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Historical Wig Styling: Victorian to the Present.

Historical Wig Styling Victorian to the Present

By Allison Lowery; Burlington, MA, Focal Press, 2013. 276 pp. Cloth, $34.95.

This new book, part of Focal Press's Costume Topics Series, is the second in Allison Lowery's Historical Wig Styling Set. The first book covers ancient Egypt to 1835, while this one starts at 1835, continues to the 1990s, and includes some Non-Western styling as well. It is the perfect addition to the collection of any wig styling enthusiast. It is an in-depth, focused approach to wig styling, printed 100 percent in color and presented in a beautiful binding. The book has a very conversational tone and easy-to-follow instructions that make it accessible for a variety of professions and skill levels.

It is truly a gem for a burgeoning or experienced wig stylist. Rather than include instructions on applying a wig or building a wig from scratch, the book comprehensively covers basic and period wig styling for either human hair or synthetic wigs with hard or lace fronts. If you are looking for a book that contains other wig topics, you can start with Martha Ruskai and Lowery's 2010 Wig Making and Styling: A Complete Guide for Theatre & Film, which provides an extensive overview of wiggery.

Ample introduction

Historical Wig Styling begins with an ample introduction, forty pages long, which should not be missed. Lowery fully explains the required wig styling materials and basic styling techniques with step-by-step photo instructions and tips that are necessary to follow along with the rest of the book. She acknowledges her personal material preferences, yet provides an impartial perspective of other options. As you read, you might think the book is a little daunting for truly beginning wig stylists, but her photo instructions are so cinematic they make more complex styles seem achievable even for the less experienced. The photos are so inspirational you may want to grab your hair, your friend's hair, or the closest wig to try these styles.

Reading the introduction, you might take only a moment to notice the spiral binding, but as soon as you turn to one of Lowery's step-by-step instruction pages, you will appreciate it. The binding allows you to lay out the book completely flat. As a result, you will never have to fight with a page to see that next step while your hands are full of hair. The fully colored pages also add to the ease of your experience, ensuring that you never have to decipher where the brightly colored rollers or pins are located.

Once past the intro, each chapter examines a specific time period and has the same format: a timeline of events, research and history of female and male hairstyles, and detailed styling instructions for at least one style from that era. As with the introduction's basic styling techniques, each period style has stepby-step photographs so you get every feature correct. An excellent inclusion is the finished wig style displayed on a live model complete with costume and makeup. It truly brings the wig to life. Another helpful facet is that many of the chapters show variations with the same wig and how easy it is to tweak the style to your desire.

Only one men's style

It is disappointing that there is only one men's wig style detailed in this book. While this is understandable, since the modern era is riddled with men having short hair or similar period styling, it would have been nice to see at least one more male wig or model. Lowrey details the history of male styling in every chapter, so knowing more about short-haired wigs would be advantageous. Granted she includes two or three other styles that could be worn by both genders, but they are only shown on female models. It is also unfortunate that there is no coverage on styling facial hair pieces when that is often a vital part of the finished look for men.

Nevertheless, Lowery clearly shows her passion for detailed and accurate historical wig styling. This is certainly a book to purchase purely for the thorough photographic instructions, beautiful printing, and practical binding. Historical Wig Styling will teach new techniques to beginning stylists and enhance the knowledge of the more experienced. As Lowery puts it, this book is for anyone "looking to create unique and elaborate hairstyles," which is exactly what you will crave after seeing it.

Reviewed by Erika (Grayson) Guay

Erika (Grayson) Guay is an assistant professor of theatre at SUNY Plattsburgh, where she teaches design, theatre graphics, puppetry, theatrical makeup, and advanced costuming.
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Author:Guay, Erika (Grayson)
Publication:TD&T (Theatre Design & Technology)
Date:Jan 1, 2014
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