This is an extract of fashion journalist Alyson Walsh’s book, Know Your Style: Mix it, Match it, Love it.
When we meet, Marie Wilkinson, design director at Cutler and Gross, is wearing a beautiful pair of 1950s-style brick-red frames. ‘They’re called A Day at the Races,’ she tells me, ‘I was thinking about jockeys and how they want to be distinctive but don’t wear logos, just vivid colours. The colours are very dense, very high pigment, so you can see them from far away.’
Having worked with the eyewear brand for 33 years, and worn glasses since the age of eight (when her mother noticed she was sitting very close to the television), Marie has experimented with a range of different styles: from pink 1960s ‘kitten eye’ to round acetate frames in glittery black. Eulogising over eyewear as a glamorous fashion accessory rather than a mere ‘medical appliance’, she offers advice on what to look for when buying new frames.
Fit, size and shape
First, the basics: ‘Ensure the glasses frame the eyes and the eyes are the focus and sit centrally in the eye rim.’ Then you can start thinking about shape. ‘If you want something to open up your face, choose frames with a wider shape.
'For a small face, I would suggest an oversized, fine-rimmed metal frame for a playful take on proportion, or an immaculately fitting acetate frame. If you go for something bold then make sure it follows a natural line on the face – it could be a fringe, your eyebrows, jawline or cheekbones. There is something to celebrate on everyone’s face. The classic kitten eye is a recurring theme for me; it works with my hairstyle. If it’s the eyebrows, then ensure the frame follows the brow line, and runs just underneath the brow line to emphasise its sweep.’
Complement your look
Glasses are part of your complete look, so consider how they work with your make-up and clothes. ‘Choose a colour that makes the eyes pop and enhances the iris colour. Like make-up, eyewear is a positive way to add colour to your face. If your signature lipstick is non-negotiable, then work with the lipstick. Make sure the frames are an opposite colour or it’s a red that’s in tune.’
It’s important to consider the bigger picture. ‘Glasses should flow. We always have full-length mirrors in our stores so that customers can step back and look at the whole silhouette.’
The je ne sais quoi
As with all things style-related, following your heart or your gut instinct is often the way to go. ‘You should feel something, feel curious and want to try them on. Apparently there’s something like 10 per cent nostalgia – the frames remind you of someone and give you a warm fuzzy feeling – and the rest of it should be new and exciting.’ And when you find the perfect pair of specs, don’t be afraid to make a serious investment: ‘Having bespoke eyewear is a bit like having a suit made to measure: you’re looking for longevity. It’s an investment. Glasses can be re-polished and realigned – you can keep them forever.’
Listen: Maggie Alderson talks to Mia Freedman about fashion over 40 on No Filter. (Post continues...)
And what doesn’t go
Wilkinson is not a fan of glasses on chains. ‘I don’t like it and it doesn’t look right at any age. It’s dangerous because your glasses are vulnerable.’ She suggests going for varifocals instead. And, of course, the only thing worse than bad glasses is no glasses at all. ‘Don’t read the menu with a mobile phone light. It’s more chic to have a pair of glasses.’
Great glasses brands to consider: Cutler and Gross, Oliver Peoples, Ray-Ban, Moscot, Warby Parker, Cubitts, Bailey Nelson, Eyevan, Prada.
How to wear glasses with hats
People often think that because they wear glasses, they can’t wear hats. That it feels fussy and hemmed-in and there’s too much going on. But there’s no need to go for the full-on Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady approach.