Having a wig that fits you well can make or break your day at a convention. It’s also super helpful for cutting and styling because your wig will look more like real hair if it sits right on your head!
In this tutorial, I’ll show you how I measure my head and my wigs to ensure a perfect fit.
Before You Cut & Style Your Wig…
To prevent bad surprises, I recommend styling your wig on a foam head or wig block that is your size (head circumference).
If the foam head is smaller than your own head, you’ll need to stretch the wig more while you style it! Stuff the wig with crumpled paper until it is stretched to the right size, then secure the edge with pins all along the hairline.
When you buy a wig, pay attention to its length, cut and style. The total length is measured in cm or inches from the crown to the hair tips. Many wigs are trimmed and pre-styled into a fashionable, layered cut, so the top layers will be shorter than the total length. Take this into account if you’re attempting a particular style, like long spikes or a ponytail.
Measure Your Wig
When you buy a new wig, always try it on first to make sure it fits your head. For a more precise result, determine the size of the wig and compare it to your own head size. To take the wig’s measurements, turn it inside out.
A – Head circumference
Place your tape measure at the middle of the front hairline, there’s usually a center front seam on the inside of the top. Stretch the wig and hold the other end of the tape to the center back at the nape of the neck. There’s an elastic band running from top to bottom that you can use as a guideline.
Multiply the number by 2 and you’ll have the maximum head circumference that the wig will fit. It should always be stretched slightly when it’s sitting on the head. Make sure it has a snug fit but still feels comfortable.
Measure Your Head
Put up your hair and put on a wig cap. It is important that you measure over the cap, especially if you have a lot of hair. If you’re having trouble fitting your hair under a wig, read this tutorial!
A – Head circumference
With a sewing tape measure, measure your head circumference at the widest point. Place the tape at the hairline in the front and a little above the natural hairline in the back, where your skull bulges out.
From my years as a wig commissioner, I’ve learned that the average head circumference is 56cm (22″) but the range is about 53–64cm (21–25″) for an adult. Note that if you have a large head or thick, long hair, some wigs may be too small on you.
B – Chin Length
Place one end of the tape measure on the crown of your head, where the center parting would be. Measure over the side of the head, past the ear, to chin level. Straight down, just like straight hair would fall. Do not curve the tape over the cheeks and towards the chin.
C – Shoulder Length
Same as B, but extend the tape measure to shoulder level. Let it fall straight down to the shoulder bone.
D – Bangs
Measure from the front hairline to the eyebrow.
The proportions of the mannequin may be misleading, so before you cut a wig, mark the desired length with pins on the foam head. This will save you from accidentally cutting it too short!
In addition to the head circumference, it can be helpful to know the length and width of your head as well. Compare your own measurements to those of the (slightly stretched) wig.
E – Ear to Ear
Measure from the hairline above the ear, over the crown of the head, to the other ear. (Not around the back of the head)
F – Front to Back
Measure from the front hairline to the hairline in the nape of the neck, over the center back of your head (the longest way).
E and F are particularly important for ponytail wigs, updos and short cuts close to the hairline.
If your wig is too long over the ears, the reinforced “ear flaps” will cover your ears, which can be uncomfortable and will also look funny if you’re wearing the hair cut short or tied back.
If your wig is too long in the back and doesn’t fit snugly over your skull, it will bulge, stick out at the hairline or slide off your head.
If your wig is too short in either dimension, it will not cover your hairline completely. You can sometimes cheat by leaving the hair a little longer to conceal your hairline. See my Tips for Wig Noobs!
Wigs that are too small can also cause a headache, so if you find wigs uncomfortable or painful to wear, it may be a sizing issue.
A Note on Wig Sizes
Wigs are stretchy in the back so that they can adjust to different head sizes. You can adjust the hooked elastic bands in the nape of the neck to make your wig tighter. However, one wig does not fit all! Wigs come in different sizes and if you have an above or below average sized head, buying and wearing wigs can be a challenge.
You can also sew your wig smaller or larger by shortening or extending the elastic bands that the wig foundation is made of.
For a step-by-step guide how to resize your wigs, check out my upcoming book “Wigs² – Level Up!”
If you find that wigs are often too big or too small on you, look out for sellers who carry wigs specifically in your head size, or ask the seller what sizes their wigs will fit. American and European brands often carry larger wigs that fit heads of 60cm circumference or more.
Note: Professional wig makers take even more measurements that are needed to make custom wigs for film or theatre productions. From my experience, the measurements A–F listed here are enough for most cosplay projects and to alter your store-bought wigs.