How Disguises Are Effected

Take a walk along Tavistock Street, in Covent Garden, and, at number 22, you will find the shop of Kryolan. The shop provides makeup to many of London’s theatres – including the Lyceum, which is just around the corner – and it also provides make-up for television and film productions.

However, this was formerly the premises of Charles H. Fox Ltd, until the business was taken over by Kryolan between 1992 and 1993.

The exterior of the Kryolan Shop.
Kryolan , Tavistock Street.


Mr. Charles H. Fox (1859 – 1893) was a famously flamboyant character who started his business of providing wigs, costume accessories and haberdashery and makeup to the actors and actresses at London’s theatres in 1878.

His illustrious client list included such luminaries of the Victorian stage as Sir Henry Irving and Ellen Terry.

But it wasn’t just actors and actresses whose appearances Mr. Fox helped transform with his considerable cosmetic skills. Suspicious husbands, wishing to keep a secret watch on the activities of their wives made use of his services, as did professional and amateur detectives, who wished to be given a look that would enable them to keep suspects under surveillance without alerting them as to who they really were.


However, his life ended in tragic circumstances when, on the evening of Friday, 12th May, 1893, when, having attended to certain business matters at the Lyceum Theatre, he made his way over to Hyde Park and committed suicide.


Charles Fox was, so he claimed,  particularly busy during the Whitechapel murders when numerous individuals headed to the East End of London intent on bringing the perpetrator of the crimes to justice.

And, as he admitted to a reporter from The Pall Mall Gazette in the following interview, which was published on the 9th of June, 1890, he wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Jack the Ripper himself had been one of his clients!

The interview read:-


“Mr. Charles H. Fox, the celebrated wigmaker of Covent-garden, has recently explained that he is constantly in the habit of disguising persons for purposes quite unknown to him.

Being of the opinion that a few more details about his “unholy art” would not be without interest to the readers of the Pall Mall Gazette, we despatched a representative to see Mr. Fox, who went to business at once.


“You would be astonished,” he began, “to know the numbers of people who come here to be disguised. It has grown into a part of our regular business. Men of all classes come – gentlemen, detectives, amateur detectives, and I do not doubt that I have disguised on many occasions some of the greatest criminals of the day.

Of course, it is none of my business to inquire into the purposes for which these disguises are assumed, though sometimes I am told.

The people who come generally have some tale to tell on the first occasion, but I take these tales with a grain or two of salt.

A large number of private detectives and even Scotland-yard men come to me, and as I know their businesses I ask no questions.

That they should disguise themselves is perfectly legitimate. However, as I was saying, sometimes I am told afterwards what the disguise was wanted for.


For instance, not so very long ago, a gentleman from Aberdeen came to me to be disguised, and repeated his visit every day for some weeks. I got rather interested in him, for he was evidently a gentleman, and seemed to have some trouble on his mind.

At last, one Sunday morning, he came to me and told me his story. He had been tracing his wife. She had come up to London on the pretext of visiting her friends, but, after she was gone, he found some very incriminating letters, so he followed her.

He said that several times he had passed her in the street, and that the day previous he had followed her to Richmond, where she had gone with a companion.

The husband got into the hotel where they were, found what room they were in, and gave the man a terrible thrashing. Even then the wife did not recognize him, until the thrashing was over he struck an attitude, pulled off his wig, and declared himself.

He showed me his knuckles as evidence of the use they had been put to. Yes, he got his divorce a short while after in Edinburgh.


Why, I have a customer at this present time who comes in sometimes two or three times a week.

He is made up as a middle-aged man and goes out of the shop so completely disguised that none of his friends know him.

I don’t know what his object is.

He seldom stays away more than two or three hours, then comes back, resumes his natural dress and appearance, and I hear no more of him till he comes again to be disguised. I fancy it is a case of ‘Cherchez a femme,’ but, of course, it is no business of mine.”


“Do you ever have ladies to disguise?”

“No. In fact, I think I may say never. You see the art of making-up comes natural to almost all women. I think it is born in them.

They all understand. how to beautify themselves. And if they want to disguise themselves they prefer to trust to their own ingenuity.

A change of dress, a veil, an alteration in the mode of doing the hair, a pair of spectacles, and there you are, detection is almost impossible.”


“Now, Mr. Fox, how do you set about disguising a person?”

“Oh, it is very easy. We change the expression of the face by deepening shadows alter the shape of the eyebrows by touching with a trifle of colour, put a little hair on with spirit gum, change the fashion of the hair on the head, and sometimes throw into prominence the bones and muscles of the neck.

Making up for the street is totally different to making up for the stage.

For daylight use we must employ as little paint as possible.

A piece of burnt paper produces a lovely and most delicate colour which we use for deepening shadows, and it is imperceptible to the naked eye of the ordinary observer.

I can produce the appearance of a chin which has not been shaved for three or four days in a very simple manner.

The face is first toned to the requisite shade, then covered with a thin layer of spirit gum; then a quantity of very finely-chopped hair is dapped on to the chin and cheeks when the gum is nearly dry.

Of course, the things to be avoided are to leave the gum shiny, and to have the hair dabbed on in patches.

Practice makes perfect, and an adept hand never makes these blunders.

Crepe hair may be used for whiskers or beard in an absolutely undetectable manner if carefully put on and trimmed afterwards.

But I prefer, instead of using wigs or false hair, to alter the dressing of a man’s own hirsute appendages.

Thus, in your own case, by turning up your moustache, by showing your upper lip, just altering the set of your eyebrows a little and by deepening the shadows on your face and neck a little, you would find your face completely altered.


But there is one very important thing in effecting a disguise, which you must not forget.

It is not alone the head and face which must be altered.

The attire, the dress, must undergo just as complete a change. A turned-down collar, a different suit of clothes, boots and hat, and even the pocket-handkerchief, needs to be different from that you ordinarily carry.

Why, do you know that the very manner of carrying a handkerchief in the pocket has been sufficient before now to detect a person through a clever disguise?”


“How long does it take to effect one of your startling disguises?”

“From ten minutes to half an hour, according to the character to be assumed and the amount of work required.

This also regulates the cost, which is from half a guinea upwards.

In ten minutes, for half a guinea, I will disguise you so completely that neither your own mother, your wife, nor the editor of your paper would know you.

As I have said, I prefer not to use wigs – of course, their use increases the cost – and I always demand a deposit if I loan them.


Yes, sometimes I get suspicious characters; then I notify Bow-street.

During the Jack the Ripper scare I must have had hundreds of customers.

At last it got such a big thing, and I took such an interest in the affair, I sent across to Bow-street, and several of my customers were shadowed.

One was followed to Mentone and another to New York.

They all professed to be amateur detectives, but I fancy some were anything but that, and I even dare say that the gentleman himself may have passed through my hands more than once.


It is quite a common thing for large publicans, who own a number of houses, to disguise themselves and visit their various places to watch and see if there is any shady business going on with their responsible representatives, but I think the majority of my customers are jealous husbands like the gentleman from Aberdeen, who think it necessary to keep a sharp eye on their wives.”