13 essential tools for a colonial wigmaker

See how well-coiffed colonists’ wigs are fashioned in Colonial Williamsburg with curling irons that look like tongs and horsehair for tresses.

The tools and fashions of 18th-century wigmaking are replicated in the living history museum at Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia.
Photograph by REBECCA HALE

Imagine a forefather establishing a colony or organizing a government without his favorite powdered wig. Impossible, right? The hairstyles of 18th-century America live on at Colonial Williamsburg, a history museum in Virginia. There, wigmaker Debbie Turpin and an apprentice fashion new dos using hand-sewn wefts of hair and maintain wigs worn by their fellow costumed interpreters. As she describes the tools of her trade, Turpin mentions delivering a wig to the Marquis de Lafayette (or rather, the interpreter channeling the French aristocrat). Her job is unique, Turpin knows: “You won’t find a shop like ours anywhere else in the country.”

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