18th century, 18th century wigs, shopping

Wig/Hair Color Advice Needed!

So I long ago decided to screw the 18th c. aesthetic of disliking red hair and wearing my super bright, very dyed hair color.  But lately I’ve been wanting to experiment with a more period look — specifically, powdering up the wazoo.

I did try a grey wig once, and it was TERRIBLE on me.  I’m a warm color person, and I just looked washed out.

So I thought I’d order a wig in a strawberry blond (my natural hair color when I was a kid) and try powdering over that, hoping that the warm color underneath might help.  I was particulary inspired by the nice results Jen Thompson of Festive Attyre got, and she has chestnut hair.  Also, I loved the super frizzy-ness of her wig, so I bought the same one!

However, the place I ordered from didn’t have strawberry blond in stock, so I got “auburn” instead, hoping it would just be a shade or two darker.  Well, it’s definitely more of a warm medium brown!

So what I’m wondering is, keep this wig and powder over it?  Or will the resulting color be too blah?  Should I instead order a warm blond wig?  I can’t picture myself as a blond… but at least it would be warmer than grey.  I’m worried the powder + medium brown will end up a grey-ish light brown.  I don’t know!  Counsel me!

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  • Reply Isis June 22, 2011 at 9:25 pm

    I have had much better result with Ageless Artifice powder than with talcum. The colour gets softer and a bit blonder grey. Now, my hair is light brown, but you can see the difference in the two links here:



    Another thing to try is to mix some coloured pigment in the white powder, something that was actually done in the 18th century. I’m not talking about the fancy here, like pink or green, but simply some yellow or brown pigment to give the powder another tone. I’m not at home right now, but I can check my books when I get home and give you more exact information.

    Also, Marie Antoinette did start a brief fab for red hair when she started to wear yellow-red hair powder…

    And last, perhaps you will enjoy this portrait of a wonderful red hair from the 18th century:


  • Reply jen thompson June 23, 2011 at 9:49 am

    Yay! I hope you like your wig – I love mine! Before I bought my wig (which was ash blond, I think), I tried powdering a reddish brown wig that I had already, and it made a strange peachish/flesh color instead of grey or white. It looked weird and blended in with my skin too much. But maybe you could run to the beauty supply store and buy a hank of chap synthetic hair that is close to your wig color and try powdering it – then you could hold it next to your face and see if you like the effect.

    I was much happier with the ash blond since it gave a whiter, more neutral tone when powdered. It was definitely still a warm color – I think it would look nice on you. I never thought I would look good as a blond either, but this thing really doesn’t read as blond – it’s more of a warm white. I thought it would be shocking, but I’m so used to seeing white hair on 18th c. portraits and illustrations that it just seemed “right” once I got the dress on with it.

    Good luck! I am SUPER excited to see what you do with it!

    (ps – sorry if you see this twice. I posted on LJ first and then couldn’t remember if you check that one or if it is just a feed)

  • Reply kendra June 23, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    Thanks for both of your input! Isis, I really love the effects you’ve gotten… but I just don’t think a shade of grey will work on my skin tone! The colored powder idea is a good one.

    Jen – super helpful, thanks! I went back and looked at your test posts on LJ, and remembered that I really LIKED the strawberry blond on you. The more I look, the more I think that powdering over brown is going to get me grey… so I think I’m going to return this wig and exchange it for some kind of warm reddish blond. And then tease it to high heaven!

  • Reply Alessandra Kelley June 26, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    As an artist who often deals with powdered pigments, I would say be careful if you use them. They can be serious inhalation hazards. I would think a tinted powder, rather than stark white, would help you. As you may have noticed, white actually gives a bluish cast to colors it’s layered over, so a medium brown actually becomes a more pure gray, and black looks positively blue. I have also found a fiery red-brown, like a red hair color, can become positively pink when layered over with pure white. Frankly, I would recommend a loose face powder in a yellowish shade to counter the bluing effect. This is a variation of my painting practice, but it should work.

  • Reply Elisabeth July 7, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    I don’t use talcum for the hair, but cornstarch or a modern alternative: a dry shampoo by klorane, witch is made for hair.

    I am currently reading La poudre et le fard by Catherine Lanoe in French. It is very interesting. Here is a summary: http://dht.revues.org/593 and the contents: http://www.champ-vallon.com/Pages/Pagesepoques/Lanoe2.html

    As for the white powder used at this times, she mentions: starch, wheat (which could be not so white) and rice powder, stink dragon powder, talcum, scale (!) powder, borax and camphor powder, but also charred antler or charred bones, marble, incense or coral! (pp. 30-31).
    In the 16th century, they added metallic powder (mercury known as Vif-Argent, bismuth knwon as “étain de glace”, ceruse which was the most used. But thoses powders were generally used for the face.

    Now I’m on the “red” part…

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