How To Make an 18th Century Wig from an Affordable “Costume” Wig

Earlier this week I espied on a “Marie Antoinette” wig that looked surprisingly good.   My criteria for judging this goodness were the overall shape, color of the hair (it wasn’t WHITE), but most importantly if this wig could form the base upon which to create a really great period styled wig.

Some of you will know that I posted a link to this wig on my Facebook fan page, and it sparked all kinds of discussion about period accuracy, quality versus pricing, “cheaping out,” and if in this particular subject of wiggery, do you really “get what you pay for.”  I am one of those who does not believe that you have to pay and arm and a leg to have nice things.  I’m also big on the D-I-Y, and I was eager to try out some new tips and tricks I’d picked up since my last adventure in Wig Wrangling.

Here’s the image from website

Let’s start with the Marie Antoinette Wig fresh out of the bag, then I’ll take you through the “how to” for how I altered it.

The Good
As mentioned above, the overall shape of this wig is pretty nice for 1770s pouf styles.  The hair comes up and off the face, with no bangs or ringlets framing the forehead, as is the sad case on almost every “costume wig” I’ve found for 18th c.  The curls of this wig are actually quite natural, and it’s easy to fluff the hairstyle up and make it look pretty darn cute within a matter of minutes.  It is also easy to create more distinct ringlets just by twirling the hair around your fingers.

Here it is out of the package, a little fluffing, and I’ve removed the pink bows.

The Not-So-Good
These things aren’t “bad,” they just need altering.  The wig comes with pink satin bows on either side of the head.  These are glued on but can be pulled off easily and don’t leave a gap or a mark.  Also, there are two ringlet curls hanging down by the ears, which to many people screams “18th century!” but they’re not.  You can pin them up into the rest of the hair, or do what I did and just cut them off (but keep them for testing later, if you are going to work on this wig in the following tutorial).

Also, the wig only comes in platinum blonde, and I do not recommend the spray technique for taking the wig to a darker color.

The Eeek!
The wig is not WHITE, like most 18th century costume wigs, but it is very very platinum blonde, and very very shiny.  It’s also a color very hard to match with hair extensions, if you are wanting to add more hair to your wig.

The Verdict
With just small alterations and a quick, light mist with an ivory colored spray paint this wig would look awesome and ready-to-go.  In its original state, it is the best option I have seen for anybody who wants to dress up in the 18th century style for a costume ball, Halloween party, masque, etc., who is *not* concerned with total historical accuracy and will wear the wig for fun.  It’s cute, easy to wear, and at $22.99, an awesome deal.  Here’s a bit about the store: also has a fun collection of Victorian costumes that are perfect for “Do-It-Yourself and Do-It-For-Less” costumers . With worldwide shipping, unique costumes, and a firm commitment to customer service, is a perfect source for Halloween costumes and accessories that can be worn throughout the year.

For those on the journey of wig-creation of the historical variety, it’s an excellent base from which to work.  But how do you get from THIS to THAT?

How to Make an 18th Century Wig from an Affordable Costume Wig

Yep, it’s the same wig…

What You Will Need:

  • one “Marie Antoinette” wig from
  • one package of long hair extensions/weave in the lightest blonde you can find
  • one can of off-white, or “blonde” spray paint in a satin or matte finish
  • needle and white thread
  • powder (opt) – talc, corn starch, flour, or baby powder (if you don’t mind the smell)
Step One
Fluff the “Marie Antoinette” wig by holding it upside down and shaking it, and puffing up the curls with your fingers.  Remove the pink bows and cut off the dog-ear curls (keep these for testing later).
Fluff Me Please! And cut off my ears!
For my wig, I wanted two big rolls on each side of the head, so I worked the wig hair into these rolls and pinned them.  I also wanted a roll around the back of the head, above the ears, so again with my fingers and a rat-tail comb, I worked the hair into this shape, but did not need to pin it.
The side rolls, in the wig before spraying.
Step Two
Decide where to place the weave hair.  I tucked mine up under the roll around the back of the head, but it can be higher, lower, you decide.  Double or triple your sections of weave so you have enough hair in back.
Curl the weave BEFORE you sew it on, but when you do sew it on, this is what it looks like…
Next, if you have a straight weave, you want to curl it.  With synthetic hair you cannot use the curling iron, but you can roll the sections of hair up on large rollers (or small, if you want tighter curls), and dunk them in boiling water for approximately 15-25 seconds.  This gently “melts” the hair into place, and creates permanent curls.
Do this *before* you sew the weave onto the back of your wig, otherwise you’ll end up melting parts of your Marie Antoinette wig, like I did (whoops.) 
Step Three
Once your curls have dried (blot them with a towel and use a hair dryer if you’re impatient, like me), sew the bound top of the weave onto your wig, catching the wig cap with a whipstitch.
Your extensions will now be hanging down the back, and you may notice that the “Marie Antoinette” wig hair is poking through underneath.  Go ahead and trim this, and anything that is sticking out or not laying nicely.
Quite a difference in the color of the two hairs, but that will change soon…
At this point you will see that the platinum shiny wig and the more natural looking hair extensions are totally different colors, and something must be done to bring them together….
Step Four
SPRAY.  Bust out your can of spray paint and lightly mist all around the wig.  You don’t want to concentrate the spray, because this will clump and look gnarly.  Spray the hair extensions as well as the wig itself.
After spraying – big difference from the picture above
*Note About Spray Paint:  This technique will make the hair look powdered and sculpted, most like the French court fashions of the 1770s.  For this particular wig, because of how light the synthetic hair is, I went with a color a little darker, but if you are spraying hair that is a dark color, you want a paint that is a couple shades lighter.  For a powdered look over darker hair, I recommend a light grey or ivory paint, and always start with a very light mist and build it up.
The finished wig from the side, but what I didn’t realize is that as the paint dried, it got yellower and yellower – wish it would have stayed this color!
As you are spraying the wig, move the hair sections so the paint reaches the “roots.”  Remember, you don’t want to coat the wig, just alter the color and shine.  If you are unsure, do a test spray.  If I did this wig again, I would choose a less-yellow paint!
Step Five
Style.  At this point your wig is complete and you can pile all the feathers, bows, and hats on it that you like.  Let it dry first, and if the color or sheen needs to be altered more, add powder, then spray with strong hold hairspray.  If the color is funky, lightly mist it with a different color of spray paint – for instance, I will probably re-mist mine with a lighter off-white.
Now check out the difference!  The possibilities are limitless with how you can style a wig by using hair weaves and this affordable Halloween wig as a base.  Add more hair on top, more to the back, large rolls, you name it.  Remember, these techniques will create a powdered “sculpted” wig, and are not recommended for natural-looking hairstyles.
Too yellow, so I’ll re-spray it with a whiter, less yellow, spray paint.
If you have any questions, please comment or e-mail me!  My first attempt at this is by no means awesome.  I definitely made mistakes, but I think this is something that takes practice, and I can’t wait to try it again!  Comments, stories, suggestions are always welcome.  I love to hear what you guys have to say!


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