The iconic appeal of the cat eye

Created by the New York heiress, artist and socialite Altina Schinasi, the now iconic cat eye frame style made its first appearance in the 1950s, making eyewear fashionable for the first time ever. With their upswept outer edges and oval lenses, the feline inspired frames accentuated the shape of a woman’s eyes and gave an irresistibly feminine and glamorous look.

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Prior to the 1950s eyeglasses had quite a stigma attached, especially for women, and many people shied away from sporting them in public unless it was absolutely necessary. Styles were designed to be simple and to blend in with the face, their primary focus was on function and drawing as little attention as possible.

The cat eye was the first style to make the move away from this stigma and towards eyeglasses as a fashion statement. Bold colours, embellishments and quirky accents helped to make them as much of a fashion accessory as the perfect hat or a beautiful piece of jewellery. The style exploded in popularity over the 50s and 60s with many women adopting them as part of their signature style, including those who didn’t actually need a prescription. Plain lensed ‘glamour glasses’ were advertised as the next must have for style conscious women and the new shape quickly dominated the sunglasses market too. In their heyday Grace Kelly, Sophia Loren, Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor all favoured their elegant shape, adding movie star appeal and further cementing their iconic status.

Since its creation the style has never been out of fashion for long and has been endlessly reinvented over the decades, from the softer more rounded shapes of the 70s, to the angular styles of today and everything in between. The classic styles still endure too, with the era continuing to provide inspiration for designers and influence trends, making vintage looks as popular as ever.

The appeal of the cat eye frame and the reason it has remained so popular lies in its elegance, versatility and universally flattering shape. The winged corners elongate the eyes for an ultra feminine look and the upswept angles draw the eye upwards, giving lift to facial features.

The beauty of this shape is that there is a variation to suit every face. Short and square or heart shaped faces can choose narrow, soft oval frames for balance or opt to play up their angles and show off high cheekbones by picking a sharp, angular pair. Longer faces and more rounded features benefit from the added balance of wider styles with more prominent angles to add definition to the face.