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Feline timeless - Cateye glasses through the eras
Goldy and catWhen people think about vintage frames, their mind naturally jumps to the elegant cat eye shape. Most commonly seen styled with a rockabilly, mid-century aesthetic, I have sometimes found my cat glasses less than timeless when flirting with other decades of retro fashion. For example, how can a flattering cat eye fit with an older, more sophisticated 1930s ensemble? What about with this season’s 70s stylings?

Well, it turns out there is a cat eye for everyone from almost every period, with the style originating almost a century ago! Let’s have a little history lesson…

The origin of the cat eye
Popular culture credits American filmmaker and designer Altina Schinasi Miranda with conceiving the cat eye in the late 1920s. Frustrated by the lack of stylish spectacle options available for women in the opticians of the day and motivated by the Dorothy Parker quote ‘Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses’, the fashion-minded New Yorker ordered a set of frames customised to look like a Venetian carnival mask. Combined with the invention of pantoscopic tilt, which allowed hinges to be placed on the upper part of the frame making the lenses tilt down onto the face, the cateye (or Harlequin as it was then known) was born.

The age of the cat
In the 1930s, the early cat eye frames were delicate and subtle, similar to our Gianfranco Ferre Miaow, Claudine and Peggy styles.

Still known as the Harlequin style in the 1940s, the shape featured a thick frame with a slight flick up at the sides around a rectangular lens. The frames also got more daring with small designs starting to appear in the corners. To emulate the 1940s cat-eye styling, go for styles like our Auroras, Bettys and Peggy frames.

The 1950s was the decade that saw cat eyes come into the mainstream, popularised by stars like Marilyn Monroe in How to Marry a Millionaire (where she utters the infamous line ‘guys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses’, an update on Parker’s original motivational quote). The shape in this decade became more narrow and pointed. Steal Ms Monroe’s mid-century style with our Marilyn frames, modelled on the actual ones worn in the movie.

The swinging 1960s saw the invention of cat eyed sunglasses, pioneered by Audrey Hepburn in the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Throughout the decade, the shape started to get more oversized, similar to our Cool Cat and Safari and Ava frames.

In the 1970s, to keep up with the times, shapes got larger and more dramatic. While aviators and bug-eye frames dominated the market, the cat eye still had a look in with frames similar to our Samanthas keeping the wing alive and well. The oversized trend continued into the 1980s, but the material of the frames changed to favour more metallic colours. For true 1980s cat-eye elegance, check out our original Dior 2700 and Paloma Picasso frames.

In the 1990s, oversized cat eyes in bright colours regained popularity as part of a sixties revival. Again, our Cool Cats and Samanthas would fit perfectly with a 90s ensemble. 

By the turn of the millennium, retro fashion was all the rage, allowing a much broader range of styles to be worn to suit an individual’s style. Stars ranging from Katy Perry and Dita Von Teese to Nicole Richie and Jessica Alba rocked the cat eye, and fans followed suit. 

With such an amazing range of cat eye glasses now widely available to fashionistas, they can express their creativity and find the perfect style for their aesthetic. But which will you choose?

Many thanks to @goldyloxxroxx

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