Cosplay 101: Wigs

Cosplay 101

Wigs. A cosplayer’s best friend and worst enemy. Personally, I’ll find all kinds of workarounds to avoid using one, as I find them awkward to work with and hot to wear. Sometimes there’s no avoiding it though. I’ve always used one for Poison Ivy, and have plenty of plans that will require a wig too.

I’m no expert on wig styling, but here’s some basic tips on wigs for cosplay to get you started.

Buying a wig

Good quality is essential. A cheap wig can instantly spoil a good costume, and a mediocre costume can be elevated by a good wig. Shop around and buy the best you can afford. Better quality means a better look, easier styling and a longer life. Descriptions of fibers as as “silky“, “monofilament” or “Japanese/Asian fiber” generally indicate good quality, but always read the description and any reviews carefully. If in doubt, ask. Most of my wigs have been bought on eBay, and I go by seller reviews, spend a little more and listen to reviews from friends.

Wearing a wig

Buy a wig cap. It looks better and is a hell of a lot easier to get the wig on. You can use a neutral flesh tone (which is what I have, so I can use one cap across all my wigs) or one in a colour to match the wig. You can buy wig caps very cheaply on Amazon, or you can even make your own from an old pair of tights.

Get your hair out of the way. Obviously the longer your hair, the trickier this is. For my long hair, I scrape the lot back into a tight ponytail, and pin the ends of the ponytail flat against the top of my head. Get it as flat as possible to minimise weird bumps in the wig. Wetting or gelling your hair can help keep things under control. I also find hair that hasn’t been washed that day is also a lot easier to cram into a cap. Pincurls and braids are also a great way to keep your hair flat and out of the way. Put the wig cap on from the back of your head. Pull it right down over your forehead then slide it back to your hairline. This catches any loose hairs sticking out. I like to tuck a couple of pins in to keep the cap still. You can tidy up stray hairs with gel or hairspray.

Getting the wig itself on depends on how styled it is or how heavy it is. Rest the front band of the wig in the middle of the forehead and pull the wig back over the rest of the head. I have never put a wig on right first try and always spend a bit of time wriggling it about to get it to look right.

For extra stability, you can pin the wig in place. Practice really is the key here!


Photo by Gonzography

Styling a wig

I try and buy wigs as ready styled as possible, and then just pin the fringe out of my eyes or whatever needs doing. If you want to style it yourself, go carefully. Treat the wig gently. There are loads of tutorials on Cosplay Tutorials, covering everything from cutting a fringe in to building a wig around a wire frame.

Detangling and washing a wig

Treat your wig with care and it’ll last longer. Try not to drag it about too much when you wear it. Ideally, when not being worn, wigs should be kept on a wig form to help them keep their shape. I don’t do this, as I don’t have room for a lot of heads about the place. Instead, I just carefully put the wig back into the original packaging and store them that way. I do get a few tangles, but it seems to be a pretty reasonable solution. Combing it through gently after wear before you store it is also a good idea.

If you have got your wig into a tangle though, don’t fret! You can save it. Get yourself a wig brush, or any brush with plastic or metal teeth, that are quite stiff. You’ll need some wig detangler, or spray in conditioner. I’ve had good success by mixing ordinary fabric conditioner with water in a spray bottle. Work in small sections, spraying the wig with detangler and gently combing it through. Try not to pull too much on the wig’s fibres.

If you’ve really killed it, a good soak in the fabric conditioner and water mix can help a lot (I’ve done this, with one cap of fabric conditioner in a sink full of luke warm water). Soak it well, and gently work through the worst knots with your fingers. Then go for the usual detangling method. Put your wig back on the wig form (or in my case…a bed post) to dry back into shape.