Thursday, January 02, 2014

Vanellope von Schweetz Wig

The most time-consuming aspect of making a costume for Wreck-It Ralph's Vanellope von Schweetz was the wig. Just cutting and styling the wig took a week by itself, and making the candy pieces took another! I wish my hair had been long enough to put in a ponytail - pinning the candy into my own hair would've saved so much time. A write-up of how I made the wig is below. Pictures and info on the rest of the costume can be found here; my post on the Sugar Rush decorations is here.

Vanellope Wig - Front
Vanellope Wig - Left
Vanellope Wig - Right
Vanellope Wig - Back

Vanellope Wig - Top
The Wig

As this was a low-budget costume, I did not let myself spend $50+ on a nice wig from one of the many online wig stores that cater to costumers. I've done that before (with my Canal Vorfeed costume) and, while it probably would've been worth the money, I just couldn't justify it this time. Instead, I hit every Halloween store in my area until I found a black ponytail wig for $12 at Target:

"Gladiator Ponytail" wig - $12 at Target
I have no idea what makes this a "gladiator" ponytail. All I know is that, in the five stores I visited, this was the only black ponytail wig I saw.

If you're going to make a Vanellope wig (or a wig of any other character whose hair is in a ponytail), you need to be sure to use a wig that is intended to be pulled up into a ponytail. Most costume wigs are only made to be worn with the hair down, so if you try to pull the hair up into a ponytail you'll find that all the seams, netting, etc. will show.

Here's what the ponytail wig looked like after I took it out of the bag:

Ponytail Wig, just out of the bag
It was horribly tangled and creased, just like any wig will be after being stuffed into the tiny bags they use for Halloween wigs. I carefully brushed it out and straightened the creases with a flat iron on the lowest heat setting. I've used an iron before on cheap costume wigs before and haven't had a problem with melted hair, but I probably wouldn't use heat like that on an expensive wig. Most experienced wigmakers frown on the use of hot irons and there are other, safer methods for straightening wigs, so use irons at your own risk. If it all goes wrong, you could end up with a melted wig and a ruined iron.

After straightening and detangling the wig, the next step was to get it back into a ponytail. I wanted the ponytail to stand up away from the top of the head so it would look poofier. I found pictures of a few other Vanellope cosplayers who somehow used a styrofoam ball to make their ponytails poofy but I couldn't for the life of me figure out how they did it (that is to say, I spent way too much time trying to figure it out so I gave up and improvised!).

Here's how I made the ponytail stand up:

I used part of a hole cover plate (what you'd use if you removed a door knob and didn't want an empty hole in the door) we had sitting around, an empty plastic thread spool, and a washer to create a base to build my ponytail around.

Part of a hole cover plate, empty thread spool, and a washer.
I decided where I wanted the ponytail on my wig, and put the hole cover plate there. The plate was on the inside of the wig with the tube sticking out. I had to cut the mesh a tiny bit to get the tube to fit. To keep it from unraveling, I used some Fray Check on the cut parts. You can really see how cheap this wig is in these pictures - only the hair on the edges of the wig is full length. The hair on the rest of the head is only a few inches long.
Plate hole cover in wig
I used some black string to hold the plate in place:

Plate hole cover held in place with string
I placed the empty thread spool over the tube on the plate hole cover, put a washer on top and then screwed the screw that came with the plate hole cover into the tube to attach it all together.

Thread spool and washer attached to plate hole cover
I used a sharpie to color the spool and washer black so they wouldn't stand out from the hair. I then used a comb and a lot of hair spray to brush the short "under hairs" into position around the ponytail base.

Wig with ponytail base.
Unfortunately at this point I got so busy and frustrated with the wig and my horrible camera (see blurry photo above) that I forgot to take pictures of the next steps. Briefly, here's what I did:
  • Added Wefts: Because there was so little hair on the wig that was full length, there was not enough extra hair for me to leave down for the chunks of hair the hang in front of Vanellope's ears. I went to a beauty supply store and bought a $3 package of black plastic (Kanekalon) hair. I used a tutorial from Katie Bair to turn the hair into wefts that I then sewed in place on the inside of the wig, just over the ears.
  • Portioned out Bangs: I used clips to separate the bangs and the "ear chunks" from the rest of the hair so they would not get caught up in the ponytail.
  • Formed the Ponytail Around the Spool: This was a pain to do - I probably did it half a dozen times and using several different methods before I was happy with it. The method that ended up working best was the one featured in this Youtube video from Elizabeth Schram. So the spool wouldn't show, I used black string to wrap the ponytail around the spool (see photo below) and used some caulk on the top of the spool to glue some of the hair to it.
  • Cut the Bangs: Using a picture of Vanellope as reference, I trimmed the bangs and "ear chunks."
  • Styled the Wig: I used a hair dryer on low and cheap hair spray to style the bangs and curl the ponytail.
String wrapped around ponytail, over the spool


The Candy

Here are some close-ups of the candy after I attached it to the wig.

Vanellope's hair candy
Vanellope's hair candy
Vanellope's hair candy
I made the candy pieces slightly larger than life-size because I wanted them to show up better on the wig. Here's a list of all the candy pieces, the number of them I ended up using and their colors:
  • Twizzler hair tie (1): red
  • gummy bears (2): green, purple
  • chocolate peppermints (2): green and brown swirled
  • hearts (2): orange, pink
  • stars (3): yellow
  • thin sprinkles (26): red, light blue, dark blue, pink, purple, green, orange
  • round confetti sprinkles (20): green, orange, yellow, pink, light blue, dark blue
The peppermints, stars, sprinkles and confetti were all made of Sculpey baking clay that I painted with acrylic paint and covered with a clear gloss coat. The Twizzler, hearts and gummy bears were made differently so I'll go over them below.
Twizzler hair tie
I made the Twizzler hair tie by rolling out a thick rope of Sculpey and twisting it into shape before cooking it. I placed a wire inside but it didn't end up being necessary and was really more of a hassle than a help. I based my construction on a Vanellope Twizzler hair tie created by uberBellz on Blogger.

Candy heart
I wanted the candy hearts to have the flat, chalky look of those Necco Valentine's Sweetheart candies, so after making them out of Sculpey I painted them with "chalk paint," which is just acrylic paint mixed with plaster and water. Here's a blog post from While They Snooze with a recipe - I used the same ratios but only made a tiny bit of paint in each color. Since Vanellope's hearts don't have messages, it didn't occur to me to put a message on them like on the real Sweetheart candies. I think it would've made them look more realistic so if I was doing this again, I would use some stamp letters to imprint a message in the hearts before I baked them.

Gummy bear made from hot glue
Gummy bear made from hot glue
I wanted my gummy bears to look translucent like the real thing so I decided to use hot glue (aka hot melt adhesive/thermoplastic) instead of Sculpey to make them. Here's how I did it:
Real gummiy bear soaking in water
First, I needed a real gummy bear to make a mold. I bought a package of gummy bears and soaked one in water for about eight hours. Why? Because, as the bear soaked, it absorbed water and became several times larger than it was originally. I wanted all my candy to be larger than life-sized so this was an easy way to get a big gummy bear.

Enlarged gummy bear in plaster mold
After the gummy bear soaked for eight hours, I mixed some plaster in the bottom of a plastic cup and gently pressed the bear into the plaster, face down. Be aware that soaking the bear makes it very soft, only slightly firmer than jelly/jam. Care must be taken to avoid breaking it when moving it from the water to the plaster.

As the plaster dries it sucks the extra water out of the gummy bear, causing it to shrink. That's not a problem though, as the mold retains the original shape of the larger bear. Once the plaster hardened,  I removed the real gummy bear.

Hot glue in gummy bear mold
Next I soaked the hardened plaster mold in water for ten minutes or so (this makes the hot glue cast easier to remove). After removing the mold from the water, I patted it dry and then immediately squeezed hot glue into it. I experimented using high temp and low temp glue to see which worked best. I believe I ended up going with low temp glue because it cooled with less bubbles on the surface than the high temp glue (it's been a while though, so I could be remembering incorrectly).

Before the glue cooled completely, I pulled the gummy bear cast out of the mold (if you leave it until it completely cools, it can be difficult to remove). I let the glue cool the rest of the way and then colored it with a Sharpie marker. After the Sharpie dried, I painted over the fake gummy bear with a clear gloss coat.

Attaching the Candy Pieces

While making my wig, I watched the movie and made a diagram of the kinds of candies and their position on Vanellope's hair. I tried to follow this when attaching them to the wig, but by the time I got to that point I was in a pretty big hurry to finish the dang thing and didn't do a fantastic job. I used hot glue and just glued them on. As you can see from a number of the photos above, I probably rushed too much so it ended up looking a bit messy. Unfortunately with hot glue once it's on the wig hair, it's not coming off so when I mispositioned a piece, it was stuck there. Only after I finished did I realized I put too much candy on the top of the head since Vanellope has most of her candy on the sides, not the top. Oh well! I'm still pretty happy with it. :)

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