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Thursday 15 January 2015

Madeline Hatter: Stripped curly heavy high updo ponytail using wig pieces, metal structure & foam - Arda Wigs Tutorial

Madeline Hatter Legacy Day outfit Cosplay from Ever After High. Photo was taken by Herbiecidez Photography 
This character has a high lopsided ponytail that needs an internal structure to ensure that it stays upright. Updo wigs usually need to be resized for a person's head so in my case I will show you how to expand a wig that is too small for my head.

I also built this wig in two sitting, but I did pre-make the support structures first a few weeks before while working on other parts of the costume. The pre-styled piece really does help to speed up a styling process.

This post is also in conjunctions with the new Arda Wigs Canada store launch!!! They're doing Canadian Conventions rounds, so expect them to also show up near you to purchase in person.

What you will need for the wig!
Detangler spray (silicone based, I use Main N Tail)
Hair Sheers
Hair Razor/ Feathering Razor
Hairspray (Got2B Glued brand for hold)
Hair Dryer
A straightening iron (for flyaway's if need be)
Toupee Clips
Wig head
T-pins or ball pins (to pin wig to wig head)
Alcohol based markers (Sharpie, Tria, Prismacolor, Copic, etc.)
Needle and matching thread 
Insulation foam sheet
Hot Glue
Clear elastics (those cheap ones by the 100's)
Aluminium flashing/finishing strip bar
3" - 4" flat head screw with nut and washer
and a hack saw to cut the strip bar
Filing tools/grinders

You can purchase your supplied from Ard Wigs (with international options) or Arda Wigs Canada.

Wig Materials
The colour I picked out first is Mint (AR008) and Ultraviolet (AR020). 

Now I struggled a bit with what purple shade to go with because Arda doesn't have too many red-based purples. Plum (AR029) in person, it way too dark for Maddie's hair and Magenta (AR026) is way too pink/light for her hair either. Which left Ultraviolet (AR020) being a neutral purple compared to the rest of the purple options they offer. Although if you want exact shade and have the patience, I recommend dyeing the Magenta (AR026) shade deeper but you will have to re-curl that purple later for the curly ponytail. ;)

Mint Jeannie wig. This is your base wig.

I used 2 Short Wefts • one in Mint and Ultraviolet respectively.

I wanted this hair for the outside edge and visible parts. The Jeannie does come with a Mint long ponytail, but there are hair/flyaways to thicken the base clip-on that are annoying to tame down as you expose them.

3 Curly Clips • for the ponytail (2 Mint and 1 Ultraviolet)

I originally used 3 Mint clips but by the second time I wore this cosplay I hacked out enough wig fibre at the centre core, it not worth getting a third one. ;)

Step 1:
Make your support structure.

I know it looks like a medieval torture device but the point of this one is to not torture your head. This project is best to get a helper with making this, in my case my Dad helped with bending and seeing how it fits onto my head.

Kukkii-san is the first person to show a support structure like this, but I made some concessions. No steel! Structurally it is ideal but, A) I could not find strip steel and B) Aluminium is easier to bend. The grade of Aluminium strip I used, you can't completely bend by hand and body weights I'd like to point out. So it did have some strength to it. So we used a combination of a solid 2.5" wood dowel (the handle of tamper we had) and a Bench Vise with Anvil to bend the curves. If you have a steel pipe that would work as well but any solid round tube is key.

For the most part, we cut the Aluminium strip into two pieces. One that is the Width of the crown of my head, from ear to ear and another that sits from the front to the back the crown length that is off centre to the left side of my head. We used a measuring tape to figure out the lengths but you can cut a piece of string to get these measurements and mark them on the metal strips.

At this point, you start to bend these two pieces to your head shape. I started with the Width piece first to get the curve right.

We used the dowel in the centre section to pull the end around that dowel creating an inverted U with small measures, basically causing the strip to bend at 1" sections at a time. We then use used the Vise to clamp one end of the strip and pull the strip to curve it at the ends because you have nothing to grab onto your head at that point of 2" at the tips of the metals trips so that it hopefully lays flat on your head.

We repeated the process with the Length piece. But doing the short Width piece first will set how this frame sits on your head comfortably and is in a position that works.

Top view
With the two pieces sitting on your head you need to mark where the two meet. The + is where I wanted the screw used to spike my ponytail onto will sit. The lines where the bottom and top layers meet which allows you to mark the centre on the lower layer between them once you pull the piece apart again.

inside view
Now using a drill cut a hole at your centre makers wide enough for your screw to fit (you might have to use a series of bit sizes to measure it up and create a large enough hole). Then place the screw in to see if it threads and lines up from the underside.

Once in, screw the bolt in place add your washer and nut to secure the screw in place.

Next, now that you're happy with the size and shape it's time to finish the ends. Start by rounding the corners and file your cut edges smooth. We used the Dremel (rotary tool) to grind the corners round and a bastard mill to file the cuts smooth.

Then you need to drill some threading holes. 4 to 5 will do it and these holes you will also have to be smoothed off, I used a ball shaped grinding bit to get inside the holes.

Now your support structure is finished.

Step 2:
Foam core base for the ponytail.

I'm using insulation sheet foam in this case and to get a block size shape, I layer smaller sections of the sheet together with a few beads of hot glue to bind them.

Now you carve the foam to the shape you need, in this case, a ball with a flat bottom. The tools I used is a retractable utility knife and a hot wire cutter (this one is from the Hot Wire Foam Factory).

Step 3:
Adjust the fit and size of your foam core with your support structure.

You're going to find that you will take a few literal jabs at the base of the foam core to find the best alignment. Try to not make too many holes though as it can cause a failure in how solid the structure will be.

The ailment was good at this point, but I further carved down the foam as it was too big in proportion with the hair I was going to add to it later.

Once you're happy with the shape, paint it to match the base of dominant colour of your wig. Mint was my dominant shade here.

You will also see in the next photo that a carved out the inside core (pink area) a bit more to allow a pocket for the base wig ponytail sub to rest inside (seen in step 12). 

Step 4:
Covering your foam base with curly clips.

Remove the clip and elastic string from the curly clips. You want only to work with the hair on the elastic mesh.

Start to cut up the mesh between the wefts (rows of hair) and trying to cut only the mesh. I use a small pair of scissors to do this from the inside. That way I take it slow and see if I hooked any hairs by accident before I cut. Pre-parting the clips helps as well for each section as the wefts have been curled together in this pre-styled curly clip.

In this case, I further cut the clip mesh into 4 horizontal sections from the one clip. Will call these pieces Clips A.

The second curly clip I cut the two sections up vertically down the middle and call these Clip B.

The point of this is to expand the clip so that the top sections end up from both Clip A and Clip B together at the top of the new foam base for the ponytail, the middle pieces at the middle parts and the bottom at the bottom and so forth. Basically, you want to match up and expand the area that the curly clips can cover on your foam core.

I like to work from bottom to top when dealing with pre-styled hair. The glue line at the bottom edge location is best on straight ponytails but it was not needed for this curly ponytail I was making. I ended cutting out the lower section later and the thinning out of the hair there for weight was not viable because this curly ponytail was SOO thick. I would start it up away from the underside edge by 2".

But whatever the style is you want, (Straight or Curly) to glue the lowest bottom edge of the Clip A bottom piece first with you glue gun. If it bubbled like this it means it was too hot on the foam. So let it cool a few second before placing the hair on.

Once that bottom line of glue drys (cools solid) you can then stretch and place the top edge of the hairpiece and glue that down into place.

At this point, I also glue the inside lower lip to the top to cover the visible edge here. This step is needed to complete the illusion of a ponytail.

For a vertical piece like this top and middle section of Clip B, I like to go with vertical lines of glue for a larger section.

The whole sections are glued down here.

I also recommend if you want to stretch this section of hair out more is to glue it down in smaller sections at a time as seen above. It also prevents you from burning your fingers accidentally. ;)

Now with the sides and bottom filled out you will need to fill the middle gap.

With your middle pieces from Clip A, divide those up into smaller sections that fit the gap. You will also save the top piece of Clip A for later.

Glue down those small Clip A middle sections.

Now that the middle is filled use the last stripe of Clip A top to finish the wig base. Make sure to glue it down to also cover the inside lip of the foam base.

Now your base hair is done for the Ponytail.

Step 5:
Adding the Ultraviolet purple streaks to the curly ponytail base!

Again cut your curl clip into small horizontal sections.

Now cut those sections into smaller vertical cuts. These sections will make your visible streaks.

3 small top sections
breaking the streak sections apart by hand to create smaller streaks.
back view

Those top layer streaks are glued around the edge of the top ponytail section. You can then further break out those larger streaks into smaller section by hand to creating more visible thinner streaks.

Opening gaps in weft to glue down a streak into.
Now you want to create more small sections off the purple curly clip and place them into and between the rows of mint wefts to create more random streaks in the rest of the base ponytail.

You will end up with random colour curls like this. At this point you can play with the purple curls more to break them out into smaller streaks, but the ponytail section is done for your wig.

Step 6:
Prepping your base wig. The Jeannie wigs are a long bob style wig with a clip one ponytail and with wefts sewn in a way that gives the proper illusion of an updo. But it is a static hairline, meaning it won't adjust to fit every person's head.

This is the inside of the base wig in the Jeannie style. The side and back don't expand with the final rows of wefts sew into the edge, creating a clean and smooth top layer pulled up into a ponytail. My method of expanding the wig only needs 1 vertical cut.

Because the base material is an elastic mesh instead of a solid lace you can only need to cut the centre back at the edge band to open and relax the mesh without damaging it.

You then continue to cut the wefts only up a vertical centre line to the top of your ears if you're wearing the wig avoiding cutting the mesh. The tails of these wefts you will sew them back down later.

The next thing you do is sew in your structural support for the ponytail and make sure it's in the right spot on your head. I do this by wearing both it and the wig together and chalk marking the inside of the wig where the bottom edge of all 4 arms of the structure was sitting, that way I know where to sew once I take the wig off.

And you need to sew in any hair attachment items as well. I usually use toupee clips exclusively along the front line hair, 1" back for updo's. But because of the rigid nature of the metal frame, I found the centre two toupee clip kind of useless because I could not clip those down. I recommend using a flexible hairline comb there. The toupee clips at the temples worked fine, though.

But the reason you do this first is that it's harder to install them later one once you finished styling the wig.

Also, cut out the adjusting elastic bands. These will be useless anyway and you can use them later on.

NOTE: I also after applying these put in 4 pair a rubber heel chusions (yes meant for shoes)  to add padging to soften the blow of wearing metal tips nect to the human skull.

This is an important one, but you need to pad your wig head to match both your head size and the thickness of your hair. This is my custom wig block I made, but I still add a bit more padding in the back to simulate my volume of my hair.

Once you ready to style your wig, this gives you the proper shape to your own head for a perfect fit.

Now pin your base wig to your wig block. You want to pre-treat your wig in silicone based spray to prevent tangling as well at this point.

You will also notice that the back mesh has expanded to fit the wig head size to almost double the width (if you have a big head and thick hair like me). You will have to backfill this area later with more wefts but the wig is now stretched to fit my head.

Step 7:
Fixing any length issues.
Because of the style, I'm doing on this wig (ad side ponytail on the left), the far right side of the wig hair seen here doesn't reach the left side of the wig at all. What to do?

Harvest those wefts off by removing the sewing thread that pins them down to the wig and save them for later. Those wefts will be re-purposed for the next step.

Step 8:
Gather the bottom layers and filling any gaps.

Start by creating the core of the ponytail with one clear elastic tightly. I do this away from the support spike because the extra hair from the finish base wig ponytail will be sitting inside the core of the curly ponytail that we made room for it earlier. It also allows the curly ponytail to be glued only onto this spike instead of the base wig and is removable if need be later on for maintenance.

You also create a more flushed to the wig ponytail this way.

Gathering a few top layers
Gathering a few side layers
Now start to gather small sections at a time in a circular pattern and tied the rest of the hair to your base wig ponytail. You will want to keep the hair smooth but relaxed slightly so that if there is any slight expansion while wearing the wig happens, it won't dislodge the top finished layer of the hair.

Keep layering in small sections until the perimeter of the hairline is left. If you have any short layers seen here at the bottom side of the wig, you want to both heat train them down with a blow dryer and use hairspray to keep them down.


Now that the centre layers are out of the way, you can see where the gaps are. I didn't take any photo at this point, but the large centre gap at the back we created you want to backfill in with wefts. I used those shorter side wefts I took off the right side of the base wig to fill the centre of the wig and the longer Short Wefts we got in a pack for the outer edge.

Once the gap is filled in, again in small sections gather the hair to the base wig ponytail and tie them down. 

Step 9: Smoothing out the finishing layer and streaking your base wig.

You want to use both the Mint and Ultraviolet short wefts to create the finished edge and the streaks of purple.

Where I removed the mint wefts from the right side hairline of the wig, you need to replace them by sewing on the underside of the wig 3 rows of Mint weft together. You then need to train this hair with a blow dryer to heat style them to fold flat to the edge of the wig as you pull it up and over the top of the wig.

For the purple streaks, I sewed in only 2 layers of wefts and heat styled them to sit flat to the edge as well along the hairline.

Also tieing these new wefts and streak to the base wig ponytail.

Sectioning off the crown area, for this streak on the crown I sewed them through the plastic skin top away from the direction they were going to be pulled back towards the base ponytail and heat styled them again.

For the right side of the bang area, I sewed the wefts again in the opposite direction.

For the top bang area, I sew over top the crown streak I added, to further hide the new part on the plastic skin top.

Step 10:
Fixing any colour issue.

My favourite trick for gaps or updo's is to colour the weft tracks (the base of the wefts) as they do not usually a match the wig colour. The Mint is sewn together with a pale ivory thread and Ultraviolet with a dark brown. All you need to do colour over these thread in a matching permanent marker or a shade that is a touch darker but similar.

It just helps everything to blend together more.

Step 11:
Styling bangs!

You can get creative here, but Maddie has side swept bangs from the right to the left side of her face here. It's a matter of taking it slow and doing each layer separately to get a smooth curve (use hairspray as you go). Once your happy with the way they are laying, hairspray them into place.

The tail of the bangs also needs to be hair sprayed into place and tied to the base wig ponytail.

Step 12: Trimming down that ponytail!
At this point you will need to stub that ponytail as the extra hair is of no use. I like it at about 2.5" long just in case I need to restyle the wig (but it's unlikely).

You can choose the slick the tips down with spiking hair glue to compress it more and tie it off with a few more clear elastics.

Step 13:
Final touches.

I always use a large plastic comb at the base of my updo wigs to secure the bottom hairline of the wig to your own hairline. I've flipped the bottom edge of the hairline on the wig up and backwards to sew in the comb while it's on the wig head.

With that edge out, I also added a fringe to the back of the neck area to help hide my elongated hairline. I trim this further down after trying on the wig with it flipped all back inside the wig. ;)

Step 14:
Adding the accessories.

I made sure to further hairspray where this hat is sitting on the wig so that it has a good base to clip into.

This wig no matter how much I tried to keep that weight down, has enough loose full hair to triple that of the standard wig. What I found helpful is french braiding my hair along the side of my head, on the lower edge and pinning the tails of the braid at the back of my head. This gives you a base to pin the wig to your hair along the hairline to help distribute the weight all over your head and not cause the wig to slip to the left side of your head.

Your Finished:

I hope this helps people trying to make off centre wigs. I will also be doing a few other tutorials around this cosplay as it incorporated a number of new and interesting prop and textile techniques.

If you have any questions let me know as well in a comment.

Madeline Hatter Legacy Day outfit Cosplay from Ever After High. Photo was taken by Herbiecidez Photography
FTC: This post contains a perk link.


  1. I've never worked with wigs before, so a lot of this was lost on me, but I am just amazed at what you've created! Gorgeous!!!

    1. I'll admit this is a bit advance for those just getting into hair styling and wig making. Some terms even cosplayers get lost on. lol

      I feel like I should do a growing post on term and techniques.

  2. i just want to personally thank you for this i have been looking for like 3 months for some good photos and help on the inner support so thank you from the bottom of my frazzled cosplay heart

    1. Yeah, there is not to many tutorials online talking about really heavy wig supports. ;) You can always make them long and with more farming but this did the job.