So, wigs. What place do wigs have in burlesque? Are they practical? How versatile are they? Will they stay ON? You’ve got questions, and one very enthusiastic wigaholic is here to give you answers. Here are some answers to common wig questions and problems, and some advice on using wigs to complete your burlesque outfit.
Q: Aren’t wigs hot?
A: Sure! But C’mon, it’s not like you’ll be wearing much else! The truth is, how hot a wig can be depends on several factors: The venue, how you’ve handled your hair, and what fibers it’s made of. One thing I’ve noticed that makes a difference is what you use to hold back your hair. Almost any kind of tightly woven wig cap will increase the heat. Try a hairnet if you need something to hold onto your hair, but don’t want to sweat. It does help to have short hair, since there’s less to pile on. What the wig itself is made of also makes a difference. Wigs are sewn in wefts around the cap. Some wigs have silicone in the cap to simulate a scalp, and these can definitely get hot. Wigs without a cap may look less natural, but if you’re going with a hot pink Marie Antoinette wig, no one is really expecting natural anyway. The fibers the wig is made of can also matter. Synthetic fibers will naturally be hotter than natural fibers, unless your wig is made of some kind of crazy wool.
Q: Will a wig fall off if I do some crazy move? Will it shift if I pull things over my head?
A: You’d be surprised at how well you can secure a wig. I’ve worn wigs with my burlesque outfits that could withstand a hurricane, and not budge. The key is in securing a wig properly. First, it helps to find an adjustable wig with hooks on the inside that will allow you to adjust how tightly it fits around your head. Another thing that can help is if you have longer hair, you can pin the wig directly to your hair. It helps to pull the natural hair into a tight French braid or other constricted style so that there is something the pins can hold onto that won’t shift. Wig tape is also an option. Just put some tape inside the wig, and fix it to the top of your forehead or around your ears.
As for managing your clothing around a wig, you DO have to consider your burlesque outfit. Things that go over the head should be avoided, as should anything with hard spangles or crystals that may catch the wig. If it might stick to your hair, it might stick to your wig.
Q: I can’t find a wig that matches the look I want. How easy are they to style?
A: Styling a wig can take some practice, and there are different methods for different types of wig fibers. How much you style a wig will also determine how versatile it is. A complicated style that requires any fixatives will probably not be able to be changed very much afterward. Remember, wig hair doesn’t grow back. Changing wig styles often can leave you with a threadbare wig. Personally, I just have a lot of wigs in a lot of styles.
Buying a wig for pinup looks or burlesque style: When buying a wig for a particular burlesque outfit, you’ll probably have some ideas of how you want to style it. The base wig’s shape is VERY important in determining your styling options. If you want the hair up, or high, look for a wig built for that. Marie Antoinette wigs are a popular base for big upswept styles. More expensive wigs generally have more hair, and more to work with, but that’s not always the case. Pay close attention to how the wig is shaped, and remember that hair can be added or taken away, but that the way the hair is sewn into the cap is hard to alter. Bangs are very important to buying a wig. Look for a wig that has bangs that hang the WAY you want them to. Straight bangs, sideswept bangs, or no bangs are all options, but make sure your base wig has them somewhat right. On some wigs (particularly those with a silicone cap in the part) you have limited options when it comes to changing the bangs and how they fall.
Q: Can you wash a wig? Do they get dirty?
A: Of course you can (and should) wash wigs! Not often – I usually spray mine with a dry shampoo to keep them fresh between washes, but washing a wig isn’t hard. Just do it in your bathtub with a wig shampoo or with a baby shampoo in a lot of lukewarm water. Once it’s washed, put the wig on a wig head or a wig stand, and let it dry in the bathtub. DO NOT BRUSH A WET WIG! In fact, brush wigs as infrequently as you can, period. There are special wig brushes, or a soft brush will do, but hold back on brushing urges if you want to keep your wig looking good.
Q: How should I care for my wig?
A: Invest in a wig stand. Seriously. Storing a wig flat will make it misbehave. Pack wigs on a wig head, and always store them when you take them off. Try not to get a wig too tangled, as brushing is never very good for a wig. Wash a wig when it starts to collect too much product, has lost its shape, or is otherwise offensive. If you want to cut your wig and are not a hairstylist, take it to a hairstylist! Trust me, I’ve ruined plenty of wigs trying to get creative. You can also see a hairstylist about adding colored synthetic extensions, or even sewing new wefts of color into the wig.
Q: My hair shows underneath! Help!
A: If you have a low hairline and the wig is a dramatically different color than your hair, your natural hairline can show underneath. There are two ways to deal with this. First, make sure the wig cap is fitted tightly around your head, and then shave, tweeze, or otherwise remove the small hairs that show (This shouldn’t remove any of your actual hair, just the fluffy stuff around your hairline). You can also use the cut of the wig itself to hide this. Look for wigs that are longer in the back, or that have bangs and pieces on the side to help cover your natural hairline.
Adding a wig to your burlesque outfit can make getting the perfect burlesque look even easier. Wigs are a great way to explore different looks, or take something from mundane to extravagant! They’re also suitable for everyday life, particularly if you get comfortable with wearing and styling them. Enjoy!