Cosmetic considerations are important when selecting frames, which should complement an individual's facial features.
EYEGLASSES affect not only how one sees, but how one looks. In their many shapes, styles and colors, glasses can enhance facial proportions, features and skin coloring. Bold, conspicuous glasses - like a wellchosen piece of jewelry - may even make a virtue out of necessity and serve as a personal trademark.
More than half of all Americans wear glasses, according to the Optical Manufacturers Association. And considering that most people invest in only one pair of glasses, without a backup in case of loss, they should be chosen with many factors in mind, including their cosmetic effect.
Face shape is one of the first cosmetic considerations. Traditionally, eyeglass manufacturers and optometrists advise wearers to contrast face shape with frame shape to modify extremes in facial proportions. The angularity of a square face, for example, is softened by large curved or rounded frames, with the lower edges of the frame extending past the cheekbones to soften the jawline. A round face appears lengthened by contrasting oval or rectangular frames.
The proportions of specific features can be improved as well. Glasses with a low bridge will shorten a long, narrow nose, and a short nose looks best with a high-bridge frame. Square frames with a dark colored bridge will help narrow a broad nose. If eyes are too close together, styles with a clear bridge will make them seem farther apart.
Eyebrows should not be higher than the tops of eyeglass frames, some experts say, otherwise it appears as though there are two sets of parallel lines on the face.
Frame color is often geared to hair color, although skin coloring, too, is a factor. Guidelines say the lighter the hair, the lighter the frames.
Frame color can also be a boon to the complexion. Pink or purple frames appear to brighten sallow coloring. And blue, gray or amber frames help tone down ruddy complexions. The benefits of color extend to the lenses. Tinted lenses are growing in popularity, according to industry experts. A new variation of cosmetic tinting involves two or three gradient colors - barely visible in hue - that gradually increase and decrease in intensity. The wearer sees through the clearest part.
''They are very pale not to affect visual acuity, with an 80 percent transmission of light,'' says Dr. Margaret Dowaliby, a professor of optometry at the Southern California College of Optometry. Gradient tinting can be flattering to the eyes and skin tone, and may help to camouflage facial lines and fatigue shadow. The lenses don't appear colored to someone looking at them, says Dr. Dowaliby. ''All you know is that the lenses are beautiful.''
Lenses tinted for cosmetic purposes are not effective as sunglasses, however. According to the American Optometric Association, sunglasses should be dark enough to screen out 75 percent to 90 percent of sunlight. If the eyes can be seen clearly through the lenses, chances are the glasses are not dark enough. Medium to dark gray or green lenses are recommended; they cause the least amount of color distortion.
Health considerations aside, fashion rules are made to be broken. Dr. Dowaliby, the author of five books on fashion and eyewear, now views some conventional wisdom as passe. But she offers guidelines on frames for women in their 40's and older who, she says, often need a facial ''uplift.''
''The frame line should always slant up toward the temple,'' she says. Very round glasses or the traditional aviator types can be unflattering since they do just the opposite.
Makeup artists say eyeglasses should also affect the choice of makeup colors and their application. Way Bandy, author of ''Styling Your Face'' (Random House, New York, 1981), warns against ''complicated lining,'' since frames already make lines. He likes to use eye makeup in light, bright colors that open up the eyes behind the glasses.
Tyen, the makeup director at Christian Dior, favors limiting eyemakeup colors to browns, grays and navy blues, adding a touch of silver in the evening. ''These colors make eyes look stronger under the glasses,'' he says.
According to Renaissance Eyewear, the licensee of Yves Saint Laurent and Rive Gauche glasses, the different approaches to makeup may depend upon the types of glasses. ''Glasses for nearsighted people tend to make the eye appear smaller, so use a darker line under top lashes for emphasis,'' says a company manual prepared for a cosmetics workshop. ''Lenses for farsighted people can magnify eyes, so use light lines and paler colors.''
Dr. Dowaliby warns women who wear glasses and contact lenses to avoid lash-lengthening mascara made with tiny fibers. Pieces can flake off and scratch plastic lenses, or they can flip onto the lenses and be flicked into the eyes.
To see or not to see has long been the question for women dressed in evening clothes. Even fashion designers are at odds here. Oscar de la Renta takes a practical approach: ''You have to decide whether you want to see or just be seen.'' The designer Bill Blass, on the other hand, takes a more whimsical stance. ''A lorgnette might help,'' he says. But basically, he adds, he agrees with the Dorothy Parker line that ''men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.'' His advice: ''leave your glasses at home in the evening.''
To the contrary, however, the designers Elsa Peretti and Emmanuelle Khanh wear oversized, identifiable eyeglasses for nights out. Miss Peretti wears large, tortoise-shell glasses; Emmanuelle Khanh wears either a pair of snow-white square glasses or neutral snakeskin patterned frames, both of her own design.
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