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Take a New Look at the Way You Buy Eyeglasses

How to select fashion-forward frames that flatter


Eyes change: As you get older, it gets harder to see in the dark, harder to read and harder to stare at a screen all day. On top of that, when you age, your hair is grayer, your skin lined, your cheeks thinner. You need a pair of great glasses that both solves your vision issues and flatters your changing face.

Or maybe you need 21 pairs.

That’s how many frames Hernan Vicuna, brand manager for Zenni Optical, owns. Keeping track of that many pairs of glasses may be a bit much for someone who’s not in the eyewear biz, but Vicuna thinks older shoppers needing specs would be smart to take a page from the Millennials who order glasses on his site.

(MORE: 5 Biggest Vision Questions, Answered)

“Our 50-plus audience will buy one pair of glasses but spend a lot more on that one pair. They have the mentality that glasses are going to be really expensive,” Vicuna says. “Our younger audiences will buy a lot of pairs of more affordable glasses.”

Ordering prescription spectacles online, a concept introduced by Warby Parker in 2010, has made buying glasses much cheaper — even if you need multifocal lenses. You can try out a variety of fashion-forward styles and colors without worrying too much about looking like a Sally Jesse Raphael throwback.

(MORE: Is Your Computer Killing Your Eyes?)

Jason Engelman is an optician and product designer for Eyebobs Eyewear, which bills itself as a “reading glasses company for the irreverent and slightly jaded.” He says: “We believe that reading glasses give our customers an opportunity to express themselves. Your eyewear should make a statement.”

Engelman and the whole crew at Eyebobs encourage bold colors and risk-taking. Their customers use glasses as an exclamation point, he says. Vicuna also recommends bold, chunky frames to stay up-to-date and draw attention away from the effects of aging. But how do you make sure you’re emphasizing the right things?

Follow these guidelines to make sure you punctuate your eyewear statement with an exclamation point and not a question mark:

Measure well. To ensure a good fit and good vision, you need not only your prescription but also your measurements. Your prescription most likely doesn’t include key pieces of information such as pupillary distance.

Online sellers of glasses such as zenni.com and warbyparker.com provide easy-to-follow instructions on how and what to measure. You’ll need a ruler that measures millimeters, and it helps to have a pair of glasses you own that fit well. If you don’t feel comfortable doing it on your own, make an “appointment” with a friend to order glasses together. Once you have your measurements, you’re ready to consider aesthetics.

Don’t match your face shape. Is your face round? Square? Heart-shaped? Oval? Once you know your face shape, you can weed out frames that are too matchy-matchy.

You don’t want to put round glasses on a round face, for example. “A square face is better fit to round or oval eyeglasses,” Vicuna says. “And if you go with geometric frames on your geometric face, there’s something off about it.”

Match your eyes. Elizabeth Dehn, founder of beautybets.com, says the thing to match is your eyes. “Consider a frame shade similar to that of your natural eye color,” she says. “It will really make them pop.”

Choose a cool color. Yes, cool like George Clooney, but also cool as in the opposite of warm to complement gray hair. “Opt for a cool shade like black, navy blue, dark tortoise or even pink,” Dehn says. “Avoid warmer hues like gold or amber, which will have a dulling effect on skin.”

Accentuate the positive. Different styles draw attention to or away from certain facial features. “A set of rimless glasses will not hide the bags under your eyes,” Vicuna says. “Glasses with a larger frame, a larger sphere of lens, those often hide crow’s feet, those often hide bags under your eyes. Stronger, bolder frames will draw attention away from your nose and onto your eyes. Not only that, but bolder, chunkier frames are what’s in for the next year.”

(MORE: 4 Things You Can Fix About Your Aging Body)

Remember that glasses can’t hide everything. “Don’t skip the eye makeup just because you’re wearing glasses!” Dehn tells women. “A little brown or soft gray pencil smudged into the upper lash line and a coat or two of mascara will make you look instantly more awake — and 10 years younger.”

Go back to the future. Those dorky glasses you wore in high school are cool now, and they look better because today’s lenses are thinner and non-reflective. “I find that men 50-plus look extremely good in a lot of our vintage and browline looks, and women 50-plus tend to look really good in our key-hole and cat-eye styles. Those styles are fashion-forward,” Vicuna says. “And you can never go wrong with aviators because those are just classic cool.”

Pay attention to celebrities. Did you see the glasses Meryl Streep wore on the red carpet? Or the readers Katie Couric was sporting on TV? Try Googling images of a celebrity in your age range along with the word “glasses” or just “celebrities wearing glasses” to get a feel for on-trend looks that flatter.

Try glasses on virtually. Upload a picture of yourself to one of the glasses sites and start “trying them on.” When you find some looks you like, you can use social media to get feedback from your friends.

Change the way you think about glasses. “It’s about going out there and trying new styles,” Vicuna says. “You can change your glasses as easily as you can change your shirt. Get out there and go experiment with new looks and enjoy that joie de vivre.”

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