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Picking the Right Antique Glasses for Your Reenactment

Reenactors can go to great lengths to get their clothing and kit period accurate. Whether you are part of a Civil War reenactment unit, a volunteer at a living history museum, or preparing for your next Victorian Christmas ball, you probably have all of the right outfits and accessories.

This includes your eyewear. Glasses styles and materials have evolved over the years, and modern glasses can immediately ruin the illusion of your reenactment costume. When you are trading out your eyeglasses for vintage spectacles or you want to add a new accessory to your outfit, choosing frames from the right era can complete your character.

Glasses by Historical Period

If you are dressing up for a reenactment or putting on a historical costume for a party, these are some of the basic glasses styles throughout history:

  • Gold Rush and Pioneer Glasses – Throughout the 1800s, almost all glasses were wire frames, usually silver, gold, brass, or steel. The lenses were either rectangular, round, or oval, and usually far smaller than today’s lenses. For temple designs, consider straight temple or sliding temple glasses for a truly authentic look.
  • Civil War Glasses – Glasses for Civil War reenactors can be almost any style popular in the 1800s. Gold wire rimmed glasses and other wire rim frames will look perfect with your uniform. Another special option for the Civil War era is sharpshooter glasses. Using a straight temple frame, sharpshooter glasses use an amber lens that is frosted around the outside, potentially used to help soldiers aim better.
  • Victorian Era Glasses – Wire frame glasses with steel, gold, or brass are ideal for anyone dressing for the Victorian era. In addition to round and rectangular glasses, ovoid – or egg shaped – glasses also came into style in the later half of the 1800s. For an upper class option, you can also opt for a pince nez.
  • Early 1900s Glasses – If you are reenacting the early 900s or Titanic era, the largest change in glasses styles at the turn of the century was an increase in lens size. The front width of glasses grew to be the width of the face and many people started wearing cable temple glasses with arms that curved around the ears. Glasses could have wire rims or be rimless. Pince nez remained in style for older, wealthier women.
  • 1920s Glasses – Along with other changing fashion styles in the Jazz Age, you will also need a pair of fashion forward glasses. You have all of the options from earlier decades – wire rims or rimless, cable temples, and round or ovoid frames. In addition, new options in the Roaring 20s included horn rimmed glasses, octagonal lenses, Marshwood glasses nose pads, and Ful-Vue glasses with the temples connected at the top corner of the lenses.
  • WWII Glasses – The army ordered glasses en masse for soldiers. Wire rimmed aviators were a popular style for pilots and made popular by military heroes like General MacArthur, while GI glasses often used a P3 frame with cable temples. The GI glasses could have frames made of nickel or cellulose acetate.
  • 1950s Glasses – There was a boom in glasses styles during the 1950s. If you have a retro party, consider cat eye glasses for women and either horn rimmed or browline glasses for men. Aviators were popular in the second half of the decade and beyond, and wire frame glasses remain an option, especially for older adults.

For glasses from any era, you can find reproduction frames, but the better option is to find authentic, antique spectacles from Eyeglasses Warehouse. They are completely accurate in terms of design and materials, and many antique frames come with their own story that adds extra interest to your costume. Find eyeglasses for your next costume at Eyeglasses Warehouse.

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