So, let’s say you have hair like this:

And you want to wear short wigs like this:

Unless you’re one of those dolls with retractable hair, it seems impossible, right?

Nope! It’s actually pretty easy to hide your hair under a wig, even if it’s long or unruly. At cosplay panel Q&As, we frequently get questions about how to deal with long hair and wigs, so we made this tutorial to share our technique!

This method works best for hair that is shoulder-length or longer. (For shorter hair, pincurling is often the best option for putting hair up under wigs.)

Click on the thumbnails to view the step-by-step images.

Baseline:  My hair is a little over three feet long — long enough to be sat on, slammed in car doors, and other aggravations.  ^_^;  However, this method should work equally well for anyone with hair long enough to braid (usually at least shoulder-length).  Make sure your hair is combed out and completely dry before you start.

If your hair is naturally frizzy or very coarse, you may find it helpful to apply extra conditioner to make it a little more limp and compliant under the wig. Laura’s hair (at right) is extremely thick and coarse, and she uses a heavy conditioner to deflate it before wearing a wig. (However, you’ll need some friction for your wig cap to stay in place, so if you have fine hair, be careful not to over-condition it!)

Begin by dividing the hair into two equal sections and braiding it, starting a braid behind each ear.  Keep the braids very loose so that they can easily be shifted around, spread out, or mashed flat as needed.  Tight braids will create lumps under the wig.

If you have unusually thick or wavy hair, you may want to divide your hair into four braids instead of two.  Just make sure that the braids don’t overlap when you wrap them around your head; overlapping braids also creates lumps!

Pull one braid across the back of the head to the opposite side, and wrap it as far as possible over the top of the head. Pull the braid tight across the scalp, then secure it in place with hair pins (not bobby pins!). The pin tips should point back toward the base of the braid, so it can’t slide back around your head. I like to alternate pins on either side of the braid, at about a 45-degree angle to the center, as well as put a few pins down the middle of the braid for extra grip.

If your braids are thick, pull the twists apart slightly (this is why we keep our braids loose!) and spread the hair out to the sides to make it flatter to the scalp. Use enough pins that the braid is secure and will not shift even if you shake your head.  The braids will be used to anchor your wig in place, so you don’t want them to come loose or move around!

As a reminder:

Hair pins work sort of like straight pins in fabric: They have to change direction when going through the hair in order to be secure. Put the tips of the hair pin through the braid facing one direction, pick up some of the hair on the scalp, then reverse direction and push the pin all the way in. Here’s a helpful video tutorial for how to use hair pins.

Next, repeat the wrap and pin process with the other braid.  Be sure that the braids lie flat next to each other at the top of your head, rather than crossing over each other.  If you have a tuft of loose hair at the end of the braid, tuck it under another section of hair and pin it in place so there is no risk of it poking out from under the wig.

Depending on the shape and cut of your wig, you may want to wrap the braids in different places; for example, pinning them toward the front of your scalp will create more lift in the front of your wig, but may make the edge of the wig (especially lacefronts) pull up over your hairline. Placing more of the braid at the base of the skull is a good way to hide bulk under a long, full wig. When I wear super-short wigs (like the ones at the top of the page), I have to coil more of my hair at the back of my crown, so the braids don’t distort the wefts with super-short hair lower down toward the neck. Try on your wigs with the braids in different places and see which placement looks best for each style.

You can also use your natural hair to augment your wig shape.  When I cosplay Zelgadiss (at right), I coil my hair into Princess Leia-esque buns to make the wig puff out more on the sides, so it extends beyond the pointed ears. When you are pinning your braids, keep this in mind, and make sure your hair goes where it will be most helpful — or least detrimental — to your wig style.

When both braids are pinned securely in place, it’s time for a wig cap.  Stretch the wig cap over all of your hair, tuck in any loose strands, then work the edges of the cap back up to your hairline. If your hair is very fluffy, you may want to double up on wig caps to mash it down flatter.

It’s also helpful to experiment with different ways of putting your wig cap on. Depending on how your braids are pinned, it may be easier to slip it on back-to-front or front-to-back.

If you’re going to be putting on makeup or costume pieces before your wig, you may want to pin the wig cap in place so it can’t move around before you’re ready to put your wig on.  You can push hair pins through the wig cap directly into the braids, or slide bobby pins over the edges of the wig cap to hold it in place.

Once your wig cap is on and you’ve finished all costume and makeup prep, put on your wig. Stretch the wig elastic all the way around the braids on the side and back of your head. To secure the wig, lift up a section of wig hair to expose the cap mesh or elastic underneath, then insert a few hair pins through the cap and into the braids. Do this in several places over the crown and around the edges of the wig. The longer or heavier your wig is, the more pins you should use to keep it from sliding. (For very back-heavy wigs, you may also want to sew combs or toupee clips into the front of your wig.) If your braids are properly anchored to your scalp, this should keep your wig on even while you run around a con or turn cartwheels!

…And here is the final result, for comparison.  In less than 10 minutes, three feet of hair has been replaced with a short, cosplay-suitable style, which can stay there securely for the next 14 hours if desired!