Wigs for ‘Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk’: Part Two

~ The underside of the completed wig for the Gibson Girl (KIM149)

I was supplied with a range of reference images to work from on this project to make wigs for the Kimonos exhibition. The wigs that they required were a mix of historical wigs, and additionally three “film wigs”. The historical wigs were all going onto pale grey mannequin heads so were to be in tones of grey to match, and the film wigs made from black material to match their black mannequin heads. The colours of the wigs were intentionally kept neutral and without colourful adornments, so as not to detract from the wonderful outfits on display but still giving a visual representation of the hairstyle.

~ Book with reference images of different Japanese hairstyles lent to me

Crinoline, commonly known as crin, is lightweight and stiff making it a great material for reinforcing and adding structure. It is a very versatile material and due to its springy and flexible nature it can be manipulated in a variety of ways. It is a synthetic netting made from polypropylene and comes in various widths, shapes, patterns and colours. Crin often has a gathering thread woven through one edge, for gathering and shaping. As it is a synthetic material, crin will melt and harden but it is not dyeable.

Crin will always fray when cut, so the ends needed to be treated or bound in some way to prevent the loose ends from unravelling or poking through the wig structure. I first experimented with melting and pressing the ends together but didn’t like the appearance of the melted end. I then tried gathering and binding the cut ends by wrapping them tightly with thread which could then be positioned into the centre of a coil, tube or bundle so they wouldn’t be visible – I preferred the second method so proceeded with this.

~ The plan crin with the gathering edge visible in the top left hand corner of the image, with a frayed cut edge showing in the centre left of the picture

I was provided with a mix of plain, tubular, pleated and threaded crin for variety across the wigs. Having never worked with the material before it was trial and error to start with. The crin was fun to play with but it had a bit of a mind of its own so it took a bit of time to get used to working with it.

~ Tubular crin

I experimented with the natural movement of the material to build up different three dimensional elements that I could connect together to create the forms I needed to build up the three dimensional hairstyles from the two dimensional pictures.


The first wig I started working on was for the Gibson Girl, a simple loose hairstyle wig a bun on the top of the head. To make the centre of the bun, I sewed length of the plain crin into a tube and stuffed it with some pleated crin to give it structure. I then made three identical curved sections using lengths of the pleated crin, gathered at each end with thread to conceal the cut ends. These were then attached and pushed through the centre of the “bun” and then pulled around to give the whole bun an outer covering of the pleated crin.

~ Experimenting with creating different three dimensional elements with the crin

For making the main body of the wig I drilled a series of holes with my Dremel through the rigilene frames so I had something to tie on to. I used thread in a pale grey so that it would camouflage in with the tones of grey crin chosen for the wigs. The idea was to build up layers using three different tones of grey (pale grey, warm grey and pewter) in order to create depth to the wigs. I cut lengths of the crinoline and pinned it to the frame with bulldog clips whilst I did the sewing in order to keep it in the correct position.

~ The process of attaching the first layers of crin to the rigilene frame

Once some long lengths of plain crin were sewn onto the outer ring of the rigilene frame, I was able to gather them up and pin them in place to test out different forms. On the bottom layer I used the plain crin, with more decorative pleated crin on top to try and give the visual appearance of combed hair.

To create more volume in the wig with the bun going on top I sewed together some pleated crin into a large tube which I made into a ring. Due to the pleats in the crin it kept it’s shape well. I then fed this in to the crin on the frame and once I was happy with the shape I added small stitches in the necessary places to fix it.

~ The Gibson Girl wig in progress

I then gathered all of the outer layers of pleated crin up to the crown of the head, making sure all the strips of the crin were tacked together to keep them from gaping open and showing the plain crin underneath. The bun was then attached and the first wig was complete!

I was given a sample head to work from, made from fibreglass. This was crucial to check the first of the final wigs, in order for it to stand up for use I was also supplied with a cardboard tube collar that the neck fitted into.

~ The back of the Gibson Girl wig
~ The finished wig on the mannequin in the exhibition

I took photographs along the way, but no notes, and I have found looking back on these images to try and sort them into categories was difficult as the close ups all look so similar and the forms and shapes made to create each wig were similar too. I therefore provide below a small snapshot of the other ten wigs below to preserve them for my records in case I need to make any more in the future!


Next in line was a wig for wedding kimono. I had two wedding wigs to do, and this one was actually to sit under the hood of a wedding kimono so was less about how it looked and more about the structure as the wig needed to help to the hood to hold its shape.

~ The wedding wig in progress with sections pinned in place using bulldog clips

I was sent a toile made from cotton to work from.

~ The wedding wig with the toile on top
~ The side of the wig


~ Detail of the comb on the finished wedding wig
~ The finished wedding wig on the mannequin in the gallery

4. THE 1930s WIG (KIM 188)

~ The back of the finished 1930s wig
~ The finished 1930s wig on the mannequin in the gallery


~ The finished Gibson Girl wig
~ The finished Gibson Girl wig on the mannequin in the exhibition

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