Monday, October 28, 2013

A review of Historical Wig Styling: Ancient Egypt to the 1830s

Historical Wig Styling: Ancient Egypt to the 1830s by Alison Lowery is a book on wig styling aimed to the theatre. That doesn’t mean it is uninteresting for other people, so here is a little review.

The book is spiral bound with hard covers which both makes it sturdy and easy to leave open. There are plenty of colour photos throughout. It starts with a part where tools and techniques are discussed. There are the pro and cons of synthetic wigs and real human hair ones as well of what one should think of when it comes to design and front looks. There are a throughout section on the various ways one can style and curl hair and which tools one need. The author also points out that all the hairstyles are perfectly possible to do on a person’s real hair, though in theatre and movies that is usually a rather impractical solution.

The next section contains the period hairstyles. Each period has a separate chapter that follows the same lines; an overview of the period when it comes to important historic points and then how men’s and women’s hairstyles looked during that time. Each hairstyle has step-by-step instructions which start with the recommended wig style, setting scheme and how to do the actual hairdo. There are also a few suggestions on how to vary each style, sometimes with additional photos. 
What I love with this book are the layout and the very pedagogic instructions. I think a novice in hair styling could pull off a very decent hairstyle while following the instructions. Sometimes, though, it feels like there are gaps in the style presented. In most chapters you get two hairstyle for women and one for men, but that varies. The Egyptian chapter, for example, just has one female style. The 17th century is probably the best presented with three female hairstyles that work for that era, but the 18th century has the fontange style that was popular around 1700 and then nothing at all until a 1770’s big hair followed by a hedgehog style feels like it misses a style. There are also long gaps before 1600, but as female hairstyles often were covered with wimples and veils, that may a bit more understandable.

I think this book is very useful for theatres, but when it comes to re-enactors, I think it usefulness depend on the history period you are interested in. I am happy with it as I already know quite a lot about 18th century hairstyling to bemoan the lack of styles, and also because I’m interested in the 17th century. If you do Medieval you probably won’t have much use for it. However, if you are looking to learn wig styling in general, then I think you should opt for this one and getting some historical styles as well.
There is a second book that covers hairstyles during the 19th and 20th centuries, Historical Wig Styling: Victorian to the Present. I will probably get that one as well eventually and I don’t regret buying this one either. I you have limited funds, however, I think you should consider if this book really will be useful for you, or not. Amazon provides a sneak peak in thebook for those who are interested.


  1. Thanks for the informative review!

    I suspect that the "gaps" you note are a product of the fact that the book is aimed at theatrical costumers. If we were to sit down and analyze each style, we'd find that the styles covered are styles that would be used in popular plays set in the relevant periods.

    1. I think that is oprobably the reason, but I still think it is odd to disregard 60 years of hairstyle in the 18th century which was quite markedly different from the styles before and after. There are plenty of plays and operas from that period that still gets to produced, so I think it ought to have had a liitle more recognition. :)


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