Fashion Eyewear 1960s to the Early 2000s

In July 1965, just as the use of contact lenses was on the rise, Vogue magazine devoted its "Beauty" section to eyeglass fashions, and noted that women with no eye problems were now "writing their own prescriptions: '20/20, but plenty of frame'" (p. 108). Simple, solid-colored frames, whether small and rectangular or large and round or hexagonal, were offered by a newly formed industry group, the Fashion Eyewear Group of America.

By 1965, the first retro fad in eyewear had emerged from the boutique scene in London and New York, and early-twentieth-century-style granny glasses, as worn by such celebrities as John Lennon and the Byrds's Roger McGuinn, continued in vogue for the rest of the decade.

The fashion designers Elsa Schiaparelli and Claire McCardell, among others, had designed some eyewear lines as early as the 1950s, but the first high-profile line of designer eyeglasses was launched in 1969 by Christian Dior. The trend toward designer frames continued in the 1970s, with designers such as Yves Saint Laurent, Diane von Furstenberg, and Halston joining the field. The decade's signature look was oversized frames with rounded corners, in semitransparent pastels or faux tor-toiseshell, with tinted or gradient lenses in colors to coordinate with the wearer's eye makeup. Bolder styles, often with shiny gold accents and curved or wavy temples, were balanced by the high-volume, blow-dried hairstyles of the time, and were well-suited to the glitz of disco fashions.

In the 1980s, many more designer frames were available, often with visible designer logos, in new eyewear boutiques carrying thousands of styles for men, women, and children. The same style trends continued, but there were also harder-edged styles, in brighter, solid colors, in response to the new boxy silhouette and large, bold costume jewelry. Some retro styles from the 1940s and 1950s were produced to complement the trendy preppy and nerd looks. Toward the end of decade, designers such as Ralph Lauren, Giorgio Armani, and Calvin Klein started a move toward smaller frames, with cleaner, refined styling. These were updated versions of the serious horn-rims of the 1910s and 1920s, and celebrities such as Richard Gere soon adopted the new look, inspiring even contact-lens wearers and those with 20/20 vision to invest in new frames.

In the late 1980s, eyeglasses for sports, or performance eyewear, began to be reconsidered as an industrial design problem, and new materials such as titanium were employed to create stronger, lighter frames. In the 1990s, the high-tech, minimalist aesthetic carried over into fashion eyeglasses, and the quest for refinement continues to be an important theme in eyeglass design. At the same time, in synch with the decade's retro fashions, designers began to look more carefully at the past, and frame styles from every decade of the twentieth century are available in the twenty-first, either updated or faithfully reproduced, from a multitude of designer collections. Even deliberately unbecoming glasses have been embraced as nerd chic, a symbol of hipness and sophistication, and baby boomers have transformed humble drugstore reading glasses into a fun fashion accessory.

See also Sunglasses. BIBLIOGRAPHY

Acerenza, Franca. Eyewear Gli Occhiali. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1997.

"All About Eye-Glasses." New York Times (6 May 1883): p. 14. Excellent contemporary account of nineteenth-century eyewear fashions.

Corson, Richard. Fashions in Eyeglasses. London: Peter Owen, 1967. Excellent and readable survey.

Schiffer, Nancy N. Eyeglass Retrospective: Where Fashion Meets Science. Atglen, Pa.: Schiffer Publishing, 2000. Short on documentation, but many examples are shown.

Susan Ward

Julio Donoso Sygma Corbis

Moroccan slippers for sale. In the sixteenth century, Moroccan clothing styles began to be influenced by the Ottoman Empire, and some clothing has retained a Turkish flair. (See Africa, North: History of Dress) © Jeremy Horner/Corbis.

Left top: Kapayo Indian tribe. Due to the hot, humid climates found in many South American countries, some natives wear very little clothing, distinguishing themselves instead with ornamentation such as body paint, jewelry, and headdresses. (See America, South: History of Dress) © Whitemore Hank/Corbis Sygma.

Right top: Indigenous men in Tarabuco, Bolivia. The men carrying goods here exhibit colorful, wrap-around ponchos over wide-legged, short pants. Felt fedoras as well as helmetlike hats covering the ears, unique to Tarabuco, are also featured. (See America, South: History of Dress) © Lynn A. Meisch

Bottom: Kuna woman holding a mola. The cotton molas (blouses) worn by the women of the Kuna tribe are brightly colored and often feature images pulled from advertisements or popular entertainment. (See America, Central, and Mexico: History of Dress) © Peter Guttman/Corbis.

Bottom: Kuna woman holding a mola. The cotton molas (blouses) worn by the women of the Kuna tribe are brightly colored and often feature images pulled from advertisements or popular entertainment. (See America, Central, and Mexico: History of Dress) © Peter Guttman/Corbis.

Italian Designer Scaparelli

Veil designed by Elsa Schiaparelli. Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli often collaborated with artists such as Salvador Dali to add distinctive accents to her clothing designs. (See Art and Fashion) © Philadelphia Museum of Art/Corbis.

Fashions From 1960s

Top: Gauguin's Tahitian Women on the Beach. The long, flowing dress seen on the right-hand figure is found on many of the Pacific Islands. Tahitians call it a pareau, but Americans know it better as the muumuu or the Mother Hubbard. (See Asia, Southeastern Islands and Pacific: History of Dress) © Bettmann/Corbis.

Bottom: Dancers in Evening Wear, 1914, by Georges Barbier.

A prolific and skillful artist, Barbier contributed widely to fashion magazines, albums, almanacs, and other publications. (See Barbier, Georges) © Historical Picture Archive/Corbis.

Historical Fashion PortfolioEarly 2000 Fashion

plants and animals in bright colors. Batik is a form of resist dyeing, some form of which has historically been practiced on all continents except Australia and the Pacific Islands. (5ee Batik) © Christine Osborne/Corbis.

Bottom: 1925 Lesage embroidery. François Lesage, a Parisian designer, has been creating garments with embroidered beadwork since 1 924. The Lesage design house spends 1 6,000 hours a year making samples for its twice-annual collections. (See Beads) © Julio Donoso/Corbis Sygma.

Minoan Clothing
Belgian designer Dries van Noten's fashions are known for their ethnic or historic tones and often evoke a sense of exoticism. (See Belgian Fashion) Dries van Noten; Autumn/Winter 2002-2003. Photo: Yelena Yemchuk.
19th Century Designer Gowns

Woman in carnival costume and makeup. Carnivals have been found in many countries and cultures throughout the centuries, and outrageous dress appears to have always been a key element. (See Carnival Dress) © Bob Krist/Corbis.

Carnival Dress
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