Sunday, November 18, 2012

Making the Gache

I've never worked with wigs or false hair before so this was hugely fun to put together as it involved a lot of experimenting! Am really quite pleased with the results.

I got synthetic hair from Doctored Locks; they provide really good information about the various types and traits of synthetic hair on their website and their service and shipping were excellent too. I purchased nine bags of Kanekalon jumbo braid in the end, since it was loose hair that could easily be used for braiding, and the best part is, the hair comes in 48 inch lengths, which was excellent for making the huge gache braids.The jumbo braid brand is Sensationnel.

Here is how the hair looks like: 


While the hair is really voluminous, the texture is quite rough. It has the qualities of Afro-hair; the fibres are slightly wavy and they get tangled easily. This makes the hair very suitable for making dreadlocks (which is what most people use it to do), but it wasn't ideal for making the gache which has smooth, not frizzy, braids. I thought then that the hair could not be used and I should have ordered the Silky Straight Kanekalon instead, which I'd initially decided against because it looked ridiculous shiny and reminded me of cheap Halloween wigs.

Once again, Google saved the day. Hoping that a dreadlock enthusiast would have discovered some method of manipulating hair fibre I could use to salvage the jumbo braids, I stumbled across this blog that recommends straightening the jumbo braid with steam heat.

I'm so amazed it worked like magic! Here is the texture of the hair after steaming (apparently there is a special steamer for working with synthetic hair, but I used a normal clothes iron): 

The texture is perfect; not too shiny like the Silky Straight, but still carrying a nice gleam. It is smooth but not excessively to the point of slipping out of the bundle, and the hair still does get tangled once in a while. My iron was on the Synthetic heat setting, with maximum steam. Be careful not to set it any hotter than synthetic, or the hair will burn with a horrible smell. I divided the jumbo braid into a few sections of hair and ironed directly over the fibres in one direction. Iron till all the fibres have loosened up and appear silky. It takes about 4-5 presses per side of the hair bundle. Don't let the iron rest for too long on any one section, or the hair fibres might break.

Three hours of ironing later, I finally finished all nine bags of hair. Six bags make these three huge bundles: 

I then braided them into one thick braid. That's a 60cm rule besides it for reference.

After which, the fun begins. You can twist it in different ways to create any design you want; or if you have more hair to spare, you can make several thick braids and braid them around each other to create more complex hairstyles. According to this extremely well-researched hanbok costumer, such braids were used as wigs in the mid-Jeoseon period, and were called darae (다래?).

This painting below by Jeong Myoungjo was the inspiration for my wig design:

There are two main parts to the hairstyle: the huge chignon at the back of the head, and the pile of braids at the top. For the chignon, I braided two jumbo braids into my hair to make a very long pigtail, then twisted the pigtail into a big bun, securing it with pins.

For the huge braid on top (I will call it the top braid for convenience), I twisted the long braid made made from six bags of hair, and tied the ends together. I'm really not sure how else one can hide the ends of the wig in the gache, but what I did then was to wrap another small braid around the end of the braid, and tie a ribbon around where there is an unsightly joint:


I wish I'd bought more hair so that I could make a bigger wig! As it is I am quite satisfied, but I'll be sure to order more from Doctored Locks in my next purchase.

And here are the accessories I bought from a few sources:

From L-R: Etsy; the middle two are from eBay for a ridiculous price of 3.50 each! Painted them gold with an acrylic marker; Sonjjang, modified to match my hanbok colours.

And here is the final hairdo:

I think in retrospect:
1. Braids need to be bigger :) I now completely understand why these wigs were eventually banned in Korea; my braid required so much hair and already was quite a pain to carry around. Song Hye Kyo's apparently weighed 5kg in the movie.

2. Some hair fibres tend to shift out of the braids or break and fray after some time. Is there any way of keeping them in place? I tried hair wax and hair spray, but both didn't seem to work. (See the small loop of hair at the top of the wig in the first picture for an example.)

3. The braids could perhaps have been more loosely braided. But that possibly depends on the amount of hair again, because the strands might fall out if the braids are too loose, and the wig will lack volume. Either way there are so many more variations to try, so much more to experiment!


Are there better methods of ending the braids or joining the hair pieces together? Perhaps boiling to heat seal the ends? I'm sure there are better modern or professional methods out there, like how there are braids mounted on stands (see my previous post about hair), or better ways of attaching the braids to the head than with the humble bobby pin. I would love to hear from you if you have any tips to share!  

Culture Content and this blog have been invaluable in helping me put together the hairpiece. Do check them out.


  1. Hi!
    I found this image of a 19th century wig that might help answer the question of how they ended the braid:
    But that doesn't entirely explain how they then hid the large, wrapped end?

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