Making of Marie Antoinette costume: the wig

For this year’s Carnaval Brasileiro Austin, I again wanted to make a costume in all white.
I love white costumes because they stand out in the dark. The only better approach for a costume that stands out would be a costume with lights!
Marie Antoinette costume, front view Marie Antoinette costume, left side view
Marie Antoinette costume, right side view

The “Marie Antoinette” costume idea came to me after seeing pics of amazing paper wigs on the InterWeb:

I had the usual requirements for the costume. I have to be able to wear it comfortably for the whole night. I should be able to go to the bathroom without too much struggle. And, obviously, it has to be kick-ass sexy! 🙂

The wig had to be light and had to be attached securely. Nothing ruins revelry more than discomfort, such as a headpiece that’s too heavy, or always threatening to fall off.

Ideally, I should be able to get in a car and drive wearing the costume, but failing that, I need to be able to change into it quickly, without help. It’d suck if the costume takes too long to change into, or if I need help changing into it. I need to be able to go the bathroom without too much costume hassle 🙂 , so I opted for a two-piece approach for the “dress”. The top and hoop skirt are separate pieces, attached at the waist with hooks and eyes. That way, I can take off the skirt when going to the bathroom. Also, since there will be nowhere to put them in the toilet stall, the wig and the skirt need to have hanging loops so I can hang them up,

In this installment, I will be detailing the design and making of the wig.

To keep the wig’s weight down, I used white 2mm craft foam (Jo-Ann). This is the first time that I was making something with EVA craft foam. I loved it. It’s light, easily cut and shaped, can be glued securely, and is rugged enough to last for many wearings.

I got the idea for the wig’s contruction from a blog called The House That Lars Built: a “frame” upon which to build the “wig”. I used the same approach, but instead of corrugated cardboard for the frame, which won’t stand up to many wearings, I used an extra-stiff tapestry grid cut into strips. I wanted the wig to be sturdy enough for multiple wearings since it will probably be my costume for this year’s Halloween and for a couple of other Austin events where people dress up, such as Eeyore’s Birthday and Queer Bomb. Florist wire, hot glue, and Shoe Goo adhesive worked perfect to assemble the frame. (I have some hot glue sticks that are easily ten years old, but they still worked great!)
ultra stiff plastic canvas assembling frame of wig with florist wire inside of wig, showing wig's frame Shoe Goo adhesive

To form the wig, I glued strips of foam to the frame, using hot glue and “Shoe Goo” adhesive. Hot glue gives almost instantaneous bond, but Shoe Goo is much stronger. I used Shoe Goe as much as possible, avoiding using too much hot glue because hot glue is relatively heavy. A gob here, a gob there, and pretty soon I’d have several sticks worth of glue in the wig, and that’d be too much weight.

I used hot glue to “tack” pieces together to hold them in position while the Shoe Goo dried. A Shoe Goo joint is stronger than the foam itself. If I try to pull a joint apart, the foam would tear long before the joint would give way!

I made the fringes around the hairline by wrapping 2mm craft foam around an 1″ dowel and heating it in the oven at 250′ for 1.5 minutes. I could not just put the dowl onto the oven rack because the foam may stick to the rack when heated, plus the rack may leave marks in the foam, so I devised a way to suspend the dowel under the rack.
foam about to be formed in oven detail of how dowel is hung in oven

The foam needs to be heated long enough so it’d start to melt and deform a tiny bit, otherwise it will not hold a shape.
foam should deform a little foam should deform a little
The two pieces on the right in this pic were not heated enough. They started losing their shape after a few hours.
if not heated enough, foam will not hold shape

I cut the “hair fringes” to go around the hairline of the wig with a rotary cutter. I glued the cut-off bits back onto the fringe to give it more body.
fringes added to the wig's hairline close-up of fringes at hairline

To decorate the wig, besides the guillotine, I made flowers and roses from foam and roses from white polyester fleece. I made the roses following the instructions on this page. The roses were ridiculously easy to make, and the result is quite impressive! For the leaves, I just winged it (wang it?!) and cut leaf shapes from white polyester fleece and sewed a pleat into the stem end to make it 3D.
foam flower poly fleece flowers & leaves

The guillotine took quite a bit of engineering. It had to be super light since it will be on top of the wig. Any additional weight that high up would have made the wig more prone to tipping over. It had to be stiff and be able to stand up straight. It had to be attached to the wig securely enough to withstand the inevitable times when I misjudge, or am unaware of, a doorframe’ clearance! To achieve all that, I used 6mm craft foam glued in layers. I added bracings in the appropriate places so it’d be stiff and straight and attached secure to the wig. Again, Shoe Goo did a phenomenal job.
guillotine, ready to be attached to the wig
The guillotine’s blade was 2mm foam, since it did not need to be especially sturdy. In retrospect, I would made the blade all in white instead in black with a white strip along the cutting edge. The black part got completely lost in the dark and the guillotine lost some of its visual impact.

It was around this point that I needed a “wig stand” to hold the wig in the same position as it would be when worn, so when I attach the guillotine, I could be sure that I’m attaching it as vertically as possible. I added a couple of cleats to the inverted plastic bucket that I had been using as a wig stand:
make-shift wig stand in use make-shift wig stand

The wig was a rousing success! It was sturdy, light, fits me almost perfectly, and stayed on my head securely. I hardly needed to adjust it. A very small fly in the ointment was that by the end of the night, the wig’s headband started to feel a little too tight and the top of my ears were hurting a bit from the wig’s lower edge resting on it. The next time I make something like this, I will probably devise an alternate attachment method, maybe using hair combs, so I don’t have to rely only on a snug headband and the top of my ears to support the wig. I might try something similar to how I made the “Road Warrior” mohawk for my costume last year

Next time, I will talk about the making of the hoop skirt dress and the “let ’em eat cake” purse.