Not Martha

on buying eyeglasses

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.

· comments [25] · 11-30-2007 · categories:shopping ·

25 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Lisa // Nov 30, 2007 at 12:02 pm

    I bought glasses last year through Zenni Optical (, which is one of the places Glassy Eyes promotes. I liked Zenni because they give complete specification on all their frames, so I was able to measure my current glasses and find a frame with the same dimensions. I was pleased with the result and the prescription was spot-on.

  • 2 Miss Sassy // Nov 30, 2007 at 12:13 pm

    On a similar note, I used to buy my contacts online at whatever place was the cheapest. Last time I ordered, my eye doctor’s office called to say they will match any price I find online. Though it is more convenient for them to be delivered to my house, I like to give the local place my business and pick them up now.

    Another thing that I didn’t do when I ordered my last frames and lenses is have them change the lenses so they don’t account for my astigmatism. I wear them so infrequently that I get a little nauseous from the distortion.

    Thanks for the information as I know my mom is due for some new glasses.

  • 3 marielle // Nov 30, 2007 at 12:17 pm

    I just ordered some non-cateye Modos (style 522) from Frames Direct after trying them on in a local store – saved me about $80. They haven’t arrived yet but so far I’ve been impressed with FD’s customer service – they followed my online order with a phone call to explain when my specs should arrive.

    I’m hesistant to go the $40 glasses route myself because I’m a tough fit too. And I figure glasses are like shoes – completely necessary, and one of the few things I don’t mind splurging on!

  • 4 megan // Nov 30, 2007 at 12:19 pm

    Marielle – Tragically, all the Modo frames are too narrow for me! But I liked them otherwise, thanks for recommending I take a look at them.

  • 5 Matt Haughey // Nov 30, 2007 at 12:24 pm

    You know, I was meaning to mention the two or three places you can do the try-on-your-face thing, but didn’t want the article to go on much longer.

    I’d say places like zennioptical work great for a 2nd or backup or workspace pair of glasses, but I totally understand on the whole point of not being able to try frames first.

    I guess I felt the same way, but I realized in doing this that once I narrowed down my choices to frames similar to the ones I normally wear, and I had all my measurements, the stuff that showed up was remarkably well-fitting. It was kind of like going into an eyeglasses shop and having everything you try be really good and already in your prescription.

    And when I noted that I bought some more expensive glasses, that was actually referring to a $250 pair of sunglasses I bought from FramesDirect (that would have cost $350-400 locally), but I had tried them on at my optometrists shop already and wasn’t sure about buying them yet.

  • 6 Matt Haughey // Nov 30, 2007 at 12:28 pm

    Oh, and in comments on the article at many places, I’ve also learned you can buy expensive name brand stuff found at places like FramesDirect over on ebay, then you can send them into a site like to get replacement lenses for less than $100.

    I’m trying this idea out with some new oakley eyeglasses that normally cost $250 (frame) plus $200 (lenses) that I got on ebay for $100 (frames) and am getting lenses online for $79 more.

  • 7 megan // Nov 30, 2007 at 12:38 pm

    Matt – Thanks for the additional information!

    I think I should have emphasized that I’m picky. Nearly every pair of frames I tried on was too narrow for my face, and that I seem to be unusual in that respect. So I’m afraid that any frames I buy online without trying on will give my cheeks a muffin top.

    Additionally, my old glasses are very comfortable, and I wasn’t able to find any new frames that had arms and earpieces nearly as thin. This is strange since the pair I have now were bought at Lenscrafters in one of those I-need-glasses-today rushes.

  • 8 Katie // Nov 30, 2007 at 1:14 pm

    I’d encourage you to bite the bullet and support your local optometrist. I admit, this is totally because my sister is an optometrist. I never knew, though, how much most optical shops rely on the income from their eyeglasses sales (you can only charge so much for an eye exam, and you can only do so many eye exams per day). Many, many optometrists’ shops are still “small businesses” or solo practictioners. (This excludes, of course, LensCrafters and the like.) I encourage you to find an optometrist that you love and then support them by buying from their shop. It is also amazing what a trained optical tech can tell you about your face and the glasses you should buy. My latest pair were ordered for me, sight unseen by me, and they’re the most flattering pair I’ve ever owned, and I get compliments on them all the time. Good luck!

  • 9 Kris // Nov 30, 2007 at 2:03 pm

    I’ve got the “wide face” problem too. I’m part Korean and I have very wide cheekbones. I can *never* find glasses or sunglasses that fit comfortably without pressing on my temples and giving me a headache. My current pair (purchased at my local optometrist) are almost wide enough, but my stupid big head keeps bending out the arms a bit until they get loose enough to fall off when I look down. So I trot back to the optometrist every six months who is happy to tighten them back up for me (for free). So that’s one perk of buying locally, at least for me.

  • 10 linda // Nov 30, 2007 at 2:08 pm

    Check out I have friends that ordered from there and were happy.

  • 11 Carrie // Nov 30, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    I just bought glasses last night at Costco. I know, I know, it seems strange, but they had a great selection of designer frames for super cheap ($50 and under).

  • 12 megan // Nov 30, 2007 at 4:54 pm

    Carrie – I looked at Costco frames, none of them worked for me but I was pleased to see Kate Spade frames there!

  • 13 Jen // Nov 30, 2007 at 7:43 pm

    I need the nose pad on wire things or the glasses touch my face too. it’s pretty typical of east asians since we usually have lower nose bridges. my current pair are metal, but have a shape characteristic of plastic frames, and I’ve just bought a pair that are plastic, but still have the nose pad things. I’ve never worn glasses without the pad things because they just feel too close.

  • 14 michelle // Nov 30, 2007 at 10:38 pm

    That’s so weird! I just picked out some glasses yesterday, too. I had wire ones by Coach, but went to plastic by Calvin Klein. I was told it’s really essential to have the bridge fit, because it can’t be adjusted. They picked out a pair that I wouldn’t pick out for myself, and they ended up looking the best. They’re really good at that. I don’t know how much mine were, since I haven’t finalized the order (still debating between black and tortoise).

  • 15 Catherine // Dec 1, 2007 at 1:29 am

    Hmm.. I’m still not sure about doing this. I’ve had so many issues with glasses giving me headaches that I’m a bit cautious about it.

    That being said, I have no hesitation in buying my contacts at for less than half the price my optometrist charges me. I am also swayed by the little box of Smarties (like M&Ms) they pack with the contacts.

  • 16 FAIRFAX // Dec 1, 2007 at 7:07 am

    After going to a high end glasses store, which made them wrong not once but twice – the first time one lens was near and the other far-sighted… I checked consumer reports and went to Costco. Got the best eye exam I’ve ever had and then got two pairs of specs for $200 less than one pair at the other place.

  • 17 villain // Dec 1, 2007 at 3:28 pm

    I have gotten several pairs from Zenni and love them to death. Prescription has been perfect and though you can’t try them on, some pairs are as low as 8 bucks, so it’s not too much of a loss. That is 8 bucks *with* lenses. Rad!

  • 18 rose // Dec 2, 2007 at 5:38 am

    I think I’m going to go ahead and give the internet glasses a try. I’ve needed glasses for awhile and the cheapest I’ve been able to find locally is from an outlet place for close to $200. I’ve had the new prescription for months now and haven’t had the money to get the glasses. I read your post and looked at a few sites. With my perscription, it looks like I’ll be able to get a nice pair for less than $50. With my prescription, that’s amazing!

  • 19 barenakehd // Dec 2, 2007 at 5:42 am

    Needed to share a link with you!
    TWO NEEDLE mittens– I can knock these babies out in about an hour a mitten! Super gift idea as we hit crunch time before the holidays!

  • 20 Nicole // Dec 2, 2007 at 9:28 am

    I usually go and try on frames, write down the numbers and search ebay. I have two pair of glasses: one tortoise shell and one black. A friend’s wife works at Sears optical and they put in the lenses for me. Really nice pairs for under $100.00.

  • 21 AdamZ // Dec 2, 2007 at 11:50 am

    Great write up about the experience and ins and outs of buying eyewear online. For people wanting to test the waters, I recommend starting with a basic pair of aviator sunglasses. The look is predictable and for $30 or less online, it is a great way to get a pair of prescription shades.

    I started a blog all about buying glasses online and news in the world of vision. Click my website link to head over there.

  • 22 Misa // Dec 2, 2007 at 3:46 pm

    Have you heard of America’s Best? There’s one by Southcenter and for fifty-nine dollars, you get two sets of glasses and an eye exam.

  • 23 Miranda // Dec 4, 2007 at 5:22 pm

    I bought my glasses online at and I am IN LOVE with them. They were 18 dollars WITH lenses, shipping and tax! I tried on some pairs in the eye glasses shop and got an idea of what I wanted (I have a wide, round face) and settled on square frames. They are a purple on the outside and a raspberry pink on the inside and when I ordered them I thought “well, if this doesn’t work, it’s only 20 bucks, and if it does work it’ll be awesome.) And they are perfect! Not a day goes by I don’t get compliments on them.

    A word about the pupil stuff. My eye doctor kinda refused to give me my PD, so I just did it myself using the instructions on zenni. I had my boyfriend mark the center of my pupil on my old glasses and then measured them from there and like I said, perfect.

    I will never buy glasses from an optometrist or eye glasses shop again! My boyfriend ordered some from zenni as well, and his were perfect as well, and gets lots of compliments as well. I really suggest that anyone on the fence about trying to order glasses online to give it a shot.

  • 24 Carrie // Dec 6, 2007 at 12:27 pm

    Wow. I had no idea about any of this. Thanks for the info!

    I need new glasses, but hate wearing them b/c I don’t see as well out of glasses as I do my contacts. This way I could get some w/o feeling too guilty about it if I don’t wear them!

  • 25 Eyeglasses // Apr 27, 2009 at 12:11 am

    If your eye doctor is ever hesitant to give you your PD or your eyeglass prescription- remind them it is ILLEGAL to not give you the ENTIRE prescription. The PD is included as part of the entire prescription.

    Just my 2 cents

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