Cosmetology Students Transform Wigs For Heritage Days

"A group of cosmetology students were busy doing old-fashioned hairstyles Tuesday on "customers" who were quiet and uncomplaining throughout the process.

The students were with the Continental School of Beauty Culture transformed a number of wigs owned by the Allegany Area Historical Association to styles found 80 to 100 years ago.

The wigs will be placed on mannequins and head forms outfitted with antique clothing and hats during Allegany Heritage Days activities, Aug. 4-7, in downtown Allegany.

Francie Potter, president of the historical association, said that after the Olean Times Herald published an article requesting mannequins for the event, the organization received several donations of "dummies" as well as wigs.

"We had six wigs donated and eight to 10 that had been in our collection," Mrs. Potter said.

She soon realized that the mannequins needed proper hairdos to match their historic attire.

Her hairdresser suggested she call Continental to enlist their help in styling the wigs in turn-of-the-century and Depression-era styles. Instructors at Continental, located on North Barry Street, were more than happy to help out.

Rose Howard and Nicole Pauly, Continental instructors, said the timing for the request was perfect because the school was planning to teach the students how to work with wigs.

"We have a whole chapter on (wigs), such as how to care for them," Ms. Pauly said. "I think it’s real important for the students to get this kind of experience. In the real world they may have clients with cancer" who wear wigs.

Ms. Howard said the wigs from the historic society were a challenge for their students because they had to research the styles of the eras involved. The students also had to determine if the wigs were synthetic or real hair because they are treated differently during styling. In addition, the wigs had to be washed and prepped several days before they were styled.

"You can’t use a curling iron or anything that is really hot on synthetic hair," Ms. Howard explained. "On the real ones we could."

Through Internet research, the students learned that large curls, used on one wig, were the style during the Depression years of 1929 through the late 1930s. They also learned that an "up do" style for a bride at the turn of the century was not only beautiful, but a time-consuming procedure. Mrs. Potter said a mannequin with this wig would be used to display a wedding dress that had been worn by Mrs. Roy Bergreen who had lived in Allegany.

Ms. Potter said she was impressed with the work done by the students, as at least one of the wigs "looked like rat’s nest" when it was first brought in.

"It was amazing what they did," she said.

Student Julia Himes joked that she enjoyed working on the wigs, because the head forms were "a lot easier to work with, they don’t talk much."

Ms. Himes said she and some of the other students will likely visit the Heritage Days event to see what the outfitted mannequins look like.

Another student, Erica Barber, was found styling a wig with finger waves on a short-hair wig, a style that was popular in the 1920s. The waves were also time-consuming because each one is made from hair shaped over the beautician’s fingers using styling gel.

"It’s actually good practice because we have to do it on the state boards," Ms. Barber said.

The students also cut a boy’s hair style on a smaller wig. The wig will be placed on a mannequin that will display a pair of knickers that had belonged to George Hall. Mr. Hall, 103, currently lives in Allegany."

This article was first published on oleantimesherald.com.