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FASHION : A New Look : Glasses with non-prescription lenses are popular with those who want to change their image.

May 23, 1991|AURORA MACKEY ARMSTRONG | TIMES STAFF WRITER

They were small things, but enough to tell me my vision had changed.

I was driving home one night and came to a stop at what I thought were two red lights.

The type on my computer was fuzzy, even after cleaning the screen. When I walked into my son's room, it looked clean to me.

It was time to get my eyes checked again.

Getting fitted with a new pair of lenses was like having my windshield cleaned after driving 60 m.p.h. through a bug storm. It was a relief to finally see clearly again.

But picking out a new pair of frames, I discovered, wasn't quite so easy.

Every time I tried on a pair, one-word descriptions blared inside my head as if from a megaphone.

The round wire-rimmed ones, apparently de rigueur in many newsrooms, screamed cliche. The colored plastic ones said housewife. The oversize designer ones said ostentatious. The aviator ones said superficial.

Finally, I picked out a lightweight rimless pair, vowing that I would listen to my doctor and wear them all the time. Deep down, though, I knew better: I remove my glasses at every opportunity and put them on only to read or avoid running over children crossing the street. After all, I thought, doesn't everyone hate wearing glasses?

Apparently not.

At Claire's Boutique, a Ventura accessories store, glasses with plastic, non-prescription lenses are one of the new big sellers, according to manager Richard Brunelle. People who don't need to wear them are buying them for a different look, he said, or to make a specific statement about themselves.

"A lot of women buy these when they're about to go on a job interview, or are about to ask their boss for a promotion," said Brunelle, holding up an oval-shaped, plastic frame. "They say they think it will make them look more credible."

One young woman came into the store looking for a pair to wear to a nightclub. She was going out with friends and they were used to seeing her a certain way. "She said she thought it would make her look like a different person to them."

Another customer was one of Brunelle's employees, who was tired of being teased about how young he looked. "He got a pair of the wire-rimmed ones and said, 'Now maybe you guys will take me more seriously.' "

A Miller's Outpost, a clothing store chain that caters to the denim set, sales associate Sandra Smith said the glasses are hugely popular with teen-age boys.

"We had a whole rack of them and now we're down to only a few. So we're really selling a lot," said Smith. "The guys usually come in with their girlfriends who tell them to try them on, and then they say the glasses look good on them. We haven't had a lot of girls buy them," she added, "but it could be because a lot of other stores are selling them now, too."

After browsing through a rack of the glasses, Michelle Askay, a 15-year-old Ventura High School student, looked at herself in the mirror with a pair of silver frames. She said she'd never heard the adage about men not making passes at a certain segment of the population.

"People think you're smarter" with glasses on, she said. "They think you're more serious."

Whether her teachers would buy the look is a different story. "I don't think teachers would be fooled by it," she said. "They grade your papers. They KNOW."

I have one little problem with this whole thing.

It's not that most of the people with poor eyesight who I talked to said they would happily throw their glasses away if they could.

It's not that people who don't need glasses can take them off whenever they want.

It's not even that people are so superficial that they actually think someone in glasses is smarter--unless of course, they think that about me.

No. The issue goes much deeper. What I'd like someone to explain to me is this: Why do I have to pay $180 for a pair of frames I'd rather not wear, when it only costs about $8 to buy a pair if you don't need them?

This could be one of the great mysteries of the ages.

* THE PREMISE

Ventura County is teeming with the fashionable and not so fashionable. There are trend-makers and trend-breakers. There are those with style--personal and off the rack--and those making fashion statements better left unsaid. Twice a month, we'll be taking a look at fashion in Ventura County--trends, styles and ideas--and asking you what you think. If you have a fashion problem, sighting or suggestion; if you know a fashion success or a fashion victim, let us know. We want to hear from you.

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