The Cat-Eye: A Style for Every Decade

Updated on 11.18.2022

Cat-eye glasses are one style that has stood the test of time. Nearly a century old, the cat-eye has managed to create its own distinct look each decade. >Cat-eye glasses were first created in the 1930s. The frame later became a huge trend for sunglasses in the 1960s when Audrey Hepburn famously wore them in the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Since then, we’ve seen the cat-eye on everyone from Barbie, to Marilyn Monroe, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and today’s top fashion influencers.

A History of the Cat-Eye Glasses Frames

Image source: Vanity Fair

The 1930s: Cat-eye glasses are born after Altina Schinasi walked by an optician’s office and noticed the lack of stylish options for women. Inspired by the masks that Schinasi saw in Venice, Italy, she designed glasses with exaggerated framing around the eyes. After being turned down by multiple opticians, she finally gained a fan in one glasses boutique in New York City.

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The 1940s: During this decade, the now famous frames started to be referred to as the “Harlequin.” The trend was a rectangle lens with a thick frame, a slight uplift at the sides, and small details at the corners such as little gold stars.

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The 1950s: Cat-eye glasses became more narrow and pointed during the 1950s. This style gained popularity after Marilyn Monroe started wearing cat-eye glasses in her films.

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The 1960s: The smaller cat-eye frame began to transform into a larger, oversized frame. Cat-eye sunglasses became all the rage after Audrey Hepburn wore a pair in her 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

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The 1970s: Eyewear in general became larger and more circular in the 1970s. Cat-eye glasses changed to a more dramatic shape to keep up with the times.

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The 1980s: The oversized trend from the 1970s continued into the 1980s, when cat-eye glasses started to show up in extremely large, face-shielding metal frames.

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Image source: Harper’s Bazaar

The 1990s: Colored lenses were the go-to style of the 90s (colored lenses are also making a comeback this year). The oversized cat-eye frame was now being worn in a wide range of bright colors.

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The 2000s: With the new millennium came even bigger glasses. Cat-eyes were being worn in thick, chunky frames, often with bedazzling on the sides.

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The 2010s: The retro cat-eye trend is seen everywhere and on everyone. This time the frame is more geometric and considerably smaller than what we’ve seen in previous years.

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