04 August 2011
How to create an 18th Century miniature powdered wig, known then as the pouf wig, complete with bows, beads and feathers! ...
In the 18th century wigs and hair pieces were very popular with the upper classes across most of Europe. During the 1770's rich ladies' hairstyles were built up to huge proportions, sometimes to three feet in height, and these where known as the pouf.
These huge hair creations were constructed on the lady's head using wire. The wire was covered with the wearers real hair. Then to add more height, extra human hair was added usually taken from the poor, who sold their hair to make some money. When human hair was unavailable or too expensive to buy, goats, yak or horse hair was used instead!
The wig took hours to create, the shaping and styling was helped by the addition of pomade, a greasy substance used to style hair and to help the hair powder to adhere to the wig. Hair powder came in a variety of colours including violet, blue, pink, white and grey, and was perfumed. It helped to disguise the differing colours of hair used, and kept the wig fresher longer. Ladies often wore their wigs for over a week before they were removed to be washed and restyled into the next latest fashion trend.
Some really rich ladies decorated their hair with birds, stuffed animals, pearls, flowers and plumage such as ostrich feathers. In history, Queen Marie Antionette of France once wore a model of a French frigate on top of her hair following a naval battle in 1778 with the British.
These outrageous wigs were only popular for a very short time. The French Revolution, the execution of Queen Marie Antionette and the 1795 tax of hair power all lead to the pouf wig loosing its appeal. Towards the end of the 18th century, elaborate hats started to replace the wigs, and soft natural hairstyles because more popular with mob caps and shepherdess style straw hats.
Materials Required to Make a Pouf Wig
- 1/12th scale doll or mannequin head
- Small piece of white leather 60 mm square
- 1 Polystyrene ball 70 mm diameter
- 1 small packet of white viscose doll hair
- 1 small packet of grey viscose doll hair
- White or grey cotton thread
- Metal knitting needles sizes 3 & 5 approx.
- Cling Film
- Tacky Glue
- Paint Brush
- Bowl of warm water
- Sharp scissors
- Selection of tiny elastic bands
- Assorted trims, beads, ribbons, feathers etc
- Cover the doll head with clingfilm
- Cover the clingfilmed head with leather, suede side outwards.
- Pull the leather really tight and secure with an elastic band round the neck.
- Smooth out as many wrinkes as possible.
- Open the packets of white and grey hair
- Lay them out and add little lengths of grey to the white
- Making the wig look powdered rather than plain white
- Make a bundle of mixed hair 40mm in width.
- Gather in the middle and tie in a knot with cotton thread.
- Spread out the viscose hair so the knot is right in the middle creating a circle of hair
- Draw a pencil line round the leather where the face is.
- Cover the leather wig cap with a good layer of tacky glue.
- Leave the face area free of glue.
- Gently lay the circle of hair centrally on the head.
- Spread out the hair, making sure the knot is at the very top of the skull cap.
- Make sure you cover all the leather and leave to dry.
- Once dry take the polystyrene ball and cut a tiny slice off the bottom to created a flat side.
- Glue the ball flat side down to the centre of the wig and leave to dry.
- Cover the ball with tacky glue
- Gently pull the hair up over the ball creating a ponytail at the top of the wig.
- Make sure you cover the whole ball with hair.
- Secure with a tiny elastic band.
- Cut any surplus hair off and leave to dry.
- Cut the elastic band from around the dolls neck.
- Remove the whole wig.
- Use sharp scissors to carefully cut around the wig to remove the excess leather.
- Remove the clingfilm from the doll.
- Take a 5mm width of viscose hair and dip into a bowl of warm water.
- Wind around a knitting needle, secure with elastic bands and leave to dry.
- Repeat with the smaller knitting needle to create a smaller ringlet.
- Dry in an airing cupboard, sunny windowsill, atop a radiator or in a cool oven.
- Gently pull the ringlets from the knitting needles.
- Add glue around the elastic band on the top of the wig and pat down the end of the ponytail.
- Flatten it as much as you can to create a smooth top.
- Cut 120mm length from the larger ringlet and glue on top of the ponytail.
- Run a thin line of glue down the back to the right hand side.
- Glue the long ringlet in place and leave to dry.
- Add curls above the ears.
- Cut 2 x 4mm lengths from the smaller ringlet.
- Add a dab of glue and gently press on above each ear.
- Leave to dry.
Decorating the Wig
Add flowers, jewels, or even a ship like Marie Antionette herself! These are decorated with pink and blue feathers, bows and beaded trims. Go on, have some fun!
This article was originally published in Dolls House and Miniature Scene Magazine. If you like making things for your dollhouse, why not buy yourself a copy of the magazine. Or better still, why not take out a subscription so you never miss an issue. If you are a fan of facebook or twitter, please use the buttons at the top of this page to share this project with your friends. For materials, why not visit our directory for suppliers of viscose doll hair and trimmings.
The trimmings and viscose are available from Little Trimmings. Website: www.littletrimmings.com (you will have to copy and paste this web address into your internet browser.