Stitch n Save: Wig Guide

Colonial Wigs

Background and History

The colonial era is one that we owe much recognition and gratitude. We should probably consider the beginning of that era - the early 1600s when the first British settlers stepped shore on the new America. The first English settlement was established in Jamestown, Virginia in 1607. The beginning was extremely difficult for the settlers - they worked as indentured servants and suffered from hunger, malaria, Indian hostility, heat, and humidity. Later, they discovered the ability to plant tobacco which became a lucrative source of revenue as the settlers started to develop plantations. More and more British settlers came. Even after the tobacco discovery, life was still hard under the British rule, and the settlers faced many challenged.

Finally in 1775 the British Colonists decided to fight for their Independence. They fought a long and hard battle which claimed the lives of many soldiers, but in the end they claimed a victory. Next the founding fathers such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin had to set up a government. After one failed attempt the Unites State's Democratic Government was launched and still remains in effect.

One of the most prominent signs of that era is the colonial wig. French king Louis XIII is responsible for the introduction of wigs to the history of men's fashion styles. He donned a wig in 1624 to cover up his prematurely balding hair. By the eighteenth century, wigs became a basic element in the wardrobe of upper class and middle class in England. And the English settlers brought the wig style to America.

Though the wig remained in high style for the whole century, it underwent many changes and metamorphoses. In the beginning of 1700s the wig style resembled the wig that Louis XIII wore - tightly curled with a full bottom. By the 1720s the style had changed to tied up wigs with curls going only along the side such as the tie wig, bag wig, queue wig, and natural wig. Another "wig reform" that was realized in the 1720s was the gaining popularity of light colored wigs. Attempts to bleach wigs proved to be unsuccessful. Instead the "powder method" was implemented. The powder was made up of finely ground starch, scented with orange flower, lavender or orris root. The powder was usually left white, though it was occasionally tinted blue, violet, pink, or yellow. Horse and goat hair was often used as a cheaper and more readily available option than human hair.

The wig styles got shorter and simpler as time went on. By the 1740, simpler styles of "tied back" wigs were worn such as the club wig or cadogon. By the late in the late eighteen hundreds the bob wig, a style had only been used previously for non dress occasion became the normal style of dress. By the 1740s, the long full bottom wig became the exclusive uniform of judges. In the 1770's, a simpler fashion called the Club wig or the Cadogan became popular as well.

By the 1780's men wigs had were already one foot out the door. Most men among the younger folk powdered their own hair instead of the wig. Powder hung out about another decade until the 1790s. After that time it became extremely uncommon to sport a colonial wig.

Ladies' colonial wigs tended to have upswept tops (that looked like today's buns.) With small spun back tails sticking out from behind. Different braids and styles were worn around the sides of these ladies' colonial wigs. Some ladies' colonial wigs had more wavy and bigger upsweeps. Aristocratic ladies wore very neat upswept colonial wigs with two neat little neat spun side curls on the side and fancy spun back tails in the back. Though, the colonial styles did leave the stage, wigs for ladies came in and out of fashion through the ages.

Customer Info

The Costumer assorted styles of colonial wigs from colonial heroes and the common man.

Clicket more styles of colonial wigs.

Popular Styles

Full Bottomed Wig: A tightly curled long wig which is worn below shoulder length in back and front. These wigs were worn loose not tied up. The style was worn by Louis XIII, the wig style creator, and was popular in the early seventeen hundreds.

Tie Wig: Also know as the tie periwig, this wig is a long wig, tied in the back with a ribbon. It was popular in the 1720s. This is the stereotypical wig of the eighteenth century.

Bag Wig: Also popular in the 1720s, the pony tail in back is stuck into material "black taffeta wig bag" and secured with bow.

Queue Wig: A third style of the 1720's the hair in the back was tied into one or more braids with horizontal curls.

Bob Wig: A shorter wig, originally reserved for the poor tradesmen who could not wear the longer versions and for undress occasions. It was also worn by protestant clergymen. In the later part of the eighteenth century some of the higher class started wearing the style such as President John Adams.

Club Wig/Cadogan Wig: A wig with bottom curled under.


Formal Dress: Colonial styled wigs, remain part of the dress code court members such as barristers, judges, and parliamentary figures in England as well as many common wealth nations.

Dress Up: Colonial dress up is a favorite past time. It makes a great Haloween, Purim, or masquerade costume. But even more dominant, are the history lovers who want to keep history alive. There are a number of old restoration sites, where history is preserved for generations. Replicas of homes and shops from the colonial era are carefully recrafted. All the staff there is dressed in colonial costumes and colonial wigs. Sometimes, special events are held where visitors are invited to dress up and reenact some activity of the past.

Tools & Terminology

Perukemaker: The special term used for a wig crafter. Perukemakers spent many hours on each wig delicately custom creating it for each customer.

Wig Block: the perukemaker crafted a wooden "head" according the measurements of each customer. This would hold the net of the wig while the wigs were being crafted.

Wig Point: Special nails that secure the wig net onto the wig block.

Wig Hair: Wig hair consisted of a whole range of materials. The most expensive was genuine human hair. Goat, yak, and horse hair or even thread was used.

Hackle: Raw hair was passed through this comb like tool in preparation for the weaving process

Weaving frame: A frame holding silk threads. The perukemaker would use this tool to weave the hair into strips or wafts. The strips would then be attached to the net.

Comb: Once the hair was attached, an ordinary comb was used to comb the hair, very similar to the modern day comb.

Curling iron: curled the wig.

How To Make a mock Colonial Wig:

What You Need?

24" x 24" square of cotton/poly blend quilt batting (it comes in rolls)
white knee high
Fabric glue
Plastic wrap
rubber band
Assorted ribbons

What To Do?

Pull knee high over head. Wrap rubber band around top. Take off and cut off excess above rubber band. Cover head in plastic wrap. Turn knee high inside out and place over plastic wrap. Cut long peace of batting and shape with scissors. Use fabric clue to glue batting to fabric wrap. Use excess batting to shape curls at sides. Tie batting in back with ribbon.

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RSS | September 18, 2019

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