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CNN Today

Ede and Ravenscroft Continues Tradition of Handcrafting Ceremonial Wigs and Robes

Aired July 4, 2000 - 2:55 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

(VIDEO CLIP OF FIFE AND DRUM CORPS)

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Happy Fourth. And we have the old guard here, the fife and drum corps playing on this Independence Day in Washington. And notice the powdered wigs. And did you know the revolutionaries brought their hairpieces with them from England?

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Wow! In their heyday, everybody who was anybody wore a wig. Nowadays, they're largely for ceremonial show.

WATERS: But times have changed, as the man said. But as CNN's Amanda Kibel reports from London, the old wig factory has not changed.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AMANDA KIBEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Against the backdrop of some thoroughly modern sounds, the perpetuation of an ancient craft: every stitch a step back in time. The methods and materials exactly as they have been for over 300 years.

KATHLEEN CLIFFORD, WIG MANAGER: Nothing's changed, nothing, even with the materials, and all of the tools that we use that are behind me, you know, the bits and bobs that we use. Nothing has changed.

KIBEL: Ede and Ravenscroft began trading in 1689, handcrafting robes and later wigs for the royal family. The company has made robes for 12 coronations so far. Wigs and robes for lords and ladies, lawyers and judges, and an American president: Ronald Reagan had his robe made here when he was given an honorary knighthood.

Other clients include Cherie Blair, wife of the British prime minister, and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Keeping them all in wigs and robe is painstaking and time- consuming. One horsehair wig takes an average of four weeks to make.

CLIFFORD: For a judge's full-bottomed wig, which there's one here in front of me, I need to sit here for 40 hours to weave the hair just for this, just for that (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My government will publish a white paper...

KIBEL: And in the lofty realms of pomp and ceremony, wigs and robes are more than just that.

(on camera): A robe like this one would be worn by peers in the House of Lords for the official opening of Parliament. In this case, the three bars of gold, lace and furs indicate that the wearer is an earl.

(voice-over): Back then, wigs also had to be powdered and primped every day. But the company invented a new patent in 1822, a wig which needs hardly any attention at all and lasts about 100 years.

The price back then: 10 guineas. Now the top of the range could cost over 1,000 pounds: about $1,600. Some things, it seems, have changed in the world of wigs and robes.

Amanda Kibel, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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