Monday, June 20, 2011

Pirates' Ball and the Big Hair Tutorial

Last Saturday night was the Pirates' Ball in Benicia. Chris and I were vending there so we had to try and figure out what to wear that would be comfortable for 8 hours but still allow us to look "piratey." I did my hair at home, figuring that I could just add the tricorne when were done setting up. This is my new wig!
This was my first attempt at really working a wig into my hairline instead of using hair pieces or plopping my blond wig down way over my (very red) hairline. I bought the Lacey "Wavy Showgirl" wig and hacked away at a lot of the side curls so that I had more of that hedgehog look of the 1780s. I was going for a look similar to this portrait of Mrs. Siddons, painted by Gainsborough circa 1783-1785:

Here's another photo of me at the Ball. I wish I had a photo of the long back curls because they looked really, really cute!

Note that I'm just wearing my stays and a "poet" blouse. The polka dot thingie is my vendor apron. What you don't see are my jeans and a pair of lace up boots that I knew would be comfy enough to load our gear in, stand in, and tear down in.

So, how did I do my hair?
  • First, I gave the wig a haircut (but saved all of the bits for future projects) and teased the top and sides out a bit so that it looked fluffy.
  • On the day of the event, I used a big crimping iron on my bangs and the front and sides of my hair to give lots of wavy volume.
  • My big challenge was that I needed to anchor that wig to my hair so that the hat could anchor to my wig and everything would be hunky dory and not slip around for 8+ hours. I took the top half of my uncurled hair, gave myself little pigtails, and wound the hair elastic around so that I had flat little knobs of hair that I could jam a bobby pin into and not have it slip out. Then I did the same with the rest of my hair down the back, pinned it high up on my head into a little pigtail knob. This would also help to give the top and upper back of the wig a little volume.
  • Next, I put the wig on and bobby pinned it to my scalp along the front, in the middle where those knobs of hair were, and along the base of my neck. My curled front hair and bangs were left sticking out.
  • Here's the part where you need lots of hairspray! I'm a child of the 80's so when you need to make your big hair stay in place, you break out the AquaNet Extra Super Hold. Take your hair, work it up along the wig line with a bit of the wig hair, and spray the snot out of it. Seriously. My hair only touches my shoulders now but I had to pin the longer side pieces into the sides of the wig in a way that you couldn't really see the ends. I suppose in the future I could try to curl my hair into ringlets if I don't want the length.
  • The tricorne stayed on wonderfully over the well-anchored wig all night. It has an elastic band you bury into the hairline along with a comb in the back to anchor it to the hair.
I had dyed my hair a little too dark two days before the event but in the mood lighting you couldn't really tell. Since people kept asking me how I got my hair to do that I think everything must have worked pretty well for my first real attempt at playing with a wig!

Here's one of my favorite photos from the evening, taken under Chris' blacklights. It has nothing to do with costuming whatsoever but we were having fun using the "night" setting on the camera to see if we could make his glowees glow on the camera. Apparently it works for poet blouses and 18th century stays too. :)

For more great 18th century wig and hair tutorials, check out this post at American Duchess or Kendra's wig tutorial on

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