Invented in the 1950s by Altina Schinasi, “harlequin” or cat-eye glasses, have become a popular staple in the ever-growing branch of frames in eyewear firms around the world. Not to mention, they have served as my go-to glasses for the past year.
Prior to the popularization of these frames, it was common for glasses to be standardized into a rounded shape that often did not suit the face. Millions of women faced the inconvenience of having to wear “unflattering glasses,” often emphasized to suit the desires of function over fashion in the aftermath of a post-war society. Inspired by the harlequin masks often sold in Venetian carnivals, Schinasi sought to solve this problem by designing a new style of glasses that would frame the face and accentuate a woman’s beauty.
After the release of Schinasi’s design in stores, the cat-eye glasses quickly rose in popularity due to the endorsement of several celebrities in Hollywood such as Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn. The up-swept shape of the glasses was made to highlight the shape of a woman’s eyes, making them more feline in appearance. In addition, the colors transformed from the dull metallics of the previous decade to bright colors that made a bold statement. The shapes were much more extravagant as well, with increased attention placed on the details that make the glasses unique, such as diamond accents and asymmetrical patterns.
Compared with the past, cat eye frames today have a more subtle and chic appearance, depending on the particular choice of frames. However, they are still considered a classic frame that will continue to remain relevant in the world of fashion many years from now.