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What Is a Fancy Dress Wig?

By Patti Kate
Updated May 17, 2024
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A fancy dress wig typically refers to a designer or costume wig, often worn for masquerade or Halloween parties and other events. A fancy dress wig may be available for men, women, and children, and made with various synthetic materials or natural hair. Costume wigs are often seen in bright colors, such as pink, blue or rainbow patterns. A fancy dress wig created for a masquerade party may also feature accessories, such as ribbons and bows, or sewn-on caps and hats. Designer wigs modeled after celebrity hairstyles are often created for impersonations and costume parties.

Additionally, a fancy dress wig may be designed in the likeness of a popular television character. Other wigs that resemble celebrity hairstyles include styles modeled after rock and pop artists. During the 1960s, a popular style of fancy dress wig was known as the Beatles wig. Beatles wigs were created to resemble haircuts worn by the world-famous musical icons, the Beatles. This brown wig featured a shaggy cut with bangs.

Colonial style dress wigs are used for costume parties with a 1700s theme. These styles of wigs are often worn with a George Washington or Betsy Ross costume. A man's black colonial hat with an attached ponytail wig resembles the hairstyles of America's founding fathers.

A headband and partial wig is another style found at many party outlets. Bendable braids may be glued to the headband. These styles are often worn by children and teenaged girls.

A style designed for costume parties may also include a bi-color fancy dress wig. The multi-color wig may be designed in various colors, such as red and blue, or black and gray. Most multi-color dress wigs feature straight, long hairstyles. Some party wigs are sold in sets that include a full dress costume.

Creating hand-sewn fancy dress wigs for Halloween can be accomplished with materials purchased at a craft store. For instance, a simple clown wig can be made using orange yarn that is adhered to a swimming cap. Longer or more elaborate wig styles can be store-bought, then embellished with glitter or sequins.

Not all fancy dress wigs are designed for costume parties or theatrical performances. Some fancy dress wigs are worn for personal enjoyment or even to enhance one's appearance. Wigs made from natural hair are often used by cancer patients who have lost their hair from chemotherapy treatments. These wigs are often referred to as chemotherapy wigs.

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Discussion Comments
By geekish — On Oct 09, 2011

The mention of the chemotherapy wigs made me think of this program to which I donated my long hair to when I had it cut short, as the program specifically made these type of wigs from donated hair.

I thought the program was great, because I think it gave me the impetus I needed to make a hair change after I had gotten used to the look of long hair.

I remember the first time I cut my hair to chin length and donated about thirteen or fourteen inches, the change in my look was so dramatic that the students at the local elementary school that I was working with did not recognize me!

The short hair was a lot of fun, and I don't know if I would have tried it if it hadn't been for that program.

By Saraq90 — On Oct 08, 2011

I love this time of year, one reason being that there are so many fancy dress wigs and costumes at so many different stores! I think a fancy dress wig can really make a costume complete.

For instance, I was a witch one Halloween, but didn't have a long black fancy dress wig, and so I just didn't look the part. But then another year I was Lucille Ball, one of my all-time favorite comedians, and I got me a red, curly, up-doed wig and a lot of people told me how much I looked like the late Lucille Ball!

I think you really have to feel the quality of the fancy dress wig, inside and out, before you make a purchase. Also I would recommend trying the wig on and wearing it for at least a few minutes before making your final decision. Some fancy dress wigs look great on the outside, yet feel horrible on the inside, and do not fit all head sizes correctly.

By indemnifyme — On Oct 08, 2011

@sunnySkys - That's a pretty good point.

One of my friends is a go-go dancer at a nightclub, and she wear dress wigs a lot. There is one reasonably-priced wig shop near her apartment she likes a lot. The wigs aren't as high-quality as you would want for serious every day wear, but they hold up to wear a few nights a week for a few months.

By sunnySkys — On Oct 07, 2011

I wore a dress wig for Halloween a few years ago and it was such a mistake! I got it for really cheap from a costume shop, and you could really tell.

It just wouldn't stay on my head properly, and it started falling apart halfway through the night! It was awful.

I wouldn't recommend spending a lot on a fancy dress wig, but at least get one that is medium quality. Even if you think you'll only wear it once, you never know when you may have another opportunity!

By popcorn — On Oct 06, 2011

My one friend has quite the collection of fancy dress wigs, and the only reason she has them is for fashion. She thinks it is really boring to always have the same hairstyle so she makes a point of keeping her own hair short so she can put on something lovely.

One of her best wigs has to be the one that turns her into a punk girl for the night. It is blue and black. I find it really interesting how she styles her wigs, because they never look the same way twice. I think her secret is buying wigs that are made from synthetic fibers and taking good care of them. All of her wigs are on display in her walk-in closet.

By manykitties2 — On Oct 06, 2011

If you are shopping for a fancy dress wig to go with your Halloween costume it is best to avoid costume stores and head straight online to the auction sites. The costume shops have really over-priced wigs in my opinion, especially for something you are only going to wear once, maybe twice.

There are some great deals on fancy dress wigs online and sometimes you can find them from as low as $20 for one that actually looks stylish. Just make sure you check out the seller's reviews so that you get a feel for the quality of the wig you are ordering.

By sunshined — On Oct 05, 2011

We have a friend who is a hairdresser, but also has a wig shop. She specializes in wigs for cancer patients who will lose their hair from their treatments.

She has very good quality of wigs that look and feel like the real thing. The only complaint I have heard from people who have to wear a wig for a long period of time is how bad they itch.

One of my friends who wore a wig when she went through her chemotherapy treatments only wore it when she was out in public. When she was home she never wore it because she got tired of the itching.

She found a wig color and style that closely resembled her own hair, and if you didn't know she didn't have any hair of her own, you would have never known she had a wig on.

By julies — On Oct 05, 2011

My son and his girlfriend wore fancy dress wigs to their football homecoming dance. They had a 70's theme for the party, so a lot of the kids wore clothes from the 70's.

They had a lot of fun putting their outfits together. She went with a tall blonde wig that sat high up on her head. My son choose a Beatles wig to wear. He also wore bell bottom pants and big platform shoes.

They were able to find all of their clothes at a costume shop. Their outfits were a lot of fun, but it was the wigs that really set them apart.

By jennythelib — On Oct 04, 2011

@dfoster85 - I think it is a British term. We in America seem to have just Halloween, but they have costume parties quite often. Remember all the flack over Prince Harry wearing a Nazi uniform? That was for some sort of themed costume party. And then there's the "Tarts and Vicars" party in Bridget Jones's Diary (where poor Bridget is the only one, except for one lonely vicar, who doesn't hear that the theme has been abandoned).

By dfoster85 — On Oct 03, 2011

I was confused the first few times I came across the term "fancy dress." It sounded to me like it would refer to a party where people got all dressed up - evening gowns, tuxes, etc. You know, dress clothes, and fancy ones at that!

But I eventually realized that it referred to a costume party. Traditionally, I think it meant one where people would where masks and you were not supposed to know who the other guests were. (King Henry VIII was particularly fond of them. People had to pretend not to know he was the king, even though he was a head taller than everyone else and, of course, quite fat later in life.)

Is this a British term? Is that why it sounds so odd to me?

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