Reader Request: Great Glasses

how to choose glasses
JunebugB sent me this tricky request via e-mail:

I’d love to see you do something about fashionable eyeglasses. I know it’s so dependent on the shape of your face, but it would be nice to get some basic tips on what to look for when picking out a pair. I’m soon to be in the market for a new pair and would love to hear your thoughts…

Dack! I’ve only ever worn reading glasses myself and feel pretty uncomfortable telling the bespectacled how to select stylish specs. So I asked Angie of You Look Fab fame to cook up a post, since she is both a professional stylist AND a wearer of glasses … and we’ve arranged for a little cross-posting! I’ll weigh in from the perspective of a non-wearer, and Angie will give you the views of a glasses-wearing gal.

First, my thoughts:

Extreme shapes are … well, extreme

I’ve hardly ever seen a gal in true square or true circle frames who didn’t look a mite goofy. Those shapes are SUPER fun, especially for occasional wear, but something that severe will fight with the natural contours of your face. Rectangles, ovals, and even sidelong teardrops look far more natural. For daily wear, go with something elongated and subtle instead of blocky or severe. Leave the star-shaped specs to Elton John.

Try a new shape every time you change frames

Your face isn’t exactly the same as it was 3 years ago. Are you SURE those minuscule rectangles are the best choice this time around? I see a lot of folks wearing glasses that look almost right, and wonder if they may have outgrown their current frames, or just stuck to the same style for years and years and years. Just as you should try new styles of clothes as your body changes, try new styles of frames as your face changes.

Don’t fear color

I know it can seem daunting to imagine wearing a red item on your face every damn day, or trying to match that stripe of teal to all of your outfits. But, in my humble opinion, glasses frames are an element of your face, just like your eyes. They do not need to be matched! And a certain color of frame may bring out your lovely blue peepers, or do amazing things right next to your coffee-with-cream skin, or look phenomenal with your deep brown bangs. The women I see rocking bright frames often seem lit from within, and I’m fairly sure that it’s because they’ve got a dash of color where, usually, there is none. See what colorful frames do for your FACE, and don’t worry too much about how they’ll affect your wardrobe.

You WILL get sick of novelty frames

It may take a year, or it may just take a job interview or wedding or family function. Cat-eye glasses with loads of rhinestones, giant black Elvis Costello frames, futuristic wraparounds … unless you’ve got some more traditional backup glasses, you’re going to hit a circumstance that makes you sorry you went glam/ironic/kooky. I’ve talked to many a person who has come to hate their once-enchanting novelty frames. Some of you may be willing to suck it up if said frames perfectly suit your style and complement your facial structure … but many of you will feel totally trapped. Err at least slightly classic.

Take photos of yourself in the eyeglass store

I’ll give Husband Mike full credit for this one. Whenever he’s in the market for new glasses, he scopes out six or so pairs, snaps photos of himself in them, and takes a few days to ponder. For one thing, he is decidedly batlike without his specs and cannot actually judge his appearance when he’s got a non-prescription pair perched on his nose. For another, he wants MY opinion and can’t always get me to accompany him to the frame store. And finally, he has learned that making snap decisions about something as important as glasses is foolish. Take a few photos of your favorite options and take your time about choosing your frames.

I strongly encourage you all to check out Angie’s post for comprehensive advice from a bespectacled beauty!

Image courtesy massdistraction.

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  • Alli

    hey doll – i've just given you an award because you're just so lovely:) have a nice day!

  • budgetchic

    This is a good post. I'm currently thinking about buying two new pairs of glasses because I sat on one and broke handle off of one of them and then I can't find my second pair they have been missing for 3 months now. I want to upgrade to nicer more sturdier frames so I have a lot to think about before my purchase

  • La Belette Rouge

    Next time I go shopping for glasses I am taking a girlfriend I can trust and not a hungry He-weasel who tells me everything looks great on me.

  • Sharon

    Great post, Sal! I have to admit though, I still LOVE my semi-novelty glasses 4 years later. That might be because they aren't quite as extreme as your examples. They are dark brown plastic on the outside… but tiger-striped on the inside! …Kind of like a mullet, business in the front, party in the back haha.
    <3 Sharon

  • merry

    Thanks for sharing your two cents, too. Along with Angie's much-anticipated post, I'm all set to go frame shopping this weekend.

  • Jerri

    Oh my gosh! Junebug B is my good friend Beth! I have to let her know you gave her question a shout out, as she is in London right now traveling. Also I need new glasses this year desperately! Glad you posted about this.

  • Sharon

    I think I've said this before here many times…I rarely swoon over purses, shoes, or jewelry, but I LOVE GLASSES. I love having a pair to suit every outfit, occasion, mood, whatever. It infuriates me that you hardly ever see models in magazines or fashion shows wearing glasses, and when you do, she's usually wearing a super-generic conservative pair or a wacky novelty pair that's all wrong for her and that no sane person would ever actually wear.

    I have one suggestions to add: Remember that lots of funky pairs will mess with your peripheral vision. When you try on glasses, you're usually just looking straight ahead… but when you're actually wearing them, you look a lot of other places too. Ask yourself: Will I be able to read, drive, type, see something right next to me without turning my head 90 degrees like an owl? If you can't do these things, you're signing up for some serious eyestrain and headaches.

    Second, if you only have one pair, change it every few years. Glasses become part of your face, and wearing the same kind of glasses for a decade is just as stagnant and sad as wearing the same hairstyle or makeup for that long. If you've always worn chunky plastic frames, why not try a half-rim or wire frame style? If you always wear dark colored glasses, how about a light color or a shiny metal? It doesn't have to be a huge change, just enough to steer you clear of a rut.

    One last thing, and I swear this isn't spam: I'll never buy glasses from the optometrist ever again– a typical pair of eyeglasses at the optometrist is marked up 1000% or more. I've gotten a dozen pairs online over the last two years and been thrilled with them. You can learn more about buying glasses online and find links to stores at glassyeyes.com .

  • Christina Lee

    great job Sal and Angie!

  • kappapsichica

    I think numbers 3 and 4 are a bit contradictory…if you want to try something a little out there, go for it!

    A few years ago, I found myself inexplicably drawn to bright purple frames with rhinestones at the outside of each eye (sort of like this but a brighter color). I had to get them, I loved them, and I wore them every single day for a year. I even pulled them back out for my wedding, because purple was our color. I say go for it!

  • Sal

    kappapsichica: Hmm. 3 is about color, and 4 about style/shape … I just think it's safer to splash out on a funky color than an unusual, highly embellished, or extremely stylized shape. Super cool that your purple rhinestone frames were a longtime fave, but I do know of soooo many fab femmes who have regretted purchasing frames that evoke a single retro era, or call up a specific genre of dressing. But to each her own, of course!

  • Liz @ VSP

    Sally, thanks for the great tips! One wouldn’t know you aren’t even a glasses wearer, you definitely understand what it takes to find the perfect pair of glasses. Check out VSP’s tips for selecting the perfect pair of frames, http://bit.ly/UCdw6

  • fröken lila

    this is great advice! as a glasses girl i thought i'd throw in my 2 cents as well, even though i think it has been said before me in other comments. the one thing is: if you want to get a pair of frames by any given designer or brand, try them on at the optician but buy them through the internet (or check with people living in other countries if you have your friends spread out over the world as i have. i got my chanel-frames for 100euros less through a friend in italy). then take the frames to your optician to have the glasses put in.
    the other thing is: some opticians allow you to borrow a pair or two of frames, just check with them if that was possible. it is great to be able to check them with different outfits, ask friends and family and so on. if you're planning on spending 200bucks on something you'll have in your face for the next years, you might rather try them on once too often than once time too little.

  • The Budget Babe

    two of my fave bloggers teaming up?! brilliant. loved reading this and angie's post. i wear contacts most of the time but also have a fab pair of chanel glasses that i bought at a yard sale and had outfitted with my prescription. i get compliments on them all the time on account of the shape (the chanel logo is so tiny you wouldn't notice it). surprisingly, they are pink metal but they work, they just do!

  • Allison

    MMMMMM….I do love my glasses! I am a slave to them…a glasses whore. And I'm not afraid to say so. I've been wearing glasses for over 30 years and I've had lots of awesome and awful glasses during that time.

    What's totally working for me now is the same frame in 4 different colors (yep, big, chunky plastic frames that are rectangular) – http://www.coolframes.com/?fid=4941

    I also have "meeting glasses" with a lower profile – rimless on the bottom, and another pair that are just sort of fun. Yes, it's an expensive habit but that's what you do when you have too much money in the health savings plan that you HAVE to spend or you loose!!!

    I absolutely agree that glasses should NOT be purchased at the optometrist. CRAZY markup.

    BUT what I would suggest investing in is the anti-reflective lenses. Makes a HUGE difference at your computer as well as night driving. AND bonus – you're ALWAYS camera-ready because there won't be a glare.

    I've also had the wacky pair and I LOVED the frame but it was not the best shape for me so I gave them up.

    GREAT post as usual – and you look fab in your Sal-kini.

  • K.Line

    I've been wearing glasses since I was 12. Can't see 3 feet in front of me without them. Can't wear contacts. Let's say I've done it all – bad frames, loud frames, boring frames, hated glasses, been ambivalent, loved them to bits (esp. when I realized that they make you seem really smart to others and they're something chic to hide behind!). As I'm too freaked to try that surgery, I'll probably be wearing them for another 50 years (conservatively!).

    What I'd say is, go to a very high-end glasses place and deal with someone who knows what (s)he's doing. This is one item you can't take off, so it's got to be right under all circumstances.

  • myedit

    Tip #6. Don't listen to your parents when they tell you the huge pink plastic frames look good on you. No wonder I had no friends in elementary school!!! The good news is, eyewear selection has improved since the 90s.

  • AsianCajuns

    Oh yes! #5 is genius! My eyes are so bad that when I'm trying on the faux glasses at the eye wear store (sans contacts) I have to put my nose to the mirror to see.

  • Sal

    Oh you guys, you’re so right! Mike bought his last pair of frames through an online vendor and saved LOADS. It’s a bit risky, and he had to take all sorts of wacky noggin measurements, but it worked out great in the end. Great tip!

  • Darrah

    I wish I had all the money in the world to buy multiple frames! I don't like the ones I bought when I got my prescription. I would have so much fun with them!

  • hollarback

    I think the hardest part of picking new frames is the uniformity of design of what's out there. Eyeglasses frames seem to follow trends very closely, so if what's in doesn't suit you (say, squared off frames) you are out of luck. Very aggravating. They need some counter-programming, a little variety. I hate when it's all variations on the same shape.

    I agree with getting frames online. I understand that physical locations require rent being paid, etc…but the markups are insane for nice glasses.

  • Diana

    I never thought of taking pictures of how the glasses look on me in the store, but I'm totally trying this for my next pair.

  • Nadine

    Nice tips :)… I love colorful glasses with a strong shape.

  • Clare

    As someone who has worn glasses for 15 years now (remember, I'm in my early 20s, so there's something to be said for that number!), I LOVE that you wrote this. All your tips are spot-on, especially the take-a-photo tip, which I will totally be using from now on. I will add two more, though:

    -for those who can't go without some wacky frames, thrift stores are great places to get a couple of crazy pairs for cheap. Of course, you still have to pay for the lenses, but it's a step.

    -think about investing in a second pair. I know glasses cost A. LOT. but having a second style that you can switch to on certain days can make a huge difference in terms of self-image-with-specs.

  • Michael McGraw Photography

    My brother worked for a large one-hour glasses place in the warehouse. He said the invoices showed prices to be less than a dollar a pair.

    It's hard to believe it, but I think I do.

  • BAM

    Ahh, wish I had this post a couple weeks ago.I just got new frames and it was a tough decision! I spent a lot of time 'mulling' over different pairs before selecting the ones I have.

    I agree with Allison: Anti-glare is the way to go. I'm on my computer a lot more with work and was having serious headaches. The new glasses with antiglare made a big difference.

  • Jingle Bella

    Another vote for buying glasses online! I use zennioptical.com now and can get full glasses (frames, lenses, anti-glare coating) for about £15 rather than £75-£100 … and so far as I can tell the ones I buy (which tend to be on the chunky-plastic end of the spectrum) are absolutely just as good as the ones I bought from the high street that cost £75.

    It also means that 1) you can afford to buy one pair without breaking the bank just to see what the retailer's like / what the quality's like, and then 2) you can have different pairs for all occasions! I have 4 pairs at the moment: one very minimalist half-rim (for things like formal dinners or balls), two pairs of chunky purple frames (one is more 'fun' and one is more 'geek') and a pair of prescription sunglasses.

  • Lydee

    yes, pictures in the store is a brilliant idea, and prevents the snap decision regrets sort of thing.

  • Hanako66

    as a glasses wearer, I always try new things, shapes etc…i get a new pair of frames once a year…I consider them a vital part of my wardrobe!

  • carly

    GO 50s STYLE.
    i have for about a year now and i love it. you get compliments ALL the time. it's amazing. and i bet you'll be the only one in town.
    check ebay. or even etsy. just take them to any glasses store and they can get your prescription in those puppies before you can blink you eyes!

    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_bVLT0nJoesc/SmPdEPWa8HI/AAAAAAAAB7I/UL2d4fdcFsE/s1600-h/65.jpg

  • Couture Allure Vintage Fashion

    I've worn the same frames for about 6 years now. Thanks for the kick in the butt. Next glasses, I'll get something different.

  • Gillian

    As a glasses wearer, this makes me super-happy!

  • Kari

    Sal, even though you are not a glasses-wearer, this is a great list of advice! Thanks so much for creating this list and asking Angie to contribute too. I've been wearing glasses for 12 years and it can be *so* frustrating to find the right frame, especially since they are expensive, and particularly if you have restrictive (or no) vision insurance.

    I highly agree with Allison's suggestion for anti-reflective lenses. It increases the price (especially because they are very prone to scratches, so you need to factor in the price of scratch-resistant coating) but is so worth it if you are working on a computer or driving at night and want to avoid glare.

    I personally prioritize shape above everything else – mainly because I need a wide frame to avoid pinching my temples, and there's a certain shape that looks best on my face – but I don't want to wear a heavy, dark color like chunky black frames. I like a frame that showcases my eyes but doesn't overwhelm them.

  • Rosie Unknown

    I have to admit, I hate wearing my glasses, so I wear contacts instead. I plan on getting an old pair of my dad's fixed up to wear when I feel like it

  • Eyeliah SS

    Yes, I always take photos and wait a day to decide for sure. and color is important, it's goog to have a pair that stands out a bit.

  • Couture Allure Vintage Fashion

    Soooo, guess who's glasses broke last night???? I'm rereading both posts before I head out to the optician this morning. Thank you!!!

  • Courtney

    I would add that one should be wary of the opinion of the sales people when buying frames. They don't know you, and they have a quota. When I went shopping for my first pair 2 years ago, the sales lady kept trying to get me to buy either red or hot pink frames. I tried them on, keeping an open mind. They looked like utter crap on me, but the sales lady gushed about how great they were for my face. She actually got grumpy when I asked for neutral colored frames, and kept pushing the red & pink. I ended up with a pair of dark gray frames that have a bit of purple in them in the right light (which I love), and I found them when I walked away from the sales lady and started randomly trying on frames myself.

  • Jenava

    My two most successful eyeglasses purchases were made at higher-end boutiques. They know what looks good on what type of face (they watch people trying glasses on all day, after all) and they have the widest variety and the most unique selections. The first pair of glasses I got that actually looked good on me (and I've worn glasses since the 1st grade) was about 10 years ago and I still adore them. They are a one-of-a-kind handmade pair from Germany. You can't find that at Lenscrafters!