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.
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.
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.