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Working with wigs

A little reflection

I recently had the opportunity to work with a local theater to create a number of wigs for their production of The Music Man. Pay no attention to the style at the top of the page, just used the image for a little reference.

I was excited to get the commission, but I was a little nervous. I haven't spent much time working on wigs and I wasn't entirely certain that my skills were up to the task. I chose to do a little research on specific to the year. That helped me see exactly what kinds of styles were popular in those days. I had to just get in and start styling.

It was a unique challenge for me. I didn't have a T-pin to secure each wig to the dollhead, so with each one I used a pushpin. To start with I set each of the three wigs with a curling iron set. I am grateful that they were all made of human hair. That was fun, if I had've had a little more time, I would have wet set them, but I only had about a week to work on them between my clients. Each wig got set in the same basic style, all curls rolled back from the perimeter towards the crown. The 1910s were an era of a more moderate Gibson girl style accompanied by a bun, braid, or knot at the back of the head. The completed sets got to hang out for about two days in the salon.

Then it was time to actually create styles for the play. I was definitely playing a "fake it till you make it" game. I didn't really know how to achieve the styles that I was thinking of. I chose to use padding made from cut apart hair donuts to give lift and volume to the front and sides. I couldn't make them too big, for the ease of performing while wearing them. I did them one at a time and created the styles to fit the show. Each one was unique in its final treatment. One had a braid, one had a bun, one had a knot. I started feeling insecure as I was going, because I hold myself to a very high standard in styling.

When they were completed, I gathered them up to make delivery. I really didn't know how they would be received. I could only hope that the pins would stay in for the styles and that the costume director would like what I chose. I also wasn't real sure the best way to transport the wigs to the theater, but I figured something out.

When I arrived my fears were laid to rest, the costume director was delighted with what I had done. I had to realize that I may be my biggest critic, but someone who "doesn't know anything about wigs" will be very satisfied with almost anything, so long as it looks natural. It was a delightful experience and I hope to be able to work with the theater again.