Matt did a very helpful write up on buying inexpensive eyeglasses online over at 43 Folders. He includes details about your prescription and how to find what size of frame and lens you’ll need. I’ve been keeping track of what eyeglasses are available online lately as my prescription has changed twice since I bought the pair I have now* and I really, really need new glasses.
I suspect buying frames online might be more difficult for females, though. I’ve been looking for frames for about a year and I have stopped in every eyeglass shop I come across and have only found one pair that suits me. After trying on so many I doubt I could find a pair in the sites Glassy Eyes links to that I would be really happy with. Though, for $40 I might be more likely to be happy with them. The shops that have the option of uploading a picture of yourself and seeing what the frames might look like is encouraging.
After finding frames I liked in a shop I would come home and look them up online. There were a few sites I kept coming across that would carry the models I was looking for – Frames Direct and Eyefine. The prices there are less than in shops, but nowhere near the $40 to $80 price tags Matt talks about. (Note: I have not ordered from any online shop and can not give an opinion as to whether it is worth it.)
I finally did order a pair of glasses last weekend, turns out they are one of the first pairs of frames I tried on a year ago** when I got my new prescription. I was so tired of not having glasses that I went ahead and ordered them from the shop, and was a little relieved to come home and find they aren’t offered online anywhere. Coulda bought ‘em cheaper guilt assuaged. In addition to my driving prescription my doctor gave me a weaker prescription for sewing and computer work, so I am considering buying a $40 pair online with the second prescription.
Frames Direct suggests that you can get your pupil distance measured at any eyeglass shop but I found they were resistant to give me the number, even as I was paying for glasses I had just bought from them. I was measured twice and given two slightly different numbers. I figure if I order glasses online I can use the average.
One thing that makes me hesitate to order glasses online is the fit. I had a difficult time finding frames that didn’t press into the area above my cheekbones. I didn’t think that part of my face was particularly wide, but I’ve since developed quite a complex about it. It seemed like the majority of womens frames came in two sizes: too narrow for me and ridiculously, child-sized narrow. I do prefer plastic frames which puts me at a disadvantage here. (Those little nose pads on wire frames make me feel like I’m getting a Vulcan nerve pinch between the eyes.)
To sum up: Yay, eyeglasses don’t have to be super expensive. Boo, the ones I can try on in person aren’t the ones sold on the $40 sites.
* The glasses I have now were bought in 2000 and I expect them to simply break at any moment, I fear it’ll happen while I’m driving. This happened to Ugly Green Chair a few years back. As a kid I had a pair simply snap and fall off of my face while I was sitting completely still watching television.
** I know because I found a camera phone picture of myself wearing them in my Flickr stream dated November 12th, 2006.