Saturday, October 1, 2016

River Song Wig :: Tutorial

Strax: Oh no. Not the one with the gigantic head. 
Jenny: It’s hair, Strax. 
Strax: Hmph. Hair.

Out of all the brilliant characters introduced in the last several seasons of Doctor Who, River Song is without a doubt, hands down my favorite. I could write a novel on the intricacies of her character, and Alex Kingston's phenomenal portrayal of the role, but that is a post for another time.

I knew I wanted to cosplay River, but I also knew that if I was going to I wanted to get the hair right, because her hair is its own separate entity, and one of the most iconic things about her. Most people might not recognize her clothing, but that giant, magnificent head of curls definitely rings a bell.

I knew right out of the gate my own hair would stand no chance, as it is thin, doesn't hold a curl worth anything, and enjoys being flat. But when I started looking for wigs, I had a bugger of a time finding one that was short but not TOO short, curly but not an afro, and blonde. Anndddd in my price range. After a harrowing search I came across this one on Amazon;

At the time I bought it, there was only one review, and no customer pictures, so I was really crossing my fingers that it would look somewhat like the product picture when it came in.

This is what it looked like, straight out of the package...

It was a lot more coppery/red in person than it had seemed online. I was definitely getting 'Little Orphan Annie' vibes, so I was a bit nervous that I might not be able to make it look presentable. Nevertheless, I forged ahead. FOR SCIENCE!

To get glorious River Song hair, you shalt need;

- Wig
- Styrofoam wig head
- Pins
(These work great, but regular straight pins work too)
- Metal-toothed comb or wig brush (I used a comb like this)
- Scissors
- Baby powder- Black eyeshadow (any MATTE cheap drugstore kind will work)
- Fluffy eyeshadow brush- Got2b Glued Freeze Spray (optional, but works AWESOME)
- Reference pictures

1. The first thing I did, which I do with all my cheap wigs now, was put it through a Apple Cider Vinegar soak and wash it. I do this because it cuts down on the itchiness of synthetic wigs by removing the caustic alkaline coating. For a complete tutorial on making synthetic wigs less itchy, check out my post here.

Drying on my highly scientific and effective wig stand...the doorknob
2.. After your wig has dried completely (don't try to brush it when its wet, it will mess up the fibers), put it on your styrofoam head. This is not 'technically' necessary, but I would definitely recommend it. Pin the wig to the head with your pins, making sure it is securely fastened, cause we gonna be yanking on it. This is not a delicate process ;)

Fresh from the bath!
3. Starting at the ENDS of the hair working your way up to the roots, slowly comb/brush through the hair, section by section, until all of the curls are completely brushed out. If it makes it easier, you can clip up the sections of the hair you aren't working with to get them out of the way.

Notice how the left side is brushed out and the right side still has fairly 'formed' curls
Completely brush out...looks like a different wig!
4. After the wig is completely brushed out, remove the wig (and the pins, else PAIN) and try it on. Using reference pictures, I trimmed the bangs back to look more like hers, and carefully shaped the sides and back. You can trim it while on the styrofoam head, but I like to cut it when its actually on my head so I can see what it looks like as I go.

Before our trip to the Jordan Ratchet Salon
And after! Much better!

***OKAY NOW STOP. BEFORE YOU START CUTTING...LESS IS MORE. While this is a really obvious thing to say, once you chop off wig hair, it aint growing back, so use a light hand. A little bit can really go a long way. I felt like I cut a lot off, but my pile of hair clippings was quite small.

5. Once you get it shaped how you want it, return it to your wig head. As I mentioned earlier, the wig is a bit too red for River's hair. Since synthetic wigs are almost impossible to lighten, we have to work around that. Get your baby powder (I used the pure cornstarch kind you can find at most stores) and completely covered the wig with it. Go crazy. Remember how I just said 'less is more'? Forget that. MORE IS MORE HERE! Cover every square inch of it.

6. So now that you have sufficiently covered half your house in baby powder, take your wig outside, (trust me, outside is best here) and shake the crap out it. Shake it, hit it, swing it around, beat it, do interpretive rain dances with it while your neighbors dogs stare at you judgmentally, until you stop getting 'puffs' of baby powder coming off of it. This will remove the excess powder so it isn't falling all over your costume. Afterwards, you should be left with a subtly 'blonder' wig.

7. So far so good! Now it looks pretty good, but we want to make it look just a weee bit more realistic. River's hair is darker at the roots, so we're going to go in and 'add' roots with the eyeshadow. Any cheap, black eyeshadow will work, but stay away from the sparkly/shiny...because...not very many people have glittery roots. Using your fluffy brush, layer on the eyeshadow down the middle parts, feathering it out up the hair shaft. This gives the illusion of roots!

8. Do the same thing along the hairline...add black eyeshadow along the hairline roots, feathering it out so you don't have a harsh line.

9. AND FINALLY. Try the wig on, arrange it, fluff it, get it to how you want it, and then give it a healthy coating of hairspray. I LOVE the Got2B Glued Freeze Spray, because this stuff seriously holds synthetic hair in place. It also 'seals' the babypowder/eyeshadow and prevents smearing.

Anndddddd you're done! Fluffy, magnificent, River Song hair!

Let me know if you have any questions...until then....


Check out the other posts in my River Song Cosplay Series!

-River Song Wig Tutorial (you're here!)-
-All Saints Anina Belt Re-Creation-
-River's Gun Belt & Holster-
-Full River Song Cosplay at MegaCon-


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  4. While allowing this to dry prepare the lace front wig. Pin all of the hair back into a ponytail or bun. Straight lace front Wigs

  5. Hi Jordan, I'm just wondering if this shed baby powder like crazy when you wore it to the con. Thinking of going as River to Dragoncon this year, but I'd prefer not to have powder all over my jacket by midday....


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