Striking Prescription Cat Eye Glasses with Matching Temples

The uptilted eyerim style became so popular among women during the 1950s and 1960s that many prescription cat eye glasses were also made, besides the glamorous (and protective) sunglasses of this style, and those which were worn with clear lenses purely for fashionable or aesthetic reasons. Prescription cat eye glasses were sometimes relatively plain, but at other times they were just as chic and gracious as their purely stylistic kindred.

Cat eye glasses of all kinds, in addition to prescription cat eyeglasses, were often manufactured with decoration on the “brows” which extended to the temples as well, creating a wraparound display of the designer’s artistry to further decorate a fair and winsome face. These sculptural creations still have a fresh, airy, almost ethereal look in some of the best examples, despite the passage of half a century and the use of such seemingly unromantic materials as Zylonite.

pink cat eye glasses   Extending the decoration onto the temples created an aesthetic effect on prescription cat eye glasses (and non-prescription ones as well) that was visible from practically any angle except directly behind the wearer. Therefore, these vintage cat eye glasses convey a message of glamor and chic to nearly all observers.

Brows and bands – complementary features of prescription cat eye glasses

            Brows have already been described in a previous article, but what was not mentioned is that matching strips of decoration, known as “bands” are often attached to otherwise plain, smooth temples to dress them up further. These usually match the color, material, and patterns of the associated brows that appear on the same pair of eyeglasses.

Metal bands riveted into place with miniscule rivets, and sometimes decorated with enameled colors on some of the details (such as a flowers or leaves that appear in raised relief), are fitted to some temples. In other cases, bands of colored Zyl are laminated onto the temples to complement the Zyl laminate brows that appear on the piece. The band area can also be used for metal appliques that echo similar “findings” anchored to the front surfaces of the frames.

Sculptural temples to match elaborate eyerim sculpting

            The more elaborate pairs of prescription cat eye glasses  featured sculpted temples, which could be manufactured thanks primarily to the highly sophisticated plastic molding techniques developed during the mid twentieth century.

A similar effect might have been partly achievable in former centuries if a highly skilled artisan had made openwork temples out of finely drawn wire, but of course, eyeglasses were viewed with contempt at the time and no skilled artist would have wasted their efforts on embellishing what was considered an emblem of loathsome personal weakness.

The temples of these prescription cat eye glasses are sometimes given elaborate, fantastic shapes, and even made as openwork – whorls of slender plastic strands flowing around each other to form airy filigrees of transparent material that almost resemble

clear cat eyeglassesUnusually mounted temples on prescription cat eyeglasses

            In a few rare and extremely eye-catching instances, the demands of fashion trumped practicality, and temples were mounted at highly unusual angles on prescription cat eye glasses and others. These glasses were usually quite sculptural already, and to match up with the rest of the ensemble, the temples were mounted at the bottom of the eyerims on the outer side, rather than at the top.

An arched section then sprang upwards to pass above the ear and hold the glasses in place. Though slightly impractical, these bold designs are still refreshing and imaginative, and make a superb piece for a collector or wearer of vintage cat eye glasses with an eye for the individualistic.

Cats Eye Glasses Brows – Plastic Laminates, Appliques, and Rhinestones

            Metal brows were not the only possibility that designers explored while making vintage cats eye glasses during the 1950s and 1960s – indeed, there are so many different patterns, combinations of materials, colors, and textures, and other variants on the brow idea that it would likely take several volumes to list them all. However, several broad categories emerged in the cat eyes glasses market, all of which, naturally, led to further advances in manufacturing and material technology.

                               Plastic laminate brows on cats eye glasses

            An alternative to metal brows on cat eye eyewear was to layer a second piece of plastic onto the eyerims in the brow position – either two separate brows or a single unibrow strip extending from one side of the glasses to the other. Plastic laminates had several advantages to offset the fact that they are perhaps not quite as striking or high toned as the shimmering metal fittings on some glasses:

They can be made in any color or combination of colors without needing to be painted or enameled after production (though some do feature painting or enameling over part or all of their surface). For example, some cats eye glasses feature a standard reddish-brown tortoiseshell color for most of their Zylonite, but the plastic brows are made with a fine black and white marbled pattern reminiscent of exotic animal fur.

cats eye glassesThere is no need to include rivets to hold the plastic on – it can be directly fused to the eyerims, forming a permanent bond that ends only if the frames are snapped into pieces.

Plastic laminate is slightly lighter than metal laminate brows.

Metal appliques for cat eyes glasses

Metal appliques are small metal pieces added to cats eye glasses for decorative effect. They are similar to the metal “findings” used in costume jewelry, and are attached to the surface of the frames at strategic points. During the 1950s and 1960s, crescent moon shapes, stars, and other simple but eye-catching geometric shapes were used. These might be set among rhinestones, used to accent the outer end of a plastic laminate brow, or used in rows to produce a non-continuous suggestion of a brow.


            The glamor and fashion scene of the 20th and 21st centuries make such heavy use of rhinestones that, in design terms, this might be best described as the “Age of the Rhinestone”. Rhinestones originated in Germany, cut from rock crystals obtained in the Rhine River valley. Today, they are manufactured glass crystal for the most part, with a metallic backing that causes them to sparkle and scintillate, providing an imitation of the multicolored “fire” that diamonds exhibit in low light.

            Though first made in Germany at around the time of the American Revolution, rhinestones had become an essential part of the global fashion industry by the 1950s and 1960s, from America to the Soviet Union, from Japan to France to South America. It is no surprise, therefore, that they appear on many cat eyes glasses from the period.

          cats eye glasses  Rhinestones could be used as an accent – perhaps with large and small rhinestones arranged geometrically to create a more detailed effect – or as the sole decoration of a pair of glasses. There are even rhinestone brows where the whole of each brow is made of closely arranged rhinestones embedded in the eyerims’ Zylonite. A few cats eye rhinestone unibrows also exist with a single stripe of rhinestones extending above both lenses.

            More often, however, rhinestones are used in conjunction with other brow effects, adding both detail and a “finished” look, as well as some glitz and dazzle to an already chic pair of cats eye glasses.

Laminated Brows and Glitter – Two Ways of Decorating Cats Eye Glasses

Cats eye glasses were designed for one main purpose – to make a type of glasses that would look attractive when worn, besides being practical pieces of eyewear (or, with tinted lenses, serve as sunglasses – which, with their role of preventing damage to the eye from the searing glare of the summer sun, can be viewed as another type of practicality).

Though perhaps slightly politically incorrect by today’s standards, many advertisements of the time centered on how irresistible men would find a woman wearing these sophisticated glasses. Of course, it could also be argued that regardless of the twists and turns of political taboo, many people today choose glasses that they believe will make themselves more attractive to the opposite sex, even if the impulse is hidden under euphemisms like “looking your best” or “feeling confident”.

Be that as it may, designers and eyeglass companies were soon striving to make the most standout, glamorous, and eye-catching cats eye glasses possible for their eager, mostly female buyers. And, it must be said, many of these designs succeeded fully in their aim, producing some of the most unusual, seductive glasses in human history.

cats eye glassesGlitter in cats eye glasses

            The use of plastic as the main material for vintage frames, which began in the 1940s and came to mostly dominate the market during the 1950s and 1960s, opened up a new decorative opportunity which had been missing for most of history – the ability to embed objects inside the material itself. With the use of transparent tinted plastic, objects mixed into the plastic during molding would remain visible through the eyerims and add an extra decorative touch.

Since cats eye glasses were aiming for an electrifying effect, one of the best materials for this was glitter. There are many surviving examples of cat eye glasses with glitter embedded in transparent tinted frames, producing a sparkling, scintillating effect.

This decoration is pleasing to the eye, gives an intriguing “insect in amber” look, and was extremely cheap for the manufacturer, since glitter is no more than flakes of metallic colored plastic which costs practically nothing to produce. Since most of the decorative effect came from the glitter, many such glasses are otherwise quite “plain” cats eye glasses, though glitter could also be combined with spectacular sculptural effects for redoubled glamor.

Metal laminated brows on cats eye glasses

       cats eye glasses     A striking but still relatively conservative ornament for vintage cats eye glasses was the addition of metal laminated brows, a form of applique. In this case, a thin piece of metal is fitted to the upper part of Zylonite eyerims to provide a contrasting accent. The crisp, smooth, metallic arc of these brows contrasts coolly with the warmer, more organic look of the Zyl while remaining tastefully understated.

These brows may be made of aluminum (which gives an exceptional pale sheen when polished, and is, of course, rust-proof), steel, or alloys. Only luxury cats eye glasses would feature silver or gold brows. Metal laminated brows were usually attached with tiny rivets which were often disguised as part of the surface decoration. Raised flowers, leaves, floral shapes, or delicate geometric patterns are often found embossed into cat eye glasses’ brows.

Most brows were made in pairs, with a simple curved shape, or with the outer corners turning up in a flourish like those on a Renaissance Venetian carnival mask or the eyebrows of an elf from fantasy literature. Sometimes, however, a single “unibrow” was used, giving a somewhat less delicate but definitely noticeable look to vintage cats eye glasses.

Vintage Cat Eye Glasses with Brows

Vintage Cat eye glasses became increasingly popular as a feminine style in the 1950s and 1960s, in keeping with the new view of glasses as a glamorous and attractive fashion accessory. Now that needing vision correction had become acceptable in the mainstream (rather than a source of contempt and mockery), people threw themselves wholeheartedly into the purchase of eyewear that not only solved problems of nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism, but also enhanced their appearance.

Cat eye glasses impart a sophisticated, elegant, slightly exotic look to the wearer, simply through the use of frame shape. By this time, of course, lens technology was advanced enough so that the elongated shape of a cat eye lens could be made practical and functional as well as decorative. Most featured oval lenses in any cases with the extended portion of the eyerim on the outer edge being wider than the rest of the eyerim due to be drawn out into an upward and outward point.

vintage cat eye glasses     In a few cases, elongated lenses were made that extended up into the upswept outer point, but these glasses are fairly rare and most included oval lenses which made precision lens cutting and grinding much easier. The expanse of “extra” eyerim at the outer corners left an area open for decoration and led to the evolution of even more fascinating forms.

Decorations on Cat Eye Glasses

Vintage cat eye glasses did not remain plain for long. Soon the shape alone was not enough to seem exotic and individual enough. As most women adopted the cat eye glasses look, designers turned to richer decorations to set their creations apart, and enriched the history of American glasses at the same time.

With the rapid communications made possible by the modern era, the fashion houses of New York, Paris, and further afield were able to quickly influence each other with new flights of fancy and creativity. The popularity of the style ensured plenty of money flowed into the coffers of eyeglasses companies, giving them both the incentive to come up with new, intriguing designs and the resources necessary to make them a reality.

Decorations that appeared on vintage cat eye glasses took several different forms, which could be blended to create an even more infinite range of aesthetic possibilities:

Inset substances that provided a contrast – usually rhinestones for glitter and for an opulent “faux diamond” effect, but sometimes metal, glitter, or colored plastic as well.

Sculptural effects such as raised leaves, flowers, vines, fruit, grape clusters, and so on molded directly onto the flat surfaces of the eyerims.

Geometric additions to the eyerims, such as fancy bridges, scalloped edges, and even more fantastic applique or molded decorations made possible by modern materials technology. Some of the more intriguing effects were achieved by the addition of “brows” to cat eye glasses.vintage cat eye glasses

One of the most striking decorative innovations for cat eye glasses was the creation of “brows”. This phrase describes a range of different sculptural, applique, and decorative effects that appear on the top edges of vintage cat eye glasses’ eyerims. These decorative extensions appear here because of the limitations imposed by the need to make glasses that can be worn on the human face.

Extensions on the bottom of the eyerims would press on the nose and cheeks, lifting the lenses above comfortable eye height and causing discomfort to the wearer. Brows, however, allow the artistic ingenuity of the designers to run riot while still producing practical, comfortable glasses: the best of both worlds, the utilitarian and the ornamental.