Chic Wigs for September, 1927

Transformations in the mode of the present day.... All the pictures are of the same charming woman. Top of page 37, Delineator, September, 1927.

Transformations in the mode of the present day…. All the pictures are of the same charming woman. Top of page 37, Delineator, September, 1927.

Yes, fashion wigs, or “transformations,” as they were called, allowed a woman to change her hair color and hairstyle to suit her mood in the 1920’s. This full page of transformations, from Delineator, September, 1927, shows five wigs, all on the same model.

"A deep wave accents the gold in blonde hair." Delineator, Sep.t 1927, p. 37. Photo by Alfred Cheney Johnston.

“A deep wave accents the gold in blonde hair.” Delineator, Sept. 1927, p. 37. Photo by Alfred Cheney Johnston.

She doesn’t seem blonde to me, but that is a lovely hairstyle, and no one would guess it wasn’t her own hair.

500 blond hair wig 1927 sept p 37 transformations one model many wigs white silver page

“At the top of the page is a blonde bob, the only bob in the group. The other transformations all have the small knot at the neck. This transformation is parted far on the left, drawn low on one side of the forehead and low over the ears.”

text of article delineator sept 1927 p 37

“In the center, dark brown hair, parted a little on the right is brought low on the forehead in the curled fringe one sees so often on the smart Parisienne. Faintly serious, a  little demure, there is yet a piquancy about this transformation.”

A dark brown wig with "curled fringe." Delineator, Sept 1927. Photo by Johnston.

A dark brown wig with “curled fringe.” Delineator, Sept 1927. Photo by Alfred Cheney Johnston.

“The silver head is so lovely that we couldn’t resist showing you two views of it.”

A silver wig for women sixteen or sixty, Delineator, Sept. 1927, p 37. Photo by Alfred Cheney Johnston

A silver wig for women of sixteen or sixty, Delineator, Sept. 1927, p 37. Photo by Alfred Cheney Johnston

“There is an enchantment and coquetry in silver locks. Whether one is sixteen or sixty, pure white hair deepens the color and adds brilliance to eyes, and the skin becomes more delicately pink and glowing. [18th century aristocrats wore white wigs, or powdered their hair, to get this look.] Here the wave is very wide so that the shadows will not lose their subtlety.”

A white wig worn by a young woman, Delineator, Sept. 1927. Photo by Alfred Cheney Johnston.

A white wig worn by a young woman, Delineator, Sept. 1927. Photo by Alfred Cheney Johnston.

A dark wig with a tiny bun low on the neck in back. September, 1917, Delineator, page 37. Photo by Alfred Cheney Johnston.

Formal elegance: A dark wig with a tiny bun low on the neck in back. September, 1917, Delineator, page 37. Photo by Alfred Cheney Johnston.

“…A transformation is arranged with simple elegance for a formal occasion. The contour of the head is closely followed and an air of extreme dignity is attained.”

A chestnut wig, Delineator, Sept. 1927. Page 37. Photo by Alfred Cheney Johnston.

A chestnut wig, Delineator, Sept. 1927. Page 37. Photo by Alfred Cheney Johnston.

“… A soft chestnut coiffure is very graceful. It has a flattering soft bang, covers the ears and has the small chignon, which is most attractive.”

Credits for the "transformations" photo shoot.

Credits for the “transformations” photo shoot in 1927.

Wig tips for costumers:  If you have ever worn a wig, you’ll know that it will look most realistic if the hair is not swept straight back from the hairline, but has at least a few hairs covering the forehead where the wig begins — something all these “transformations” have in common. They were intended to be worn in private life, and seen from inches away.  “Movie wigs” and good theatrical wigs have a delicate flesh-toned mesh at the front, with individual hairs “ventilated” into the mesh — The process is much like making a hooked rug (a very tiny one, with hairs instead of yarn.) This mesh can then be glued to the actor’s forehead, and looks very realistic — although I don’t know how HDTV is affecting that! Sean Connery’s crew-cut gray wig in the movie Red October was amazingly convincing — My husband and I came out of the movie talking about that wig!

If you can’t afford a high quality wig to wear with your off-the face-Gibson girl updo, try positioning a Gibson styled wig the same color as your hair slightly behind your hairline. Use a rat-tailed comb to pull about a quarter inch of your own hair out from under the wig cap, and carefully brush it into the hair of the wig before spraying it.

12 Comments

Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Cosmetics, Beauty Products, Hairstyles, Resources for Costumers, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage Accessories, vintage photographs

12 responses to “Chic Wigs for September, 1927

  1. I saw a wig maker at work in a theater once–talk about patience. She said it took more than a week to make a good wig.

  2. Had no idea wigs were worn outside Hollywood in the 20’s & 30’s.
    Thank you!

    • I first saw a reference to chic Parisiennes wearing silver “transformations” here. The article by Celia Cole was published in January of 1925. I wrote about it in a two-part article about 1920s bobbed hair. I seeare ads for partial wigs in vintage magazines from time to time, too. A good book about fashions in hair and wigs is An Illustrated History of Hairstyles, by Marian I. Doyle.

      • Thank you for the details! I first realized wigs were worn whilst reading the Christie mystery, “Elephants Can Remember.”

      • Ah, there is nothing like paying attention to fashion details in a good, contemporaneous novel! Although I have trouble remembering that most of Jane Austen’s novels were published years after they were first written — so she may be describing the clothing and habits of the previous decades.

      • Good point about Austin! The tweak with Christie is the production company decided everything would be set in the 1930’s, but Christie kept up with the fashions of her day, and “Elephants” was published in 1972!

      • So I guess I should read it instead of seeing it?

      • Depends on what you’re looking for. 😉 1930’s fashion = watch it; accuracy in plot = read it. Some of the scripts are very different from what she wrote.

  3. Love the Sean Connery photo! Yes, that is worthy of comment. The maker was so smart in not making that forward brush too thick, so you get a hint of scalp throughout. My hubby, an actor as well, started balding in his early 30s, stretching back on either side from a widows peak. I taught myself to ventilate wig fronts so that he could wear period hairstyles with natural looking fronts. For actors with hair in the front hairline, you can also do what I did in a show where I wore a dark chestnut wig (I’m a dirty blond), I cut some thin bangs on my own hair, and used temporary dye combed into it before each show. Then curled it with an electric rod and frizzed some of it over the wig front. Looked really natural!
    Thanks for this post — I didn’t know women in that era wore wigs outside of stage and screen either!

  4. Pingback: How to Marcel: Video | witness2fashion

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