Cat eye glasses were a popular shape of the 1950s for women's as well as men’s eyewear, too. They have an upsweep at the outer edges where the temples join the frame front. They were largely common in the 1950s and 1960s among fashionable people. They preceded the large bug-eye glasses of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Notable wearers of cat eye glasses are Audrey Hepburn, Barry Humphries as Dame Edna Everage, Jane Jacobs, Amy Lame, Lisa Loeb, Dinah Manoff, Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Mary Whitehouse, and Barbara Windsor.
The American artist and designer Altina Schinasi (1907-1999) is sometimes credited as the inventor of the cat eye shape, even if that is not exactly true or difficult to confirm; her activities in eyewear design is worthy of note as she created and marketed the Harlequin eyeglass frame that defined glamour in the late 1930s.
The artist asked herself, “Surely, there must be some way to design eyeglasses that could be attractive! What looks good on a face? What adds to a face? What could a woman wear on her face that would be romantic?” She started from a simple Harlequin mask and began to cut the mask into the frames she imagined.In 1939, Schinasi won the Lord & Taylor Annual American Design Award for her avant-garde transformation of eyeglass frames into a proper fashion accessory. Vogue and Life magazines recognized her as a revolutionist in the eyewear industry and in the aesthetic of fashion.
It is difficult to know if Safilo had been influenced or inspired by Altina Schinasi’s Harlequin glasses. It’s hard to say if those glasses were known by Safilo’s designers. Regardless, the production of cat eye glasses begun quite early, probably before the 1950s.
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