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    Wigstock – Finding the One Wig to Rule Them All

    There are two reasons to wear a wig. Either it helps you look more like your character, or you’re tired of torturing your hair. So your wig should either look better than your hair, or look reasonably good and be easier to maintain. I bought my first wig when I got tired of putting my hair into 35 tiny braids every week.

    What should I look for in a wig?

    The easiest way to get a wig that looks like your character is to buy from one of the fans who styles wigs for Rocky Horror people. Check out the links page and review the caveats in the Tailors section (get references, trust your own eyes, etc. etc.).

    Similar to costume shopping, look at shape first, then worry about color. Wig colors tend to be standardized. Consider length (buy long; you can always cut some off), amount of curl, etc. If your character parts their hair, consider a skin top wig, which has a fake plastic scalp that shows through. (I love these.) If you can, buy a wig parted on the correct side; this can be changed but it’s a pain in the ass.

    TIP: The wig will ALWAYS look shorter on you than on the wighead – and it may look really different on you. Buy longer than you think you need. Better to buy too curly than not curly enough: You may be able to brush out a curly wig, but you probably can’t tighten the curls. Many Franks wear wigs that are too short (and too damn curly. Brush them out, boys! Frank does not have an Afro.).

    If you are buying on the internet, read the previous paragraph again, and good luck. It is very difficult to properly gauge the length of a wig on-line, and I have yet to find a good online keyword search method. And wig styles change often because hairstyle fashions change…

    If you plan to buy a wig in person and you’re not an experienced wig stylist, call around first. You want a wigshop that does at least some theatrical work. Take reference photos with you to the store (or pull them up on your phone). Bring a wigcap or be prepared to buy one onsite – they’re required for reasons of hygiene if you want to try the wigs on (and YOU DO). Most shops will sell you a cap for $2 or so, but they’ll be cheap, tight and uncomfortable. (I like the fishnet-type “weave caps” and they pack small.) The stylist may have helpful suggestions and be able to do things you probably don’t want to try, such as steaming the bangs on a wig to blend them into the hair. S/he will also know the store’s stock.

    So… price. Generally a cheap Halloween store type wig is made of cheaper materials, may be less adjustable, will have less hair and thus be more see-through, and won’t last as long. I buy streetwear type wigs: in theory they look good enought to wear in public, and finding a good wig is a pain in the ass so I prefer ones that last.

    Synthetic hair is much cheaper than human hair. It’s easier to care for and the style is pretty much programmed in (though a knowledgable stylist can alter it). Human hair is, well, human. It can be dyed, styled with a curling iron, etc. It looks more natural, is usually MUCH more expensive, and is probably Asian or Indian hair stripped of its color, dyed and styled. If you wash it, you must completely restyle it.

    Finally, some wigs come with a lace front that is glued to the forehead. Broadway actors wear them to get a very natural hairline; I don’t know much about them, so you’re on your own – ask Google.

    Wig Care – Keeping Your Head Together

    For wig-related links, see the links page. I’m not a hair and wig expert (it is to laugh) but over the years I’ve learned a couple of things I thought might be helpful. Suggestions are very welcome.

    1. What are some basic supplies?

    Bobby pins / Roller pins.

    Good for holding your wig on, attaching your hat, or helping your hairstyle stay put/keeping it out of your face. Available in a variety of colors (beauty supply shops tend to carry a wider range of colors and sizes than your local drugstore).
    I keep black, blonde, and brown/red on hand for wigs; I use white ones to pin down my Magenta cap.

    Learn to “lock” bobby pins into your wig so they disappear into your wig. (Go ahead, Google it – basically, you insert the pin in the opposite direction of where you want the finished pin to go, flip it, and then continue in the original direction. Confused? I told you to Google it.) When fastening on wigs, hats, etc., cross two bobby pins so they don’t slide.

    I also consider “roller pins” – my mother calls them bun pins – essential. They’re like supersize bobby pins. They’re good for the fastening the tabs of your wig above the ears, and I’ve used them to hold costume pieces together (go ahead, laugh, but they held together the buckle on my space belt “temporarily” for 4 years).

    People will borrow bobby pins and they’ll get lost, so go ahead, get the bigger box.

    Wig caps.
    These keep your wig from getting (quite as) dirty and sweaty during a show and help you stretch out time between cleanings. (“They’re like underwear for your hair!” says my wig stylist friend.) I started off using the wig caps that look like a stocking; I hated them because they’re uncomfortably tight. Several years later a friend introduced me to weaving caps, which look like fishnet. They’re much more comfortable and you can easily pin through them. Available in a variety of colors, and they’re cheap.

    T-pins.

    Used to pin wigs to wigheads; buy them at fabric stores in the quilting section. Minimum is one on each side, plus I like to use one to hold a light scarf over the wig. I’m told I should pin the top, too, and maybe one in back (I play Magenta; if I put one in back I can’t find it). I keep a box of T-pins in my bag; they get lost. Sometimes the wig or the scarf gets caught in the T pin; Renee Reyes suggests oversized pearl-headed pins; I’ve bought some and they work OK.

    Wigheads.

    Pick these up at beauty supply stores for about $5. Get the kind with a hollow neck; some wig boxes have a peg that fits into the hollow neck, and you can stick the head onto something to hold it still for styling. Storing your wig on a wighead helps it keep its shape and is convenient for styling.

    Hairnets and bags.
    If you bought your wig in a bag, instead of on a head, it may come with a hairnet. In theory, you can ease the hairnet back over the wig and store it in its bag or even on a head. In practice, hairnets are hard to see and mine usually get tangled and destroyed or lost. I think wigs store better on heads, but they do store a lot smaller in the bags.

    Gauzy scarves.

    I buy large gauzy scarves at the thrift store and then pin them lightly over my wigs to keep the dust off (I use a lot of hairspray). Some wigstores sell these, but why pay retail?

    Wig luster.
    I’d never heard of this til a year or so ago; my friend who works as a wig stylist recommended it. Wigs tend to lose their sheen over time (unlike your hair, wig fibers produce no natural oils). Applying wig luster, basically alcohol and lanolin, should help your wig keep its shine. Apply whenever your wig starts looking a little dull. Assists in styling, too.

    Wig spray.
    It’s supposed to be less sticky, build up less and contain less alcohol than regular hairspray. The label reads about the same (the first ingredient’s still alcohol). I use both.

    Wig boxes.
    Handy when transporting wigs. Some people buy vintage ones on eBay or at vintage stores. To transport a space wig, you’re probably looking at a cardboard wig box as opposed to a cute vintage one. Cardboard wig boxes come with a lid and string handles like a fancy boutique shopping bag. They’re surprisingly expensive: $25 to $35 or so. Don’t get them wet.

    • How do I put this thing on?
    • If you have long hair, pin it flat. Pin curls are recommended. I braid mine and pin the braids onto my head, but I have really long hair and I’m hiding it under a giant Magenta wig.
    • Apply wig cap, if you’re wearing one. Secure with bobbypins.
    • If the wig is a loose style, give it a shake to let the air fluff through the fibers. This works well for Frank wigs. If you’ve thrown your wig into a costume bag, you may want to give it a quick brush or fluff it up with a wig pick. I like to brush my wig while it’s pinned to its wighead so that I don’t stress the wig.
    • Grasp the wig at the top (back), with your hands placed on each side of the label.
    • Slip the wig over your head starting at the hairline and then gently pull the wig to the nape of your neck. The front of the wig should lie on the front hairline. (Check in a mirror at first; this won’t feel natural, and if you wear it too far forward it will look really fake.) The ear tabs on each side of your head should be evenly placed in front of your ears.
    • Secure the wig with bobby or roller pins over the ear tabs.
    • What are some wig care basics?
        Many on-line wig stores include a care section. Old cosmetology textbooks usually include tips (modern ones don’t cover wigs in as much detail); some books on stage makeup include a wig chapter.