We've been in business for just over 15 years now, and faced that question for the first time about a month ago... and then three weeks ago... and two... and you get the idea. Everyone wants to be a lion this year!
Making a lion's mane from kanekalon can be difficult to estimate because it's rather far removed from regular hair styling. Although the process bears some resemblance to ventilating a wig, the length, style, shape, and size is very different.
Our first thought was the musical, Cats. Except the cats in Cats aren't particularly fluffy, so we passed on that one pretty quickly.
Next idea was to peek in on the internet's resident fur experts: Chewbacca cosplayers.
Chewbacca's costume in the Star Wars films was not made from kanekalon, but many cosplayers use kk now because it's an affordable and easily accessible option. For the curious: Chewie's fur is mostly 27 Strawberry Blond with 44 Gunmetal Grey on the shoulders, and either 4 Dark Brown or 6 Chestnut Brown for the darker spots. Some folks also throw in blends like 4/27 for smoother transitions. It takes a whopping 40-60 bags and a whole lot of patience to complete a full costume!
We had a lovely time checking out Wookiees in progress, but alas, the Chewbacca search was a bust. No one just makes a Chewbacca head, and the math to scale down gets tricky when you take different body sizes -- not to mention stilts! -- into account.
Then The Chronicles of Narnia films and fans thereof came through!
Trinity over at NarniaWeb made White Witch battle garb with absolutely beautiful results. Check out the full thread for details here.
She used 8 bags of kanekalon for the mane collar portion. A luxurious mane will cover nearly as much as that, plus going around the top of the head, so a safe estimate is 10-15 bags.
Some final considerations:
Products like marley braid, Bamboo Twist, and Dreadlock Braid have more volume, but are also more costly. A smaller mane on a short deadline might necessitate marley braid over kanekalon. If you're in a time crunch, go with marley braid, pull apart the sections, and embrace the floof.
Perhaps the lion of your dreams eschews traditional lion colors. You do you, lion! But if that extends to colors that only come in high heat kanekalon, adjustments will need to be made. We recommend braiding high heat kk in small sections, steaming it, letting it cool, then undoing the braids to give it more volume. Then apply to your mane as needed, backcomb, and go crazy with Aquanet. High heat kanekalon has denser, thicker strands, and just like with dense, thick human hair, it will take a little extra work to get it to stick up.
Wefts are convenient because you don't need to hand tie tiny, individual sections, but they're also more expensive and lack the kinkiness of kk. Short wefts can be more difficult to find, and if you go with something longer than you need and trim it, you'll end up paying quite a bit.
And last but certainly not least, if you do decide to build a spectacular lion costume in the coming weeks, make sure to submit it to the We Love Colors Halloween Contest! There are over $2,000 in fabulous prizes this year, including lots of I Kick Shins gift certificates :D