Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wig Review: Paris Hilton Bandit Fall

Posted by Ask Chavi at 8:22 AM 0 comments
When I was at Sally's Beauty a few weeks ago picking up wig clips I saw that they had synthetic Paris Hilton wigs on sale for $15.  I decided to buy one.  It came with three patterned headbands and one plain black headband.  The wigs came in eight colors and in three lengths.  The fiber is supposedly heat safe to around 200 fahrenheit, but I have not tested styling with heat yet.  I would say that the wig is somewhere between a 3/4 and 1/2 cap in terms of size.  I like that the front has a large comb, which helps to keep it securely in place.  As for the bands, they have velcro on them which allows them to attach to the front of the Paris Hilton Bandit.  If I decide to not use them with the Bandit, I will probably remove the velcro from them and then they will be like normal headbands.  As I state in the video, $15 is not a terrible price for four headbands, so since it was on sale I decided it was a worthwhile purchase.  The retail price seemed to be $40, and I would not spend that much on this product, but perhaps a normal synthetic wearer would like it.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Cute Video about buying Custom Wigs

Posted by Ask Chavi at 12:12 PM 4 comments

The point of the video is to distinguish between the two types of "custom wigs" that exist in today's industry. One is the true custom, which is made to order with a custom made cap created to fit the customer's head exactly and made to specification including hair color, texture and thickness.

The out of box custom, or "semi-custom" is used to describe pre-made wigs which mimic the high end features of a true custom wig, but are not actually made to order. Often wig salons will add highlights or low-lights, adjust the cap size either through sewing or stretching and make other modifications. Unfortunately many of these pre-made wigs cost $2000-$4000.  I suspect that throwing in the word "custom" justifies wig shops and sheitel machers to sell these wigs at such a high price tag. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Band Fall Bump Phenomenom

Posted by Ask Chavi at 11:31 AM 8 comments
Lately there has been a lot of buzz in the Orthodox Jewish world over the band fall bump phenomenon.  You may ask, what is this phenomenon she speaks of?  Well to be more clear, integrating ones bangs (or fringe) with a band fall to create a more natural look.  The reason that clipping bangs over a wig is so risque is because in the "mainstream" orthodox world (think typical Brooklyn yeshivish) it is seen as unacceptable to show any hair.  Therefore, full sheitels have become the preferred hair covering because they cover ALL of the hair, they are more secure than a hat or scarf and less likely to blow off, and the women will feel more comfortable covering their hair in a society where most women go bareheaded. Wigs are often associated with only being worn by hasidic or ultra orthodox Jews, however this concept has certainly changed in America in the past 20 years.  However, in Israel, wigs are almost exclusively associated with haredim (ultra-orthodox Jews).

Back to the point...  Now we have a group of married Jewish women, covering their hair with wigs but purposely leaving out a few inches in the front.   A generation ago very few Modern Orthodox women covered their hair at all.  If they did, they most likely covered partially with either a hat or a half scarf.  But the new generation of modern Orthodox women is rediscovering the laws of hair covering AND working in professional careers that require a polished look.  Showing the bangs, or the front two inches of the hairline is justified under the idea that a woman is allowed to show a square tefach (hand breadth) of hair. (some rabbis allow, ask your LOR)  Thus we get the bump fall look! or the styled forward bangs with headband look.

The second interesting trend is the appearance of toppers or kippah falls in the Jewish world.  Since toppers are worn over ones hair when down, they certainly reveal more than a tefach of hair.  BUT, there are a whole group of religious women who cover their head in such a fashion. They always have a hat or scarf on but the rest of their hair will be showing.  (some rabbis allow, ask your LOR).  Thus, the topper allows them to have a head covering on, but look "normal" if needing to attend a wedding or go to work without being stared at. 

Alright, so lets see some pictures!!!  The blond in this picture is doing the bump.  A bunch of the wigs in this picture are actually placed a few millimeters behind the hairline for a more natural look....  And here is my lovely "perfect match" bump. 

My Lovely Bump

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Raffaele Mollica Wig Video

Posted by Ask Chavi at 10:33 PM 3 comments
Raffaele Mollica, aka owner of Ralph Wigs has a very interesting video posted on his site about his custom wigs. To watch it go to and then click on the video link which is the bottom link on the bottom left of his site.

He talks about blending colors to create a natural look, creating a realistic skin top, and why the finer European hair is so desirable and hard to get. After watching the video I realized how much time and detail it must take to individually knot each hair onto the caps. Wow its impressive. His wigs are known for being in the extremely high end and expensive.

He was mentioned in a 1997 NY Times Article which can be read here.

I have never actually known anyone who actually owns a Ralph and would be interested to hear if any of my readers own or have ever owned one and whether it was worth all that money.  I was definitely impressed by his artistic approach to wig making shown in the video.  Seeing his custom work gives me a warm fuzzy feeling inside that a machine sewn wefted wig just doesn't provide...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Wefted versus Handtied Wigs

Posted by Ask Chavi at 12:09 PM 2 comments
Hi Chavi,
thank you for your wonderful website!
could you please tell me how to determine if the construction of a shaitel is well made? i recently saw a shaitel that looked nice on but felt a little bit too light to me. i have a lot of hair, so some wigs that are thinner feel cheap to me, but the shaitel macher was trying to convince me this is a good thing. so the construction of her wigs was basically a horizontal line of hair, an inch-or two of space and another line of hair. is that normal?? my shevy is not like that at all, it seems to be just hair coming from every point of the cap, there aren't any "lines" or "spaces"
is that the reason shevy is so expensive? more hair?
is that the reason my shevy knots so much?
what should i do, im afraid of buying a shaitel that doesn't feel full, it makes me doubt how long it will last..
your insight will be greatly appreciated !

Dear Y,
Thank you for your questions. First, let me explain about the two types of cap construction. It sounds like your Shevy is "handtied" which means the hairs are not sewn into rows (or wefts) but rather individually weaved throughout the holes of the cap. This cap construction is usually considered "better" because these caps are stretchier and more comfortable and the hairs can be placed in individual directions. Here is a picture of a handtied wig from a Shevy review I wrote earlier this year.  They are also usually custom sewn to fit your exact head shape. 

Wefts of Hair
The sheitel she was showing you was "wefted" which means its construction consists of various wefts of hair (pictured on left) that are sewn in rows usually a few centimeters apart.  The tops of these wigs usually have a "hand tied" section that allows the sheitel to have a multidirectional skin top.  There are two types of wefts: open and closed.  I have owned both types (my Milanos were open wefts and my Freeda and JAP fall had closed wefts.  Both have their advantages (I was able to itch my head in between an open weft before).  However, it is possible that if a open wefted sheitel is thin enough that ones real hair could actually show through.  This would only happen in rare cases though. 

Closed Wefts
Wefted does not necessarily mean thinner.  I have owned very thick wefted wigs.  It sounds like the particular piece you were shown is thin.  My JAP fall was wefted and very thin( please refer to my JAP Review).  The advantage to the thinness was that the wig was light and therefore more comfortable (I could barely feel it on my head).  However if you like the look of really thick hair, then a thicker, heavier sheitel would be more appropriate for you.

Open Wefts
Another disadvantage to wefted wigs is that the hairs have to be sewn in one direction (which is usually down).  The problem is that since the hair is headed downward it would look less natural if one tried to pull it into a low pony and could actually be hard to pull into a twist or high pony.  Pony Sheitels are actually made so that the wefts on the bottom of the sheitel are heading upward so it would make a more natural pony.  I have some friends who wear their pony sheitels down without problems.  Also, when a sheitel macher washes an open wefted wig they often have to flip sections of wefted hair that may have become twisted through normal wear.  One who is not careful about untwisting sections could cause more problems.

The reason your Shevy was so expensive is because it was handsewn, versus wefted wigs which are machine sewn.  Secondly, you were paying for Shevy customer service, which usually means that they will fix any problems that arise naturally within a reasonable amount of time.  Also, Shevy supposedly uses unprocessed European Hair (this is not confirmed) but they at least have more quality assurance in terms of picking "good hair" that is shiny, soft and silky. They have a reputation to uphold in a very competitive market.

I think there are great wefted wigs available that are good quality.  For example, even the Shuly wig reviewed on my site is made of closed wefts, as is my Freeda.  Since wefted wigs are machine sewn, they are arguably more durable in the long run.  Also, a handtied wig requires much more care and attention when being washed.  It is absolutely vital that it is washed by a trained professional or that the owner receives guidance from the manufacturer on how to properly wash and set it.  If the wefts of hair are sewn in properly (cuticle in the same direction) there should be minimal knotting.  It is possible that the hand tied cap could be causing the Shevy knotting, as knotting is the most common complaint with Shevys, but it could also attributed to some other cause perhaps the hair texture.  Keep in mind that custom handtied wigs are usually $3000-4000 and a "out of box" machine sewn "custom" usually runs for about $1500-2500 if it is made of European Hair. 

My advice, look for a thicker wefted sheitel (they do exist!).  Also, make sure there is some kind of guarantee in case the wig you buy ends up being defective.  In terms of hand tied wigs lasting longer... usually its the skin tops that thin first, necessitating the need for a new wig, not the back part that is wefted.  Handtied vs. machine shouldn't affect the life of the sheitel since they both have multiirectional skin tops.  FYI hair can be added to a thinning skin top to extend its life.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Short Movie about Buying a European Wig

Posted by Ask Chavi at 9:16 AM 6 comments
In this video our wig consumer gets no direct answers to her questions about the wig she is trying on...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Car Seat Recommendation

Posted by Ask Chavi at 2:26 PM 0 comments
I bought a basic Graco Snugride when my baby was born with the base and it worked great.  My only complaint with it was that it did not have the tightening strap, though most Graco models now come with that feature.  My Snugride weight limit is 29 inches and the weight limit is 22 pounds.  The manual also says to make sure that there is 2 inches of spare space between the top of your baby's head and the top of the seat.  This became a problem when I happened to have a tall baby.  By her four month appointment she was nearly 26 inches tall and I knew it was time to start researching a stage two car seat. 

I decided to go with the Britax Roundabout 55.  I am sure there are plenty of other wonderful car seats but I didn't have a lot of patience to learn about them all.  Britax has a great reputation and the seat has 3 seat recline position, one of which allows the seat to go rear facing.  The Roundabout is the basic Britax car seat, and retails for $199.99, but I found it online for $159.99  They also make the Marathon, Boulevard and Advocate, which have higher weight limits and more padding including their advertised "true side impact protection" but are also much pricier.

I love that the Roundabout has pads on the shoulder straps and the convenient tightening strap which easily lets you loosen the slack to unload your baby and tightens after securing your baby.  After watching some online videos of proper car seat fitting on the internet I realized how important it is to have no slack in the child harness and am happy that I can tighten each time she rides.  The Roundabout also has a rubbery material on the bottom of the seat which prevents sliding.  I test the seat with a lot of force and the seat does not slide around.  It is pretty simple to change the strap height, but it does require re-weaving the harnesses.  The Roundabout can be installed with latch or seat belt.

The only downsides of moving my child out of her infant car seat is that I can no longer "snap and go" with her.  Every time we go on an errand I have to open her harness, remove her and then put her back afterward.  Sometimes it gets annoying.  Also, if she is sleeping I have to wake her up whereas babies can stay sleeping in their infant car seats and moved without trouble.  The third problem is that stage 2 car seats do not have the convenient sunshade so I had to get window shades for my back windows.  Depending on the time of day and angle of the sun, the light can still shine in her eyes.  However, once she got to 15 pounds it became really heavy to lug her and her car seat out of the car.  So its debatable which was more annoying to deal with.  The good news is that this seat will turn to forward facing and has a forward facing limit of 55 pounds which should last her a long time.  Additionally, the rear facing limit is 40 pounds.  A lot of states are recommending leaving babies rear facing past 1 year old (they are suggesting until 2!) and this high weight limit would allow me to do that.

If I had bought a larger infant car seat initially like the Snugride 35 I could have kept her in an infant carrier longer, since its height limit is 35 pounds and 32 inches.  BUT the car seat itself is 16.7 pounds.  That means if I had a 20 pound baby I would be lugging almost 40 pounds if I attempted to "snap and go" with it.  So ultimately, The Roundabout should last my child for a long time and work nicely in forward facing mode when we get there...

Monday, November 1, 2010

Synthetic Wigs?

Posted by Ask Chavi at 7:06 PM 1 comments
What is the deal with synthetic wigs? Why are they so cheap? How do they compare to human hair?? In the video below I discuss a $30 synthetic that I bought on Ebay.

The color of the wig turned out to be very different from how it appeared in the listing. However, I still enjoyed trying it on and I may wear it some night soon. 
Original Listing
I think synthetics are a great way to try out a new color, hairstyle, length or texture.  So many of us spend a lot of money on a wig only to realize later that we hate how we look in it.  More information in my 8 minute video... LOL i get carried away!

Anyway, I bought the wig from Ebay seller fashion1658.  It shipped immediately after payment and arrived promptly.  

What are your thoughts on synthetics?? 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Good Sheitel - Gone Bad

Posted by Ask Chavi at 10:14 AM 12 comments
I am sure many of you have been frustrated with the following scenario:  You find a gorgeous looking piece in a wig shop, you try it on and decide to  buy it.  You get a fantastic cut and the sheitel macher styles it beautifully.  Then a few months later you realize it has lost its lusther, that it is literally falling apart.  Here are some pictures from my own experience.

My Milano was purchased in 2007.  It became necessary to buy a new sheitel when it started looking like the second picture just a year later.  I paid $1100 for the sheitel which is a lot considering how quickly its quality deteriorated. Full review can be viewed here.

I purchased the Yaffa Human Hair (probably contains a lot of Chinese) in 2007 off of Ebay from the Yaffa Wigs Outlet for under $100.  When styled it looked pretty good as seen in the picture on the right.  However, the wig was extremely knotty, thick and heavy and uncomfortable and did not even have a skin top. Upon getting it wet myself I saw what its natural texture was: tangly waves and the pic below shows how it looks today. 

So there you have it ladies... buyer beware.  Just because a wig looks good in the picture or in the wig studio does not mean that it is good quality or that it will last for a long time.  If the hair is treated eventually the silky luster will wear off and you will be left with dry, brittle processed hair.  If the cap is not good, you will be left with wefts that are coming apart.

I would love to hear your own stories in the comments below.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Wig Review: Milano Freedom Cap Wig

Posted by Ask Chavi at 9:10 AM 10 comments
I was fortunate enough to receive an email from one of my readers offering to review their new Milano Collection Freedom Cap, which is designed to work without clips or combs for a more comfortable fit. I really enjoyed her thorough review and I am sure you will too.



Like a lot of sheitel junkies, I was very interested in Milano's new "Freedom Cap." Revolutionary! Patent pending! No more headaches! No clips! No combs! No bald spots! But also like a lot of sheitel junkies, I was much less interested in Milano sheitels themselves, having seen the poor-quality hair, the incorrectly-sewn patches, the overall "cheap" vibe that I got from them.

But you know, a sale is a sale...

While I wouldn't travel from Monsey to Brooklyn (an hour and a half) just to see what the fuss was about, 10 minutes to the local sale was reasonable. I looked, I felt, I inspected for sewing errors and then ... I tried it on. And believe it or not, the Milano Freedom Cap is everything it's cracked up to be. I want to tell you about the cap, the quality of current Milanos, and my later experience at their Brooklyn salon.

Inside of Freedom Cap
The best advice on buying sheitels I ever got was, "Try it on with your eyes closed." Or at the very least, away from the mirror, because we concentrate on the image and tend to either ignore or excuse an uncomfortable, ill-fitting, heavy or scratchy cap. But let's face it, it's the cap that really matters for the 99% of our day that we are not in front of the mirror. If it fits poorly, gives you a headache, or annoys you around the edges, it can be the most expensive, gorgeous hair in the world, and you'll still be miserable. When Milano does an out-of-town sale, they bring in boxes and boxes of sheitels that are "arranged" (barely) on tables by color. They bring mirrors, but there's a good chance you're not in front of one the entire time you're shopping. So the first time I tried on my shaitel-to-be, I went purely on feeling. I chose a closed stretch cap, but I'm told most of them are made with the open wefted cap. (They can be special-ordered with the stretch as well, which is a $50 upcharge.) In the picture, you can see that the multi-directional skin top area is lined with a velveteen fabric, similar to the material a lot of Shabbos robes are made with, but thinner. The nape of the neck also had a thick band of the same material, and the cap is tightened with a pull tab, as opposed to some sheitels which tighten with little bikini top-style hooks. The stretch material is comparable in quality & stretchy-ness to other companies. I found no defects in it. The ear tabs are especially reinforced with boning that gives them a more rigid feeling. And as you can see, no clips, no combs.

My concerns (and maybe yours too) were: Will the extra layer of velveteen be hot? Will the cap be too tight? Will the boned eartabs press so hard I get a headache, even without clips? Will that thick band at the nape drive me crazy (and sweaty)? My honest answers are no, no, no and no! I tried on three or four similar sheitels, and the one I chose felt as though they had literally used my measurements -- I'm entirely unaware of the eartabs, the nape comes down just far enough, the forehead fits flat and the skin part is both a natural color for me and wide enough that I can make a deeper part (I always part to the left) and have room to work with. The velveteen is very soft, comfortable and most importantly, breathable.

But does it STAY? As a mother of KA"H active kids, I need to know that my sheitel will not fly all over the place, and can't be easily whisked off my head by a baby reaching up and randomly grabbing it. Well, girlfriend, I can attest that I can turn my head upside down and the thing DOESN'T BUDGE. I don't mean flip over and flip back so the sides will feather. I mean turn upside down and stay there. Not a millimeter! Amazing, really! The first thing I thought of was, Wow this would be great to dance in at a chassuneh!

In speaking to one of the saleswomen, I mentioned that the caps and hair seem to be of a much higher quality than they were even a few years ago. She said that, in fact, a year ago, Milano switched to a different factory. It shows. Could be that they're buying their hair elsewhere as well.

Color before lowlighting
As to the hair, while it is not the super-fine quality of virgin European (of which I've owned several over the years), it is European, although almost certainly treated. (As always, expect more evidence of this in lighter colors than darker.) The hair is soft, silky, shiny, and washes beautifully. I always wash my sheitels myself and air dry them, and the sheitel (and the second one I subsequently bought) dries straight & true, with absolutely no frizz or wave, but not the telltale stick-straight of Asian hair. It adapts well to round-brush blowing or hot rollers. There is no knotting whatsoever at the nape, as some companies (like Shevy) are known for. It was a 12 color, but I added lowlights myself so I guess I'd call it a 12/8 now, and the color did nothing to damage either the hair or the cap. The velveteen inside got a bit of dye on it, but this washed right out, as did any dye that got on the skin part material. The photo of the inside of the cap is post-color.

Milano, originally a 12, with
lowlights added at home
My cost was $900 including the $50 email coupon. There is a $50 upcharge each for the stretch cap (open wefting is standard) and the Freedom Cap. I took advantage of the payment plan, in which you pay 25% upfront, then the rest over 6 months on the credit card. You can choose to be billed at the beginning or end of the month. There is an additional $5/month added as a service charge for going through a credit card. Not everything comes in with the Freedom Cap, and I don't know if Milano plans to eventually make everything with it or not. At the sale, I would say about a third of the pieces were Freedom Caps, and maybe a quarter of those had the stretch cap as well. The pony sheitels are not available with the Freedom Cap on the website, but a call to the salon may get you a different answer (perhaps a custom order).

Finally, my experience at Milano's MacDonald Avenue salon in Brooklyn. Having fallen hard for my first Freedom Cap, I decided I needed another, shorter model for everyday. (Cue my husband sighing in the background.) I had another coupon and the kids are all in school full-day, so it was now worth it to travel in. The fact that they do payment plans was the only thing that made this possible -- I haven't bought two sheitels in close succession since my kallah days (when an orthodox Jewish woman prepares for her change in married status by buying hair coverings)! I wish more companies did this; it would make good sheitels more within reach to families that are trying to get their daughter introduced to kisui rosh with the best possible experience, while also paying so many chassuneh expenses. I don't know how parents do it sometimes!

After lowlighting and overall coloring to medium ash brown
The salon is a tiny shoebox of a place, located next door to ShopRite and Amazing Savings, so I was able to park in the large lot behind the store and go thru ShopRite. They have a very large number of precuts on display, in blondes and brunettes, very little in redheads however, like most sheitel companies. I was used to salons with neat stacks of sheitels in labeled boxes arranged on walls or in a back room. Not here. At Milano, the standard (non-precut) pieces are piled together in drawers labeled by shade range. I knew exactly what I was looking for, but because of this lack of organization, the saleswoman and I had to go through a few drawers' worth of sheitels, turning each inside out for evidence of a stretch cap and Freedom Cap. Not the most efficient way to do things. What I did like about this, however, was that I had the chance to literally get my hands on every piece they had in my shade range. I was able to put aside whatever looked and felt good, and try on several. Personally, I enjoy the thrill of the hunt, and because I have some experience, I'm not overwhelmed by it. If I were a kallah or simply an inexperienced shaitel-buyer shopping alone, however, it would be a bit of sensory overload. I strongly recommend anyone who matches that description go with a friend who knows sheitels well, whether shopping at their salon or one of their out-of-town sales. The saleswoman was helpful and did not pressure me in any way, and was pleasant throughout, even though my requirements meant so much digging. Although they wouldn't wash the sheitel for me on the spot so that I could see how it behaved wet (I know, I know...) they let me spray it with water and play around with the part to get a better sense of it. There were a couple of stylists, but I didn't get the sheitel styled or cut there.

The piece I purchased on that visit was a 14 color, a dirty blonde, which I chose knowing that I would lowlight it to the ashy medium brown I wanted (but can rarely find because the brunettes are usually quite red). It is almost shoulder-length, with some very long layers, and has not required any cutting. (I had the first sheitel, which was about a yard long, cut by my usual sheitel macher.) I wash it, air dry it, and put in several hot rollers for body. It takes and maintains a curl quite well, and the hair is shiny, strong, and in good condition. I use Moroccan Oil products on my sheitels are sulfate- and paraben-free. My cost for the second piece was $800, including the coupon and the upgrades for stretch & Freedom Cap.

Summary: Two terrifically comfortable and well-made sheitels with lovely hair, purchased on payment plans, total cost together equivalent to or less than what I normally pay for one virgin European of lesser comfort and requiring combs. Even if their lifespan is no more than a few years [and for hashkafic (Jewish custom & outlook which varies from family to family) reasons I wear my sheitels from the time I drop the kids off at school until I get ready for bed, I never leave the house without wearing a sheitel -- yes I cook in them too!], to enjoy and be comfortable in a sheitel for the time it's in good shape, the price looks that much better. But from initial inspection, my hunch is that, with proper maintenance, they will last. If you're wondering what the big deal is about the Milano Freedom Cap, I think you should try it for yourself and see!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Umbrella Strollers: A Thorough Review

Posted by Ask Chavi at 4:41 PM 0 comments
I am sure many of you have read my thread about how I decided on the Bumbleride Indie, but today I wanted to write about an entirely different class of stroller.  My Indie is great.  I keep it in my house (in my dining room during the week) and use it for taking walks (I walk about an hour each week day).  It works great for walking and handling bumpy sidewalks, grass, gravel etc.  However, it is rather bulky and inconvenient for the car.  When folded, it takes up much of the trunk space in my Pontiac Vibe, and it is heavy and awkward to lift in and out.  Additionally, it takes a little too long to fold and open when trying to get errands done and requires two hands to fold.

As I started to plan my Sukkot vacation, I realized that I would be flying with baby, and therefore wanted a more convenient stroller for travel.  I read a number of air travel horror stories about expensive strollers breaking from gate checking and how the airlines will not replace your broken stroller.  Therefore, I wanted to find a stroller for under $100, that had some basic features, was light enough to travel with and that I wouldn't be devastated about if it happened to get damaged during travel. Additionally, I happen to have a really tall baby who grew out of her Graco Snugride car seat before she was even 5 months old, hence I was not able to use my snap and go anymore.

$60 and Under:
The problem with the strollers under $60 is that they do not recline, they do not have canopies that remotely shade ones child and the handles are much too short to be comfortable for tall parents.  If you just need a cheap stroller to get through an airport and are not planning on using it outside at all, then I suppose this could be sufficient.  Since it does not recline, do not plan on depending on it as a place where your child could fall asleep.  The First Years Strollers below do recline, but they lack some other essential features.  You can also find a cheap no whistles umbrella stroller for under $30 much like the Cosco Umbrella stroller.


Over $150: The Luxury Umbrella
In this class of umbrella, the strollers really shouldn't be called umbrellas except that they have the easy compact fold and lightweight design.  Maclaren is known for their easy hands free fold, good maneuverability and sleek design.  The Maclaren strollers have a much better canopy than the bargain umbrellas, but the strollers weigh more.  The Maclaren Triumph comes in at a pricey $170, where as their Techno XT comes in over $300.  (To be fair the Techno XT functions as a complete travel system with car seat adapter, reclining seat, larger basket, larger canopy, better quality wheels etc.)  Many people swear by their Maclarens and say they are well worth the money.  The Triumph handles were taller than most, but still a little too short than I would prefer in order to be comfortable for me at 5'8''.  I was hesitant to spend over $150 on a second stroller (third if you count my snap and go) considering I paid over $450 for my Bumbleride. 

Another stroller I tried in this price range was the UppaBaby G-Luxe.  Its most striking features were its extremely low weight at 11 pounds, carry strap, reclining seat back and extremely large canopy.  When I tried it out in stores, I was disappointed that the stroller quality seemed cheap and it did not look very durable.  The colors are very vibrant and attractive, but it wasn't enough to justify me paying $160 for an umbrella.  Additionally, the strap that controlled the recline was poorly made and did not even function properly on the sales floor.

The Peg Perego Aria (not an umbrella style, but lightweight) took me by surprise when I saw how compactly it folded with one hand.  It is the only stroller I'm reviewing in this section that has a snack tray which is a must for some moms.  It was extremely light and easy to fold, but I did not like the plasticy appearance of the stroller.  If its appearance does not bother you, and you want to have a snack tray, then it could be a great stroller for you.

Around $100: The Sweet Spot

The Chicco Liteway was recommended to me by a friend.  It has an amazing recline feature that can be done with one hand (instead of a strap method).  It folds quickly and compactly.  It weighs a little more than other umbrella strollers, coming in at a whopping 17 pounds but handles extremely well.  It has a carry handle, but no carry strap, adjustable leg rest.  I tried it in the store and liked it, but really wanted something lighter and something that had a carry strap.

The UppaBaby G-Lite looks extremely similar to the G-Luxe except it is lighter at only 9 pounds, has a tiny canopy comparable to the size of the under $60 category strollers and does not recline.  It did not fulfill any of my desired criteria except for being extremely light weight. 

The Maclaren Volo is extremely popular and weighs 9 pounds.  However it does not recline, hence not suitable for children under 6 months old, the seat back is thin mesh and does not provide great back support, so if your child likes to sit forward in the stroller this is not the umbrella for you.  It apparently holds up very well, but does not have many features except that its canopy is larger than other strollers in its weight class.


Britax Blink Lightweight Stroller, CowmooflageI ended up purchasing the Britax Blink which was only $99 on Amazon and included the travel bag (a $20 value).  The Britax Blink has all the bells and whistles that the Maclaren Triump has, but is at least $70 cheaper and included the bag!  It has a strap recline, that reclines near flat (about 30 degrees) which my baby can comfortably fall asleep in.  It has a basket that is easily accessible when the seat is up, or can be accessed from the side if the seat is reclined.  It has a one touch break that breaks both back wheels, and the front swivel wheels can be locked into place with ones foot.  The canopy is much larger than many of the other umbrellas and even has a little extra lip for sun protection and also has a peek-a-boo window.  It has a 5-point harness which I imagine will be extremely difficult for an older toddler to open.  It has a 55 pound passenger weight limit which is excellent.  The seat back is very tall and will accommodate a tall child.  The handles were also tall and are very comfortable for me to push.  Its folding system is almost identical to Maclaren (pull up on carry strap, step on side latch and stroller collapses).  To open you just release side lock and press down on a lever with your foot (Hands free!).  It takes up much less space in my car than my Snugrider Snap and Go and even though it is 16 pounds I can easily lift it in and out of my car with one hand holding on to the carry strap which will also allow me to carry it through the airport on my shoulder if need be.

The stroller originally retailed for $149 and I think the reason it was reduced in price was to make way for the Britax B-Nimble which looks even better than the Blink.  It will be only 14 pounds and will actually have a car seat adapter to make it compatible as a complete travel system from birth to early childhood!  It isn't coming out until the end of October 2010 and it is retailing at $200 (Take THAT Maclaren XT!!!).  I am excited for Britax's further entry into the stroller market, and I hope they bring the same value, quality and safety to their future strollers that their car seats are known for!

Please leave comments or email me if you have any questions,

Sunday, September 5, 2010

My Experience at Buy Buy Baby

Posted by Ask Chavi at 10:10 PM 0 comments
So today I decided to check out Buy Buy Baby (yes they spell it obnoxiously like that).  I had to drive for about 30 minutes to get there, but I was curious to see what it was all about.  It was next to a Bed Bath and Beyond (their parent company), there was a large parking lot so I was able to park easily.

Okay so first impressions.  I walk in, the signs and displays look almost identical to BB&B.  The really tall ceilings, the shelving filled up all the way to the tall ceilings, the strategically placed "impulse buys" placed on section endings etc.  Same layout, where one has to walk around the whole store to get back to the front.  Everything is organized into sections like Toys, Bath, Feeding, Clothing, etc.

Inglesina 2010 Swift Stroller, InkMy main reason I went there was to try out umbrella strollers, as I had recently tried some at a Babies R' Us but wanted to try some additional options.  They carried Bugaboo, Baby Jogger, Bumbleride, UppaBaby, Maclaren, Graco, Combi, Inglesina, Peg Perego and some others I am probably forgetting.  They did not have the full lines of each brand.  For example, they had the Bumbleride Indie but not the Flyer or Flite.  They had the UppaBaby Vista but not the G-Lite or G-Luxe.  I was disappointed because I really wanted to try out the G-Luxe and they did not have a display model.  The employees pretended to know what they were doing, but some didn't really know how to fold the strollers and I actually knew more about the specs then they did!  The only upside to this was that I got to try the Inglesina Swift, which I had never tried before.  I decided its a pretty solid umbrella, but it is $119... I still really want the UppaBaby G-Luxe as my travel umbrella (to be decided soon).

BBB had a very large selection of car seats, bouncers, walkers, jumpers toys etc.  Their furniture section was comparable to Babies R' Us and their clothing section was smaller than Babies R' Us.  Their formula selection was really lacking, as they did not carry a good selection of specialty formula. In the same section was diapers, and it seemed like Pampers must have made some kind of deal to have their diapers receive the most shelf space in the store.

Prices:  I spend a lot of time online shopping and I noticed a lot of the prices at BBB were inflated from what you can get online with NO TAX and free shipping.  The strollers and car seats were priced at standard retail, but other things were inflated a few dollars. BB&B has a similar model where nothing ever goes on sale, but they get people to come to the store by sending them these alluring 20% off coupons.  About the coupons, BBB has their own coupon system which they do send out if you can manage to get on their mailing list.  They will accept BB&B coupons, but ONLY if they are not expired.  And another thing on BBB coupons: there are EXCEPTIONS on basically anything you would want to buy: diapers, wipes, or formula... Additionally, most of the "name brand" Strollers, carseats, and highchair brands are excluded and listed at the bottom of the coupon in small print. 

Also annoying, the chatty lady who tried to strike a common chord over the fact that I was using my snap-and-go stroller frame by discussing how she couldn't believe the price of some of these strollers.  I had to politely nod and didn't want to tell her that I had a Bumbleride Indie folded up in my car and that I was planning on spending over $100 on an umbrella stroller.  She was explaining how she traveled all around Europe with one of those $20 umbrella strollers.  These big box stores are put in places far from city centers where land is cheaper, and people are friendlier *sigh*. 

So basically, if you live close by and have a coupon and are planning on buying something like a toy or swing, it may be worth it to go.  However, if you can wait a few days I would recommend just ordering online, where you will probably will get a better price and not have to deal with the hassle of crowds, lines and obnoxious names that wreak of the consumerism culture such as Buy Buy Baby.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Wig Review: Shuly - Dark Brown and Wavy

Posted by Ask Chavi at 7:07 AM 0 comments
What made you decide to purchase a Shuly?  Where did you hear of the brand?
My friend worked for Shuly and a bunch of other wig companies and she told me that of all the wigs she’s sold, Shuly is one of the best.  She took me to the store and I saw firsthand what amazing quality they are.

How many other sheitels did you try before deciding on it?
Probably around 10

What color is your Shuly?
Dark Brown

Was it custom made or pre-made?

How would you describe the texture of hair?
Loose natural waves

Did you have a specialized wig cap size?
They had to do some work to the cap to make it fit my apparently oddly shaped head.

Did you purchase it from the Shuly salon or from a sheitel macher?
I bought it through my friend who is a sheitel macher but we went to the Shuly salon when I tried on sheitels. 

If from a sheitel macher, how did their involvement in the sale help your overall kallah experience?
It helped me tremendously to narrow down from the vast choices to find a sheitel that was perfect for me.  As a kallah, I needed someone to guide me since buying a first sheitel can be a daunting and overwhelming task. 

What is your favorite aspect of the sheitel?
How natural it looks and feels, and how good it looks all the time, whether I’ve just washed & set it or not.    

What is your least favorite aspect ( or what could you change if you could)?

What was the hardest thing about finding a sheitel as a kallah?
Finding a sheitel that looked as good on me as it did on the sheitel head in the store.  It's one thing to see a sheitel all styled and perfect looking on the shelf but each person has a different shaped face and coloring and it can be a whole different story when you try it on. 

Does the cap fit you well, is it comfortable? 
Yea it fits well and it comfortable

Does it give you headaches? 

Does the hair knot? 
Not in general, but at the end of a long day there might be a few tangles near the neck which are easily brushed out.

Have you ever washed it yourself?  If so, did the hair knot when wet?
No way, I would never attempt to wash it myself unless I was 100% confident that I knew what I was doing (which I’m not- I’d rather pay a professional to wash it then risk damaging it myself).

What quality hair was advertised to you and do you feel the hair was the same as advertised?
Great quality and I am very satisfied with it. 

How much did the Shuly wig cost?? 
The retail price was $2600. 

How was the Shuly/sheitel macher customer service? 
It was a good experience.

Would you buy a Shuly again?
Yes absolutely, they are definitely pricey but if you can afford it, it’s totally worth the money.  
Are you happy with your sheitel cut?  Would you get a different style next time?
I’m happy with the cut. 

How would you rate it on the following scale? A-F

Weight/comfort:  A
Hair Quality: A
Skin top:  B
Durability:  A
Appearance:  A
Cap Construction:  A

and Overall: A

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Going from Curly to Straight without Wash??

Posted by Ask Chavi at 3:46 PM 0 comments
Hi Chavi,
If i want to straighten my shietel is it best to just use a hairdryer like in your video or can you use a hot straightening iron?  If i were to leave it to dry naturally and then curl it say for a function or shabbat can i then straighten it afterwards without washing it or is that not advised. if yes can i use an iron or should i use a hairdryer?
Also, when blow drying my full sheitel do i have to worry about melting the skin?
Thanks so much for your great website. it's been really useful.
I've not yet styled my sheitel myself but i did watch my sheitel machar do it the other day so i'd know how. she didnt' spray it with hairspray after styling it - should I do that? Would it hold much better? it actually went a bit frizzy as it was raining when i went out. would hairspray help prevent that or serum perhaps? my natural hair was always really easy to manage that i never had to put products onto it!

Anytime you apply direct heat (i.e straightening or curling iron) there is a slight amount of damage put on the hair. 

It is recommended to let a wig air dry when you are going to be curling.  If you try to flat iron the curls then you will be fighting against the hair cuticle which was set with a curling iron, thus, it will be harder to get the hair straight and could cause more damage than necessary... I would wash it after the curls..

About the blow drying.  It will not melt the skin, but it could burn it.  Make sure when you are blow drying the cap that you constantly move the blowdryer around as shown in the video so it doesn't burn it.  Also, you can hold the blowdryer a little farther away to help this.  Refer to the blow drying video for more information.
Finally, treat your sheitels better than you would treat your own hair.  For example, if you had your own hair styled curly in an updo for a wedding with hairspray you would certainly wash it before blowdrying it straight.  So, you should give your sheitel the same treatment as one would do to their own hair.  I've never heard of someone just using a flat iron over their styled updo in order to fix it without a wash in between....  The hairspray would start smelling bad from the heat of the iron and become sticky... GROSS!
Hairspray will help the curl/wave stay longer and prevent frizz.  However, it will make it a little more prone to knotting when there is spray on it.  I used a soft brush on the wavy styled sheitel after I take it off to keep it from knotting.  It has been holding up really well and doesn't look frizzy yet... but I don't live in a humid climate.  I prefer a little hairspray so the wavy style lasts longer, which ultimately means less washes and less exposure to heat. 

Serum could work but if you put too much on the hair it can look oily.  You want to put hardly any on at all and make sure its well spread over your hands before putting it on.  This should be applied as a final step after either blowdrying or ironing is complete.

To answer the first question.  Blow drying to achieve straightness is recommended.   It would be bad form for a hair stylist or sheitel macher to make their living by flat iroing air dried hair.  Usually a good blow dry will work extremely well.  Environmental factors such as humidity and hair texture could mean that it is poofier than desired, but for the most part someone who knows what they are doing should be able to set it properly with a blow dryer.  There are some people who desire the "flat ironed look" and would ask their stylist to iron AFTER doing a complete blow dry, a sacrifice that does inflict slightly more damage on the hair, but can look oh so sleek...

Take care,

Friday, August 27, 2010

Alternative way to Dye - from AskChavi Reader

Posted by Ask Chavi at 10:04 AM 6 comments
Hello Chavi,
I read your blog and watched the videos and I just loved all of it! I do my own sheitels and I am always looking for ways to do it better :) I have colored my sheitels and I have found a way to do it without ruining the skin part. I have colored almost all my sheitels :) I just colored my Milano sheitel and it came out so nice and natural :) it was Naomi color (very, very blond with lots of highlights) and now it is dark blond with light blond highlights. My fall oxidized and became too light and I colored it light brown. So here is how I do it. I either buy professional hair color and peroxide separately or a hair coloring kit. I mix the color according to the instructions & then I mix it with 1 quart of warm water and stir until color is mixed really well (make sure there are no globs of color or they will adhere to the hair strands and make a sheitel appear blotchy). Then I put my sheitel in and make sure it is saturated throughout with the mixture. I usually leave it in the mixture for 15 to 25 min depending on the desired effect. If I want to just slightly darken a really blond wig, I leave it on for 15 min, if I want it to saturate well with color and the wig is darker blond, then for a bit longer. Afterward I rinse it well and then wash it as usual. I did lighten one sheitel and it came out nice as well. I would not recommend using ashy colors as they tend to turn hair greenish tint. I usually use natural colors and they work really well. I hope this info is useful.
Here is the website from where I got the info on wig coloring:
All the best,

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Wig Review: Milano Band Fall 12/14 Makeover

Posted by Ask Chavi at 9:48 PM 3 comments

Back in September 2009, I bought a Milano band fall from one of their "out of town" distributors.  The color was a 12/14, which looked like a dirty blonde but not that reddish.  The hair looked thick and nice and so I decided to purchase it.  I believe it was $950 because it was on sale or something.  Anyway, it has been a pretty good piece.  The few problems I had with it: cap size too small and color oxidizing to this weird shade, I fixed.  This post is not only a review of a fall, but a story of how I optimized my wig.

So here it was.  My dull fall, turning into a dry oxidized piece...

My review:  This wig is fairly typical.  It has machine wefts.  It is a fall, so there is no skin top.  The hair on the crown is sewn in to fall backwards like a good fall too.  The hair on this wig was much nicer than my first Milano full wig.  It never knots, which is a plus.  It is definitely treated hair and far from "Virgin European".  Because it was treated and dyed and probably originally partially Chinese, the blonde hair oxidized pretty fast.  Let's see... I worked in an office and probably only experienced 5 hours of direct sunlight in this wig per week, and it got pretty badly oxidized within months.  My definition of badly oxidized is: the top turned a mono-chrome shade of blonde while the under-layer remained darker.  The cap being too small was always uncomfortable so I decided to do something about it.

FIRST I took care of the color.  I bought a box of light ash brown dye and weaved low-lights through the entire sheitel using the technique pictured below.  Note in the picture how the base color of the wig started to look really red.  I chose an ash shade to minimize the redness.  Then I rinsed the wig and applied conditioner and let the wig dry.

Okay, a few weeks later I decided to re-wash the sheitel and to set it in curls.  The other reason for me to wash it was to stretch the cap.  Because it is constructed of machine wefts, it is quite a durable piece.  While wet, I placed the wig on the styling block and used 4 T-Pins to stretch the four corners to its limit (near the ears, and near the back corners of the neck area).  The stretching was a GREAT success, it fits extremely comfortably now.  Then I let the wig air dry and curled my wig as per the instructions in my video.

A week after curling the wig and spraying with just a quick drop of hairspray.  Here is a picture of the finished product: dyed, stretched and curled a week after the set.  It does hold curl rather nicely, eh?

On a side note, I integrate about a 3 inch x 3 inch section of my bangs into a "bump" over the front when I wear my fall and have told that the hair is a "perfect match".

Weight/comfort: C before stretching / B+ now
Hair Quality: B
Skin top: N/A
Durability: B+
Appearance: A-
Cap Construction: B

Overall: B

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