Girls Who Wear Glasses: A Tribute


Buying glasses. Like marriage, it is not an estate to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly and in the fear of looking stupid. But the rewards are great:

There was a time — like, six years ago — when wearing big glasses was still an issue. When someone would liken you to Carrie Donovan or Anne Slater or some other kooky icon. Now, they see you and shrug — American Apparel, whatever — and turn away. Or, worse, they say, “Lisa Loeb!” And for those of us who’ve been into lenscraft for some time, it’s demoralizing. It’s enough, in fact, for me to break down and get the damn PRK.

Yes, we all know the rules that apply to face shape and width and all that jazz, or if we don’t, there are a million web-sites happy to instruct us. As even the most casual of sunglasses-sporters knows, there’s no substitute for trying on a pair (or, as is generally the case, pair after pair after pair in Fabulous Fanny’s endless drawers) and realizing how much difference a small gradation of color or line can make. (I admire those who buy their frames online, but would never dare, personally.) And we all know that when all’s said and done, even if you go for no-fills, high-glare, used-plastic, it’s going to be an investment, and for many of us a major part of our presentation.

This, for me, is really what the glasses companies get wrong. There’s a big difference between a woman who wears glasses and a woman with a pair of glasses on her face, and we’re not idiots. Has she ever pushed her specs repeatedly up her nose in an especially stuffy interview room, reached for them only to encounter the paradox of she who cannot see, cannot find her glasses? Slept on them or stepped on them? Wondered when to take them off pre-makeout? No, no, no and no. And you can tell that she and her specs are not One.

It’s at time like these that we need to be reminded of specs icons.

The Spunky Outsiders
Harriet the Spy, Anastasia Krupnik and, later, Daria, were all smart outsiders whose glasses distinguished them from the mainstream.Naturally, Harriet’s vision was perfect come the movie. Today, their looks are all ready for the streets of contemporary Williamsburg.

The Popular Girl

Carney Sibley. Carney, says Betsy in the amazing Betsy-Tacy high-school series, is the only girl she knows who looks prettier in specs than she possibly could without. Her demure wire-frames are, we learn, the perfect frame for her devilish lone dimple. Tragically, when Carney becomes heroine of her own love story in Carney’s House Party, the glasses are mysteriously absent from Vera Neville’s illustrations! Again, they’re not deemed the stuff of heroines.

The Sell-Out
Molly McIntire. Although the doll and her tiny glasses case were an inspiration to bespectacled little girls everywhere, in Changes for Molly, (her winter story) Molly gives into the demands of an anti-specs world and throws off her red frames to land the lead in a tap-dancing pageant. (Of course, she ultimately pays for the vanity that leads her to curl her hair.)

The Trendsetter
Lisa Loeb is important not just because she has the Gen-X cat-eye revival on her shoulders, but because she never took ’em off: like many of us, she wore them all the time, because she had to, whether in a gown or on TRL.

They were not (as is always the case on What Not to Wear, or sometimes on Claudia Kishi) an optional bit of quirk to be discarded when the time came for sexiness. This was major.

The Icons

Rachel Maddow’s glasses, you just know, are to get the job done. This is not concession to fashion. And yet, she looks cool as ice.

Carrie Donovan, on the other hand, made glasses fabulous — a trademark, even. Myopia, in her hands, became yet another accessory.

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