Hair of Great Enormity – a Practical How-To…

Get ready ladies. This is the post you’ve all been waiting for! A step-by-step guide to creating 18th c. monster hair from a long synthetic wig.

So by now you’ve got your wig and you’re itching to destroy its pre-set prettiness and fluff it into a 1790s beast. Okay then…

What You Will Need (besides your wig):
– a curling iron with a very low setting. 1″ diameter will work, or smaller
– a Mega Can O’ Aquanet or some comparable hairspray
– hair clips, the flat hinged ones.
– a rat-tailed comb
– bobby pins
– a spray bottle (with water in it, yes)

Step 1 – Curl It. The great test was seeing if the synthetic hair would curl with a curling iron. I put the iron on the lowest setting, combed out and wet the chunk of hair I was working with, then sprayed it with my Mega Can O’ Aquanet, and wrapped the hank of hair around the curling iron, starting close to the ‘roots’ and twisting the hair around, NOT clamping the end and curling up. I held the curl for about 10-15 seconds, then removed the iron and pinned the curl in place with a flat clip. Depending on your curling iron and your wig, the time may be more, less, or this might not work at all. TEST this on a piece near the base of the neck before going any further. Curl the entire head. The smaller the hanks of hair the better, and the tighter the curl the better.

Step 2 – Let the curls cool in their pinned position, then remove all the clips and shake the whole wig out. Don’t be dainty about this, really get in ther and froof it, holding it upside and shaking it. (SHAKE IT!). Put the wig back on the wigblock.

Step 3 – Tease. This is the scary part. Start teasing the roots of the hair with your rat-tailed comb. (back-comb at the roots to get the hair to bunch up and tangle into a rat’s nest). Do this at the crown (top of the head), but leave the front couple pieces out of this. Tease all across the tops and on the sides as well, until you have a huge mass of unsightly craziness on top of the head. This is the part where I started freaking out, but I forged ahead…

Step 4 – This is when I realized my wig was perhaps too long. I had the ratted-up craziness, but still quite a lot of hair hanging down. This is the step that everyone else has left out of their hair tutorials, diaries, and instructions, so pay special attention! Take up a hank of hair and loop it up to the top of the ratted crown. The curled tails of the hank should be hanging down on the sides of the head. Pin the loop to the rat’s nest using a bobbypin. Do this for all of the hair, covering your ‘tracks’ with the curly ends hanging down. In essence you are shortening the length. This is not unlike creating a Pouf or a Gibson Girl hairstyle. The rat is the base and you are pinning into it, but leaving the ends to fly free. This step takes a lot of fiddling and styling. Whip out your Mega Can O’ Aquanet and have at it. Keep ratting and pinning until all the hair is up, with the exception of the “tail” that will hang down over your shoulder.

Step 5 – You’re pretty much finished! Fluff, tease, and pull the hair in to shape. Late 18th c. hair tends to go as much out the sides as it does upwards, so pull the hair in these directions.

Step 6 – That barrel curl. For this I have not had much luck. You can try to do it with the curling iron, but for some reason I burned the hair when I did it and had to cut that section off. I also tried the boiling method, which almost completely ruined the hank. With that freaky curving that happens when synthetic hair starts to melt, I decided to braid it up again and while this doesn’t look nearly as nice or elegant, it may be the only option for now. A last saving grace may be to take a trip to the beauty supply store, buy a hank of REAL hair to match, curl THAT into the notorious barrel curl, and sew it into the wig. We shall see.

So at some point, you’re going to put this thing on to see just how awesome it looks. Here’s my reaction when I affixed the monster to my head:

I somehow thought this wig, whilst it was on the block, was not all that much bigger than my cheapy (see previous entry)…until I put it on, but WOW, BIG! Pajamas and an old t-shirt didn’t help the shock of it, but tossing on the unfinished straw hat did! It looked GREAT! After more pinning, floofing, and futzing, it looked even better. I tossed on a stray Robe a l’Anglaise and was quite impressed at how the wig looked better still! Ladies and Gentlemen, we have acheived Hair of Great Enormity!Now, this doesn’t look anything like the wig in “The Duchess.” Perhaps some day in the future I will try try again, but for now I am quite happy with this attempt. If I had it to do over again, however, here are things I would consider:

get a shorter, curlier wig. I spent all that time curling up the wig when I should have just bought the curliest one I could find. If all you can find is a long curly wig, consider trimming it a bit.
– try a wig like this one, and tease the bejeezes out of it to get it to stand up at the roots and frouf out. Attach a separate hank of hair at the neckline by sewing it to the wig cap.


  • Lauren R

    May 7, 2009 at 5:41 AM

    Unfortunately curl no longer exists – I tried the boil method and it completely ruined it. I think I will try to sew a real hair hank in and curl that, because I really like the curls too…so much more feminine!

  • Lauren

    May 8, 2009 at 5:12 PM

    Hi Lauren,

    It’s nice to “meet” you. Thank you so much for your comment on my blog. I love your hair tutorial, it’s awesome. I will def. be reading your blog. How is your open robe coming along?


  • CaptainManga

    May 14, 2019 at 7:58 AM

    If you place foil over your barrel of the curling iron it will stop the over heating an it will help the curl cool evenly and leave it wickedly barrelled


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