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!

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