The Countess and Susanna (Wig Styling Tutorial)

26 Feb

In Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro”, The Countess dresses up as Susanna, Figaro’s wife, and Susanna dresses up as the Countess.

No matter how confusing this starts to get when explaining the play, it’s really quite simple, and this is where we begin today. In order to make the Countess look like Susanna, it is necessary to style a wig to look like Susanna’s hair. The Countess will wear this hair in my upcoming photo shoot.

I want to style the hair to look like a natural hair pouf — by that, I mean that I don’t want it to look like a grand Rococo wig. I want it to look like Susanna, as a servant, styled her own hair for her wedding. A simple pouf.

1. Buy a Wig

In order to have enough hair to pull up and back, you need a good wig. Most important, it needs to have full wefts, which is where Halloween wigs fail. On a cheap wig, if you pull the hair back from the front and sides, you will only reveal the elastic bands and mesh to which the hair is sewn. On a good wig, the hair is evenly distributed, and pulls back very much like the  real hair on your head.

I chose an Epic Cosplay wig.  I am very pleased with this wig, and I immediately bought another in a different color. The synthetic hair is very soft, like real hair, doesn’t come apart with each brushing, like cheap wigs do, and you can even style it using heat tools, something that most synthetic wigs do not allow.

I needed the wig to have enough length, and so I chose a long black Epic Cosplay premium wig (the hair color of the Susanna model). Premium Wig

Long Black Premium Wig from

2. Gather Supplies

You will need quite a few supplies in order to style your wig.

  • Wig
  • Styrofoam Head (Available at the chain Sally’s Beauty Supply, took me a while to find, so I thought I’d share)
  • Large push pins (To secure the wig to the Styrofoam Head)
  • Bobby Pins (This one took about 70)
  • Hairspray (Alot of it. I use Aquanet, unscented)
  • Hair Glue (Got 2 B Glued: Blasting Freeze Spray. Under the unanimous recommendation of Cosplayers, I bought some hair Glue. It’s kind of surprising, and once it’s on, there’s no adjusting, so be sure to test it to see what it does first.)
  • Combs (I just use some cheap ones with wide teeth)
  • Curlers (The hairstylist who helps me on photos, always builds a structure in the hair first. This is what you use the curlers for when styling a pouf)
  • Wire Mesh (I cover the curlers in wire mesh to give the pins something to hold onto.)
  • Wig Decorations (I made a hat and decorated it, and around the wig, with fake flowers)
Styrofoam head

Styrofoam Head from Sally's Beauty Supply and a box o' push pins.

3. Secure the Wig to the Styrofoam Head

Using the large push pins, you must secure the wig to the head.

I use four to six pins placed roughly at the temples, the back of the ear, and the base of the neck. With cheap wigs I put one center front, but this wig has a false skin base, and I didn’t want to tear it up.

In the picture you cannot see the pins, but they are there.

The Wig attached to the head

Using the push-pins, the wig is attached to the head.

4. Build the Inner Structure

Normally, the first step would be to comb the hair evenly from the center all the way around the wig (like Cousin It). However, this wig is practically there already, and as you can see, only looks lightly tossled rather than like Cousin It after this is done.

In the exact center of the wig (easy to find on this wig because of the dramatic center parting), I built a curler/wire mesh structure. It is held to the hair by bobby pins.

The curlers were placed on first, and pinned in place, next I covered the curlers with the wire mesh. The wire mesh makes it easier to pin the hair to the structure.

The inner structure is built

Using bobby pins, curlers and wire mesh, and structure is built inside the wig.

The inner structure

The inner structure in close up.

5.Back-comb (rat) the hair over the Structure

Taking only about a half-inch to an inch of hair closest to the structure, back comb the hair, using a liberal amount of hairspray as you go, and starting at the tip comb backwards. This process is called ratting, and it makes the hair bunch up.

Next, pin the ratted hair all around the curler-structure. You want to cover the structure entirely, but you do not want to use all of the wig’s hair, because you want most of your hair for styling later. You can also use hairspray on the pinned-hair to hold it in place.

It’s okay to go wild with the hairspray if you want the wig to hold its shape for a long time.

Rat the hair over the structure

The hair is ratted over the center structure.

When the ratting is finished, it will look a bit like an un-combed clip-on hair-extension. I kept the ratted hair separate with a little comb. I hair sprayed the rat’s nest on the top of the wig.

The Ratting is finished

Here you see the finished ratting, pinned all the way around the structure, front and back.

6. Comb hair over the ratting

Next, I combed the hair over the ratting. Start from the back.

As I went I stretched the hair out straight, sprayed it liberally with hairspray, then pinned it in place.

Because this is a small pouf, there was a lot of excess hair that I just kind of placed wherever, wrapping the structure if necessary. Be sure to leave a good inch of hair at the front and back edges for later. Other than that, the rest of the hair should be combed onto this pile.

Comb the hair over the rat

Here the hair is being combed over the ratting, starting at the back and working towards the front.

7. Bring the front and back inch over in the style you prefer.

Now, you should still have roughly an inch of hair left around the edge of the wig.

Starting at the back, and using a lot of hair spray, comb the hair attractively over the pouf.

Note: I left a bit of a mullet in back so that I could have little curls hanging about. Also, this wig is meant to wear a hat, which is why, from this point on in the pictures, it starts getting weighted to one side. I used the hat during this process to guide me.

When you start pulling the front hair over the pouf, be sure to do it attractively. This is the only part of the wig that will really be seen clearly by anyone besides you.

Bring the rest of the hair over the pouf

The front layer is brought over the pouf. This is the aesthetic layer, and the only one that needs to look nice. Mine is weighted to one side because it will be wearing a hat.

8. Finishing the Wig Styling

Finally, I took all my remaining hair from the back and formed ringlets and curls using hair-glue.

Now, hair-glue is very surprising, in that it holds almost immediately. There is practically no re-working the hair once it is on. So, If you need to shape your hair with Aqua-net first, then add the glue, that is okay.

Because this wig is a curly wig already, this process was easier than it would have been if the wig was straight.

I placed all of my ringlets to one side, because the hat will be placed on the other side.

Using bobby pins, I secured the ringlets where I thought they’d look nicest.

Then, I used a bit of hair glue on the entire wig to secure it in place.

Styling the remaining curls

Here I styled the curls that were left over using hair glue, and pinned them in place.

9. Decorating the wig

This wig will not be combed into the model’s hair-line, and so the last step for this particular wig is decoration.

I used a hat which I made from a felt costume-store pirate hat. I covered it and decorated it with flowers.

I used a glued in comb in the brim of the hat, as well as a long hat pin which goes from one side of the hat, through the wire structure in the hair of the wig, and back out the hat. Finally, I pinned little flowers around the base of the hat.

Basically, the hat looks like it’s having a little party on her head, and she’s not invited.

Originally, I was going to use a decorated straw hat (Period style), but it just wasn’t working for me. I chose the tri-corn instead. Hopefully it will look good.


The Final Wig for Countess/Susanna

Here is the finished wig with the hat in place. (I added some more ribbon flowers at the back after I took this.)


Finally, I would like to share with you the Countess wig that Susanna will be wearing. I didn’t photograph the making of this wig, and I probably couldn’t have anyway, since the amount of hairspray and hands needed to get it going sort of precluded step-by-step photography. This is a Empress Wig with clipped-in and sewn on wefts of real hair.

The Countess wig

This is the Countess wig which will be used for Susanna. (It's getting confusing again.)

I hope this tutorial was informative!


4 Responses to “The Countess and Susanna (Wig Styling Tutorial)”

  1. Isabella January 3, 2012 at 8:32 am #

    I’m so glad I found this tutorial. Thank you!

  2. Kitty February 25, 2012 at 6:49 pm #

    What a great tutorial!! Do you have pictures of the back of the countess wig?

    • tysonvick February 25, 2012 at 7:14 pm #

      Hi Kitty,

      I’m glad you found the tutorial useful! I do not have any pictures of the Countess wig from the back, but you can see more angles of the wig from our outtakes from the shoot. The Countess wig is an Empress wig with hair extensions added all around at various layers.

  3. Kitty February 27, 2012 at 10:17 am #

    Amazing!! You are very talented!!! Stunning photos!!

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