BRSB – Styling the wig
Black Rock Shooter has always been known for her crazy, long, flowing hair that has always seemed like it completely defies gravity. This was definitely one effect that I wanted present in my BRSB costume. Researching this concept proved to be rather interesting, and I had found multiple concepts I could work off of, but in the end I was basically gambling on this hybrid concept I had put together.
The wig ended up being the last major part of the costume that I did, and I was extremely thankful that it actually worked out (because if it hadn’t, I would have had to use regular clip on pigtails).
The process behind designing this wig was rather interesting. I definitely wanted the pigtails to defy gravity and be solid, spiked pieces, but I wasn’t sure how to achieve this effect. I ended up taking a picture of my face and taking it into Illustrator, where I could draw out pigtails to determine the size and shape that I would want. I printed out each template to demo it on me, whether I was happy with the size or not. In the end the third design ended up being the one I chose.
My first pigtails were actually carved out of insulation foam, which ended up looking pretty good until I got to the point where I had to actually mount it to my head. I couldn’t think of any secure way of mounting it without the risk of it snapping or ripping. My original design also didn’t permit the crown I had cut to be mounted properly. All of this was happening two nights before Anime Expo – I simply couldn’t figure out how to mount the pigtails and crown properly, so that’s the point at which I decided to push off BRSB until the next convention event.
After Anime Expo I went back to researching other techniques that could be used to make my pigtails. I used “headdress” as my keyword because I realized the wig would probably be more of a sculpture than a styled wig. I found some interesting articles and tutorials about wire frame based headdresses, which led me to believe that would be the best method for this specific instance. There are pros and cons of both the foam and wire frame based pigtails:
Easy to make
Solid design which will not change at all
Easier to incorporate to a base mount system
Takes a lot longer to build
Requires more secure mount
I’m a fan of making things as durable as possible resulting in a huge preference toward the wire frame method. Accepting the fact that my pigtails would be relatively heavy, I was forced to design a wire frame based cap for my head as well to help support the pigtails on my head, leading me to even more research. The pigtails needed to be rather durable, so I purchased 1.5mm steel welding rod from a local welding shop. I was able to get over 36 ft for under $10, a wonderful deal considering how expensive it is at Blick’s to purchase similar armature wire. I used a mini butane torch to solder the wires together into a base wire frame shape.
I approached this project as if it were a 3D model in Rhinoceros or Maya, first building the pigtails flat in two dimension and then expanding it by adding the third dimension for its thickness. I then added rings along the form to give it more stability. I should have put the rings on the interior of the form, but I was running out of time and had to rush things so I just put them on the outside. These rings really added a large amount of strength to the overall form; I actually had accidentally dropped the larger pigtail a few times from my dining table and it completely survived the fall without any soldered ends breaking. Accidental stress tests are the best.
I had to do many, many test fits with the pigtails and crown to make sure everything fit together correctly, to determine how much space should be between the pigtails, and to determine what height the pigtails should be at on my head. The crown originally looked extremely large in comparison to my head, but it was designed that way to give room for the pigtails to be able to fit directly behind my head, as well as including leeway for the upward spikes to fit through between the crown spikes.
Once I was happy with how everything fit together I had to permanently attach the two pigtails together. I added more welding rod which connected the two sides and soldered it a lot to make sure there was absolutely no chance that they would break apart.
Here’s a “chart” which displays the reasoning behind why I connected the two pigtails. Please be aware that this is all in theory! I’m not a physicist. My theory was that if they were separate, gravity would effect the ends of the pigtails, pulling them down. There would also be separate pressure points per pigtail at the base. These are marked with cyan marks.
If the pigtails are connected at the base, that results in only one pressure point with gravity pushing down at. Of course gravity would still be applied to the ends of the pigtails, but with them connected at the base the amount of gravity exerted at these points is far less. These are marked with red marks. I used some steel tubing which I soldered into the pigtails themselves to hold on to these hooks.
My original plan with the foam based pigtails was to simply add fabric on top of them, but with the wire pigtails I was not able to add the fabric right away or else it would look extremely geometric. I then thought about adding wire frame mesh around the forms, but that was unfortunately too sensitive to touch (if someone grabbed the pigtails the form would warp). As I was running out of time, money, and materials, I remembered I had some Wonderflex in storage so I decided to use that! Wonderflex ended up adding a significant amount of weight to the pigtails, but at least they were extremely sturdy forms now.
This photo isn’t accurate to what I actually used for my final “wig cap” structure, but it’s relatively close. (I was running out of time before Animegacon to be able to take a lot of photos at leisure, I ended up stripping the cap of Wonderflex) I basically formed chicken wire around my head, with welding wire soldered to the edge of it to keep it in my head’s shape. I then added a wire that runs from the very front end of the cap illustrated in red (connected to the base wire going around the whole thing) and ran it up to the rear area of the cap, where it hooks up, the hook being the connection point between the cap and the pigtails (marked in red).
The next step was to finally cover it in fabric (no photos of this step, sorry) and then finally add the wig fibers. At the very end I sewed on some elastic to the base wire of the cap to hold the cap and pigtails in place. I need to figure out a way to make this more comfortable, because at its current design it basically chokes me to hold it in place haha.
The first time that I actually tried on the wig it looked so awkward and out of place, but once I actually put everything from BRSB on at once it finally looked like it was all coming together. The wig was the last thing I put together on this cosplay, so it was stressful hoping that it would come out looking okay.
A big thank you to my neighbor, Dani, for helping with putting the fibers onto the wig base! This wouldn’t have been done without you because I normally have absolutely no patience for wig styling.