Confession time: I have a bit of a wig collection. One of the reasons I started working on the Natasha Romanoff cosplay was that I knew I had an old wig that was close in style and color to her hair in Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron. Maybe a tiny bit shorter and fluffier, but still a lot better than the average costume wig for Black Widow. I had about two weeks to prepare for my little cosplay presentation, so I wanted to keep the costume really simple and base it on items that I already had. I had the brown leather jacket from Captain America: The Winter Soldier and I had quickly made the arrow necklace for that costume. Her hair in that film is still about the same color, but it’s straight, so I had a bit of a olloilemma there, if I wanted to be accurate.
Ideally, I wanted an inexpensive wig in the right style and color, preferably with front lace. I had never bought anything from Aliexpress, but I found something fairly reasonably priced there and decided to try to get it quickly by paying for express shipping. The item page said the wigs were in stock and available in a day or two. Thing is though, some of the vendors on Aliexpress are not trustworthy…some of them aren’t even there. What happened was that the vendor didn’t seem interested in fulfilling my order and Aliexpress just refunded my money after about two weeks. I got a free lesson and if I ever decide I want to buy anything there again, I’ll make sure to have low expectations and to be very careful checking the recent sales history of the vendor.
Meanwhile, I ordered a cheap Winter Soldier style Black Widow wig from Ebay. It didn’t arrive in time for the presentation and while it was an OK wig for the price (about 14€ including shipping), the color wasn’t quite the right. The wig was quite heavy (thick fibers and way too much hair too), making it feel somewhat unnatural and difficult to keep off the face. Somehow it often reminds me of Cousin It. For the presentation, I used the old wig.
The Right Color
Wig colors are described using code numbers. The numbers vary a little bit depending on where the fiber is from, but they give a reasonably good idea of the color. Unfortunately color isn’t as simple as just one number. If you have ever shopped for wigs online, you’ll know that the sample photos and hair color swatches on websites can be really inaccurate. This link is to a chart where the reds look pretty accurate to me. Most wigs feature more than just one fiber color. They might be frosted, tipped, rooted, ombré, etc…
For the Natasha Romanoff in Avengers, the closest single color on the wig charts is probably 130 (a copper red) or a 28 (golden red). Single color wigs generally do not look all that great, so in this case, I would probably try to get a fairly classic mix of 33 and 130, which will usually be called 33/130. The Winter Soldier style wig that I got from eBay was actually a 27, and a 27 with no highlights or other colors added tends to look a bit dull – it’s a light auburn or strawberry blond and not a rich auburn like it really should be for agent Romanoff. So while 27 isn’t exactly right, it’s not entirely wrong either and it can work in combination with slightly richer/darker reds. The old wig that I already had is a 32D and it’s is another light auburn and it’s pretty close, but maybe a tiny bit too light – possibly because that wig has some highlights too. 33 on the other hand is a dark auburn and it’s too dark on its own for the Avengers look. For the Iron Man 2 look, I would definitely want something with 33 in it, combined with something a bit “browner”. 33/32C from Revlon and Dark Red from Envy are both extremely beautiful colors, but probably darker and deeper than the hair in Avengers.
Color depends a lot on lighting. If you take a random reference photo of Scarlett Johansson in Avengers, the hair could look anything from brown to burgundy to light auburn. In addition to the light, there’s a ton of processing done on the image as well before you get to see it.
Style Matters Too
Costume wigs are inexpensive, but they generally do not look very convincing. As far as I know, Scarlett Johansson was wearing a wig for Winter Soldier and is wearing one in Civil War. High end wigs can look absolutely like real hair, but they are expensive. For an anime/manga cosplay, I think it makes sense for the hair to look fake, as long as it looks fake in the right way, if you know what I mean. For a cosplay based on an actual person (actress in a film), I think it’s better if the wig looks at least a bit like real hair.
There’s an interesting divide between wigs made primarily for white women suffering from hair loss (often because of chemotherapy or alopecia) and wigs made for African American women. Synthetic wigs of the former type typically cost between $100 to $400 whereas African American wig brands (like Freetress) tend to sell for between $20 to $80. The styles are different and the African American wigs are much more likely to come in more extreme color blends – I think they are marketed as fashion items and thus priced accordingly.
I wasn’t 100% happy with the Dolly Parton Daydream wig I already had – it was close, but not perfect. So while I was on a business trip and couldn’t work on crafting anything for the costume, I spent some of my free time to look for better options. I saw a Freetress Channing in a wig shop and it looked promising, so I looked at some other Freetress wigs and found Tammi and Sammi. These are all very affordable lace front wigs and I think the Sammi in particular is a pretty good style match for the Avengers Black Widow. Unfortunately the color range is a restricted and most of the colors are “ombré”, because it’s so fashionable right now. I had to choose between OP27 (near black roots and not red enough) and 530 (a near-burgundy red, but a solid color). The color is a burgundy red, which makes it darker and more blue-toned than I would like, but the style is nice and reminds me of the first BW scene in Avengers where she is tied up to a chair. The color is closer to the hair color in Iron Man 2. It’s Futura fiber, so it can be styled with heat. I tweaked the part a little bit and tried to mess with the curl a bit too, but I’m not sure I changed it all that much.
Freetress Sammi is the wig I used for Halloween. I tried the old Dolly Parton and the Sammi with the costume and the Sammi immediately felt like the better choice. It got quite a few compliments too.
Some time after Halloween, I bought the Envy Brittaney wig in dark red. It’s a new wig introduced for fall 2015 and it has apparently been super popular. I bought the dark red color because darker colors tend to look better on me. It’s quite possible that the lighter red would have been a better match. The wig is a bit lot longer than what you would want for Black Widow in Avengers or A-AoU, but I did a quick photosession last night with the full costume and trying on various wigs and found that the Brittaney was only slightly too long and actually looked great. For now, that’s my best wig for Natasha now. It looks natural and the color is nice.
I’m focusing on the first Avengers film costume & look, so I’m still kind of hunting for a great wig. There’s a customized lace front wig available on Etsy, but I’m not quite sold on it. The style seems very similar to the Sammi, but the color is probably more accurate. Having discovered how well the Brittaney works for me, I think I’m OK for a bit now. Having someone cut the Brittaney a tiny bit shorter is also an option.
Captain America: Civil War
Based on the trailer and photos, Black Widow’s hair is longer again in Civil War and it’s a more brownish red than before. Just last summer, I bought a wig that seems extremely close to the Civil War style: Christie Brinkley’s Editor’s Choice. I have the HT3025S+, which is what was used in the brochure photoshoot for that wig. It is a red color, but it’s fairly subtle. The HT3329S+ would be a more pronounced red (probably a good color choice for Avengers & AoU). The HT829S+ could also be a good color to match Civil War. The color codes may look a bit odd, but I think they can be broken down to 30/25, 33/29 and 8/29 fiber combinations. It’s a very natural-looking wig. Comparing with the trailer footage, Editor’s Choice probably isn’t quite as full-bodied as the wig that Scarlett Johansson is wearing for Civil War. The curls are very similar (+you could add more because the wig is heat-friendly) and the length looks about right too.
One thing to note about the photos of the wigs on the wig head is that the wig head is a bit on the small side, so the wigs look a little bit longer on it. For example the Dolly Parton Daydream looks like like the right length and the Envy Brittaney looks way too long, but in reality the Daydream is slightly short and the Brittaney is only slightly too long. I felt I could do a better job comparing the wigs by photographing them on something neutral, using a flash. In dim indoor lighting conditions the colors do not look this vivid.
You can find Black Widow makeup (Scarlett Johansson style) tutorials on Youtube. It’s a relatively easy makeup to do, although most people do not have Scarlett’s pouty lips, so the lips are probably the trickiest part.
The usual concealer, base and powder go on first. I use Kryolan liquid concealer, Max Factor Panstick makeup and a Mary Kay loose powder + a Maybelline powder compact for a few spots. For eye makeup, I use golden brown tones with lighter color on the inside and darker shading near the outer corners. I apply a black eyeshadow with a 00-sized artist brush by dipping the brush in water and using the eyeshadow as a sort of watercolor. The lower lid just gets a bit of kohl pencil on the surface above the lashes. I think I’m still not using enough brow pencil on the eyebrows – at least in photos is looks like the brows could be even more sharply defined. Mascara is important, but I have been skipping the eyelash curler just to be a bit faster with the makeup.
On the lips, I use a relatively neutral lip liner to line the lips well outside their natural line, especially on the upper lip. I then use two different pink lipsticks on top of that. A bit of blush and I’m done. No contouring or other fancy stuff, although I bet a makeup pro would do a far better job than I can (and I think Scarlett Johansson has one available for the films).
I have an outline for part 10, but it’s not a complete article yet. I was hoping to get comments or feedback on the articles posted so far, but I guess I haven’t found an audience quite yet. So, there might be a part 10 in the future and then more updates, but this is the last pre-written blog article that was posted on the hectic 4 articles per week schedule. I received fabric samples this week and patterns recently and I also bought a basic 3D printer, so I haven’t been idle.
If you have been reading & enjoying these articles, thank you for reading!