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Fitting and Measuring

Check Your Glasses - Measure Where? - PD - Cable Temples - Skull Temples - Virtual Fitting 

Vintage Eyeglasses Were Smaller

Please keep in mind that vintage frames were worn smaller than modern glasses, so if you want a historically accurate vintage look, give some thought to your minimum size, especially in wire frames. This will give you more selection when considering vintage and antique styles. Why were they smaller? Until the early 1950s, lenses were almost all glass, much heavier than modern plastic lenses. Smaller lenses meant lighter glasses!  

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Compare Measurements

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To check your measurements, look first to your current glasses. If you don't have any daily-wear glasses, you can use some sunglasses, keeping in mind that they'll tend to be a touch larger than prescription frames. The closer the style is to what you're considering purchasing, the better, since comparing a wire frame to a plastic frame can be a little like apples to oranges. If your glasses were made after 1950 or so, they might have some frame measurements etched on them already, though I still recommend measuring.

If you're wearing contemporary, modern-style frames, the measurements you find written on your glasses may not translate directly to a vintage style of frame. Your hinge style might be different than the frames you're considering or the frames might have some ''wrap-around'' in the front that vintage styles mostly do not have. Even if you have measurements written on your current glasses, you may want to take some of the additional measurements and then spend a little time in front of the mirror considering size options using a pair of your own glasses and a ruler.
(If you don't have one, here's a useful ruler to print and use to measure. The link opens a millimeter ruler in PDF format intended for printing. Print from Adobe Reader and disable any ''resize'' options when printing because if you don't, the ruler might print the wrong size. To double-check, compare the inches scale to a ruler at home.)

Older wire rims almost never have sizes engraved on them, so check out the Measure from Where to Where section down below.

If your glasses do have sizes marked on them, most lens and bridge measurements will be in millimeters and many, but not all, temple measurements will be in inches. Strange, but that’s the way it was done back in the old days. Nowadays, most measurements are all in the millimeters.

48_24_bridge_bk.jpg (29820 bytes) Lens widths run from 35 mm up to 54 mm (and even higher in the 1970's and beyond) and bridge sizes are usually from 16 mm up to 26 mm. This frame has 48 mm lenses and a 24 mm bridge. 

Sometimes measurements will be written on the bridge tabs, especially on clear frames or women's frames. This one has a 46 mm lens width and an 18 mm bridge.

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On the temples, you'll see ''4 1/2 – 5 3/4'' or sometimes just ''7'', which is the longest temple I've found. The longer temple number is the full length, so if it says ''4 1/2 - 5 3/4'', they're 5 3/4'' temples. More contemporary frames may be in metric, in which case they'll be 135, 140 or 145, something like that. The photo below shows a 5 3/4 inch (145 mm) temple, the average length for most men's frames.

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Sometimes plastic or aluminum frames will read ''48 – 22'' on the back corner of the rims, or sometimes 48 in one corner and 22 in another. The frame shown above is a 48-22-5 3/4'' (145 mm).

Even if your frames are marked for a size, I still recommend measuring… 

Measure from Where to Where?

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The lenses and bridge are measured from the edges of the lenses themselves (not the sides of the rims). 

Lens width is sometimes called the ''A'', lens height called ''B'' and the bridge is called ''DBL'' for Distance Between Lenses. There's also a ''C'' measurement that is the diagonal for the lens, but it's only used by the lens maker, so I don't provide that figure.


Hinge-to-hinge is not an industry measure, but I provide it so you have more information. It is measured from the center of one hinge screw to the other and is not across the full front of the frames. Adjustment can make for variation in the hinge to hinge figure, too.

00_MEAS_W_FR_LINES_WORDS2.JPG (30971 bytes)  It can be very helpful to get an idea of your own, personal MINIMUM hinge to hinge measurement. Minimum is helpful because vintage frames were smaller than today's glasses. If there's space between your temples and the side of head near your eyes, how much space is there? Could your glasses temples be closer to your head? If so, how much closer? Subtract that space from your hinge to hinge to get an idea of your minimum hinge to hinge. Even with a minimum hinge to hinge figure in mind, remember that temples can be made to open farther.
Keep in mind that temples can open farther and be curved around your head so that they don't squeeze into the sides of your head. Factory adjustment might look like about like this viewed from the top:

     |_ _|  


Adjusted to curve around your head, frames might look like this from the top:

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This type of adjustment is how most folks wore small glasses in the old days and it's still not unusual today. It allows you to wear frames that are narrower than your head. 



Temples are measured from hinge to tip, as though they were straightened out.

 Temple measurements are hinge to tip as though straightened out for ALL glasses: wire, plastic, or aluminum.  Why? Because temples are adjustable.

(If you don't have one, here's a useful ruler to print and use to measure. The link opens a millimeter ruler in PDF format intended for printing. Print from Adobe Reader and disable any ''resize'' options when printing because if you don't, the ruler might print the wrong size. To double-check, compare the inches scale to a ruler at home.)

Pupillary Distance (PD) and Frame Size

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When you go get glasses, your optician will measure your Pupillary Distance (PD), which is the distance between the center of your pupils as you're looking forward. Depending on the size of your head and face, your age and your parents, I suppose, PD figures vary from anywhere from around 40 to 80 millimeters. Sometimes PD will be taken for distance vision and for reading vision, in which case you'll have two PD numbers. The distance number is usually the first, followed by the reading PD. The PD figures are used by your shop or lens lab for centering your lenses when cutting them to the shape of your frames. There are a variety of ways to measure your own PD, but I recommend having it done by a shop so you get the most accurate measurement. Having your PD measurement is not really necessary when ordering frames, only when having lenses made.

When considering frames, the idea is generally to have your pupils centered in the lenses. This isn't always possible because frames come in size increments that may not correspond to your exact PD or you may simply want larger-sized frames, in which case your pupils will be more toward the inner edges of the lenses. To figure the distance between the lens centers on a particular frame, just add the lens width and the bridge width figures. So, a 50-22 frame would have lens centers 50 + 22 = 72 millimeters apart. If your PD is close to 72, then your pupils would be centered in the frames! Again, having your PD isn't really necessary when ordering frames, but it's one more measurement that can be handy in considering frame sizes.

Measuring Cable Temples

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To measure cable temples, use a cloth measuring tape or you can even a use a piece of note paper. Tuck one end of the paper against the hinge and lay it flat against the length of the temple, curling it completely around the ear-bend to the end of the wire.

Don't have any cable temples to measure for comparison? Check below for some ideas on figuring your cable temple length without cable temples at hand.

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Mark the end of the temple on the paper. 

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Flatten the paper and measure to your mark. This should give you a good idea of your cable temple length.

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(If you don't have one, here's a useful ruler to print and use to measure. The link opens a millimeter ruler in PDF format intended for printing. Print from Adobe Reader and disable any ''resize'' options when printing because if you don't, the ruler might print the wrong size. To double-check, compare the inches scale to a ruler at home.)

Measuring for Cables without Glasses

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If you don't have any glasses with cable temples, you can do a similar trick to what's shown above with a piece of string or wire wrapped from the corner of some glasses to behind your ear. Antique wire frames are usually narrower than modern-day frames, so you might cheat the ''imaginary hinge'' toward your nose just a bit to compensate.

What Length Cable Temple?

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A standard cable temple length for an adult male is around 6 1/2 inches (165 mm), though they run from 5 to 7 inches. It's usually better to get them a little long and then bend back the cables if they poke you in the back of the ear. The bend-back technique is also used to keep cable temple covers in place, which I heartily recommend. 

There's also a ''rule of thumb'' you can consider, which suggests adding 20 mm (13/16 inch) to your comfortable skull temple length to get an idea of a comfortable cable temple length. So, if you're wearing a 145 mm (5 3/4 inch) skull temple, the ''rule of thumb'' for cable temples would suggest a 165 mm (6 1/2 inch) cable temple. Keep in mind that if your frame style and especially your hinge style differs from the frames your considering, the temple lengths may not be directly comparable. 

Also note that cables really are adjustable. The curvature of the cable can be changed so that they fit you properly. Most experienced optical shops can handle this for you without blinking. It does help to have ''the touch'', but you can do the adjusting, too, and I'm happy to explain how if you're interested.

Cable Temple Covers

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I recommend plastic cable temple covers to extend the life of your temples. Before discovering temple covers, I was replacing my cable temples every two years. Now I just replace the covers every few years and have kept the same pair of temples for over ten years! I'm partial to the vintage ''flesh'' color, but they come in other colors, too.

What Length Skull Temple?

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Skull temples run from 5 to 7 inches. The average temple length for men is 5 3/4 inches (145 mm) and women’s frames are 5 1/4 (133 mm) or 5 1/2 inches (139 mm). Again, please remember that temples are adjustable and your optician will fit them specially to your head.

Virtual Fitting Trick

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Here's a good trick:
1. Copy the front view photo of the frames.
2. Paste it into a blank Word document (or most any document creation software of your choice)
3. Re-size the image so that the full-front frame width will print out at the width listed in the frame dimensions table. 
   - I set my ''View'' menu to ''Print layout'' and then make the ''paper'' measure 8 1/2 inches across using the ''zoom''.  This is trial and error.
   - I put a ruler against my screen to see if the ''paper'' is 8 1/2 inches across.
   - Then whatever size I make the photo image on the screen will print out that size on paper.
4. Print, cut-out the image and ''try them on''!
If you need help with this, let me know. I have some pages already made with different sizes ready for printing.

Glasses Will Need Adjustment

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Please don't expect your glasses to fit perfectly without a little adjustment. Many opticians do small adjustments free of charge. Cable temples are flexible and with a little adjustment at home or by your optician, they form to fit your face properly and comfortably. For adjustments to plastic and aluminum frames, an optician warms up the frame and bends it a little to fit your head. If you have special vision requirements and aren't sure about using a particular frame, check-in with your eyecare professional of choice or feel free to inquire here.

Find a Local Optical Shop

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It's always a good idea to check with your own optometrist or optician before getting new glasses. For filling your prescription, try to find a long-established, local optical shop. The 1-hour lens places, discount stores and online lens-makers do their own thing well enough, but I'm partial to the local shops, especially when dealing with the oldest frames. The optician will be glad to see someone who appreciates the old frames!


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