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My anime-loving daughter and her friend are attempting a couple of cosplay creations for some convention in the fall. I'm a fairly competent seamstress, so have offered guidance and help with designing the clothes.

However, both girls "need" wigs to complete their costume. This is anime hair, it's not expected to be realistic in either color or shape -- but is this something we can expect to do ourselves? Are cosplay wigs generally handmade, or bought and then customized?

  • Of course wigs can be made by hand, they have been made for many centuries before machines were invented. – Willeke May 25 '17 at 10:16
  • I suppose my question is more along the lines of "is it worth the trouble to save n dollars, and how will it end up looking since I'm not a professional wigmaker". For a weak analogy, I have made mayonnaise by hand, but I find it much simpler and faster to use my blender :) – Erica May 25 '17 at 10:19
  • By just adding one word to the question you can change it to something that is worth answering. (Not that it is needed, but your question as it stands is not what is answered.) "How can wigs be made by hand?" – Willeke May 25 '17 at 10:46
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You totally can make your own wigs

Are cosplay wigs generally handmade, or bought and then customized?

Yes and Yes or a combination of both.

When you need to get a certain style of wig for a character it can be hard to find that perfect wig online or at a costume shop either due to availability or budget. So making your own could be a useful skill you have in your back pocket when cosplaying or costuming.

but is this something we can expect to do ourselves?

Like many crafts it is something that requires patience and skill. You can't expect to make a magical, handsome, mysterious, captivating, bagelrific etc. wig your first try.

The following is a really brief tutorial of what you can do for a basic wig.

You need hair off course (synthetic or otherwise). The hair will typically be assembled into wefts for the portion of the wig. Wefts are assembled "rows" of hair. The units can be sewn or glued together usually to some other material like. You might also know these as hair extensions (which coincidentally make good raw materials for custom wigs). You could make these yourself from existing wigs or "raw" hair or purchase them outright.

Simple wefts

Image from beautybychristinelieu.com

Depending on the overall design you might need to make other constructs, like a ball base for a pony tail or buns or something, but wefts would be a simple start. You could easily ask several questions about making wefts alone. I will move on assuming that your hair has been treated and /or processed so that it is now straightened (if you made your own wefts from fibre stock).

These wefts, and other parts, will typically be assembled on a cap e.g what you will actually be wearing on your head. Caps can be commercial products specifically designed for wigs or just material that can be used for a cap base like jersey etc. The caps are important as they need to be comfortable and allow your head to breath. That and something you can sew into.

Having a head model, preferably fake, is almost a necessity for assembly and getting a good idea of what the finished product will look like. Bear in mind, model heads are likely not the same shape and size as your own and that adjustments will need to be made to compensate for the size difference.

You then just need to sew the wefts to the cap. Examples of in progress wigs:

Example of sewing a weft on a cap

Image from cherishedcrowns.blogspot.ca

In progress cosplay wig

Image from casualtycosplay.blogspot.ca

As you progress you will likely need to use a combination of at least water and or heat to help form the wig into shape while also preventing damage to the hair while you work. One of the tips I read is that when sewing don't sew into the weft but into the hair as to not damage the weft.

Again this was a really simplified overview of a wig making process. Depending on you wig needs things can get pretty crazy but you will still be doing much of the above as your base in most cases. I hope this gives you a little incentive to consider wig making in the future.

Continued reading

A non extensive list of resources I saw while researching wig making.

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    WARNING: Complete google-fu. I wanted to be sure there was a focus on making your own as well if you were so inclined or inspired. – Matt May 10 '17 at 1:53
  • Wow. This actually looks doable! Not sure if I can do it for our first cosplay venture ever, but it's a great rundown of the process. Thank you :) – Erica May 10 '17 at 2:59
  • +1 on the "model" bit, i.e. a styrofoam head to put the wig on. It's important, even for storage, since the hair is very difficult to untangle if the wig is handled carelessly. – scanny May 11 '17 at 1:31
  • I like all the answers I got, but this is the one that most thoroughly addressed handmaking -- you get the checkmark :) – Erica May 25 '17 at 10:19
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My daughter is also an active cosplay ((anime) costume play) artist. She buys her wigs on eBay, usually for $10 or so. A quick search there on 'cosplay wig' brings up many alternatives. They tend to come from China, so order early to allow for a couple weeks shipping. She has also ordered one or two from Amazon, I think primarily for quicker delivery (same-ish product, probably more expensive). They might also be available from a costume supply store if you have one locally.

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It's an interesting question on what it would take to make them by hand. I'm sure in special cases (certain characters) that would be required. But so far, the dozen or so characters my daughter has developed costumes for used fairly regular costume wigs, the hair being some sort of synthetic. They always seem to be purple for some reason, but maybe that's just how I remember it :)

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  • Arda wigs is another good company for cosplay wigs. They are a little more expensive. Since I have a big noggin' they seem to fit better than random Amazon or Ebay purchases. – Mazel May 9 '17 at 18:51
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If you don't mind the slightly "Raggedy Ann" look of the finished product, yarn wigs are pretty easy and fun. Here's how I make a yarn wig:

  1. Tie one end of the yarn to something (I use a slat in one of our dining chairs)

  2. Wrap the yarn around the chair (or whatever you're using) until the "wig" seems big enough.

  3. When it seems big enough, hold part of the wig with one hand and cut through all the strands.

  4. Tie the wig in a knot in the middle.

  5. Voilà!!! Your yarn wig is finished.

A nice followup tutorial can be found here.

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    We prefer if answers actually have information as to how to solve the problem in the body of the answer. We want users to stay here on the site as much as possible. A link to another site is not particularly useful if the whole of your answer relies on it. That link could die tomorrow. It would be best if you include at least a synopsis of that tutorial here and use the link as a reference for more information – Matt May 9 '17 at 16:32
  • Okay, thank you for telling me. I apologize. – Ross Van Der Heide May 14 '17 at 17:43
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    @matt's original comment was suggesting you add this explanation directly into your answer to improve it for future readers. Just cut and paste the text from this comment straight into the body of your original answer using the edit key. That will make your answer easier for future users to find. Stack exchange always encourages you to edit your original answers to improve them, and this is the perfect opportunity to do so. It's a great answer, and we want to make sure other users actually see it. :-) – magerber May 21 '17 at 19:39
  • I used the SE markup to format your numbered list. I also restored your link as it is good supplemental information to your answer now. – Matt May 25 '17 at 11:51
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Cosplay wigs are generally purchased and customized by hand for the character. As noted in other answers there are many online companies that provide all the wacky colors and shapes needed for anime characters. There are a host of ways to style the wigs. Curlers and a hot water dunk, Sharpie markers for color touch ups, hanks of hair added, etc. One friend had to use two wigs to get the look she needed.

There are quite a few wig tutorials at cosplay.com and the forums there can be useful for more specific questions.

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