

 

I started by working on the wig.

 

Here’s how the wig looked before:

 

   Then I pinned up a little more than the top half of the hair. This took some doing—there is a LOT of hair on that thing.

 

Then I pinned up a little more than the top half of the hair. This took some doing—there is a LOT of hair on that thing.

   At first, my plan was to follow a youtube tutorial I had found—in that tutorial, the nice lady put the whole wig up in curlers, then placed it into hot water. Unfortunately, it turned out that the curlers set I bought did not have nearly enough clips for me to do that. I tried to use bobby pins to make up the difference, but I only had a limited supply of those, too.     To compensate, I thought I’d try doing sections at a time and drying them with a hair dryer, instead of leaving it out to dry for 24-48 hours like the youtuber. This did not work out—just trying to dry a single curler of synthetic hair took over 20 minutes. Doing the whole thing that way would take way too long to be feasible.     So I switched to hairspray. I used a TON of hairspray for this.

 

At first, my plan was to follow a youtube tutorial I had found—in that tutorial, the nice lady put the whole wig up in curlers, then placed it into hot water. Unfortunately, it turned out that the curlers set I bought did not have nearly enough clips for me to do that. I tried to use bobby pins to make up the difference, but I only had a limited supply of those, too.

 

To compensate, I thought I’d try doing sections at a time and drying them with a hair dryer, instead of leaving it out to dry for 24-48 hours like the youtuber. This did not work out—just trying to dry a single curler of synthetic hair took over 20 minutes. Doing the whole thing that way would take way too long to be feasible.

 

So I switched to hairspray. I used a TON of hairspray for this.

   I would spray each section a whole bunch, then comb it through.

 

I would spray each section a whole bunch, then comb it through.

   And then I’d clip it shut. I’m not sure if all synthetic wigs are as slick as mine, but the hairspray I used definitely made it easier to work with just by making the hair stickier.

 

And then I’d clip it shut. I’m not sure if all synthetic wigs are as slick as mine, but the hairspray I used definitely made it easier to work with just by making the hair stickier.

   Unfortunately, I wasted a bit of time learning that the biggest rollers are pointless. They give it the slightest bend at the very ends, not really a curl at all. So I had to restart using only the two smallest sizes (and after about 2 sections, only the smaller one of those.)

 

Unfortunately, I wasted a bit of time learning that the biggest rollers are pointless. They give it the slightest bend at the very ends, not really a curl at all. So I had to restart using only the two smallest sizes (and after about 2 sections, only the smaller one of those.)

 

After that hiccup, the early results for the smaller rollers were pretty good.

 

Best decision of the day: tying the stupid Styrofoam head to a weight to keep it from falling over.

 

Here’s a mostly done shot:

 

And here we have the final product, returned to the shelf on which she lives:

I’m pretty pleased with how she’s turning out. Next weekend, I go fabric shopping for the skirt.

 

I love Halloween.