Gill South: Optically challenged

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Gill South fancies a new look and takes a stylist along to help her choose the perfect pair of glasses.

Remember when choosing the perfect glasses for your face shape that your eyes need to be centred in the lens. 'You don't want the top of the frame running 'across' the eyeball,' says leading stylist Susan Axford. Photo / Thinkstock
Remember when choosing the perfect glasses for your face shape that your eyes need to be centred in the lens. 'You don't want the top of the frame running 'across' the eyeball,' says leading stylist Susan Axford. Photo / Thinkstock

For the myopic and hyperopic among us - that's fancy for short-sighted and long-sighted - we can take consolation in the fact that there are so many gorgeous designer specs out there at so many smart opticians that we can completely update our look every few years.

In fact it's downright tempting. The designs are so interesting these days that there are some mad people who buy clear-glass frames just to make themselves look more fabulous, which as a person who has to wear them, I find slightly bizarre.

I've got to that point where I want a new look, plus my prescription has gone down slightly recently in the disconcerting way it does as you get into your 40s.

I have done some research and have made a plan of attack. There is a nice cluster of optometrists in Newmarket - I've already been to a good one in High St and my own optometrists in Ponsonby, but I haven't found what I'm beginning to think might be a needle in a haystack.

The last time I went glasses shopping, I took a friend. She helpfully took photos of me with her fancy iPhone but because I take a bad photo, all the glasses looked awful. I did however find a brand I liked, a Danish one called ProDesign.

For better success this time, I have enlisted the help of Your Style's Susan Axford who had mentioned to me that she helps people shop for glasses. The stylist has a reasonable hourly rate and I thought it was worth it because, frankly, I can't see well enough to know how the frames look on me. I know the magnified glass they have in the stores is meant to help but it doesn't really do it for me. I'm too blind. And this purchase is not cheap, I wear glasses all the time so I want to be really happy with my choice. With new lenses and the frames, it's the best part of a $1000 purchase, so I don't want to get it wrong.

I have a narrow face and it's not helpful that the trend for glasses this year is big - both in the thickness of the frames and the size of them generally. I look like Mrs Magoo in most pairs. It's not surprising that every time Susan and I enter an opticians, I naturally gravitate towards the children's section.

Susan tells me the colour of the frames is important. We've decided brown or tortoiseshell will be best for me, though we do get tempted by some nice greens. I tell Susan, green would be fun if I could afford five pairs, and she knows some people who do, but that's out of my budget.

Susan's also looking for the right height of the nose bridge in my new specs. I apparently have a long, narrow nose. I never knew this, I always thought it generally just went with the rest of my face. And if you have a long nose, you mustn't have a high bridge, as then the nose will look longer, she advises.

Another thing to remember is the eye needs to be centred in the lens. You don't want the top of the frame running "across" the eyeball.

Also, when your face is narrow, it's better to have contrasting detail on the edge of the frame, as that will exaggerate the narrowness of the face. A slight curve or angle on the lower part of the frame will show the cheekbone, which is flattering on most face shapes.

Our first stop in trendy Teed St is at Michael Holmes Premium Eyewear, followed by Optik Eyecare round the corner in Gillies Ave, then Gates Eyewear in Remuera Rd and Occhiali Optical Optometrists in Nuffield St.

We are intent, approaching this in a truly business-like fashion, closely analysing the displays - we must have looked at about 1000 by the time we are finished.

After an efficient, no-nonsense hour, we have narrowed our selection down to two pairs. .

It's mind-boggling to think that out of all the glasses we have seen, only two really suit me. I have given up picking up any because Susan just frowns at my hapless selection.

The service in all the stores is very good.

Occhiali is just a feast for the eyes. I think its range is the most theatrical, but it's at Optik that I find, or rather Susan finds, the ones for me. They are brown ProDesign specs, with stripes in brown, grey and chocolate down the arms which gives them a bit of a kick.

These frames curve under the eye which is good for my cheekbones, they are brown which suits my colouring - only brunettes like Jenny Shipley can get away with bright red glasses.

Unfortunately I can't just walk out with them - a pair is ordered from Sydney and they arrive a couple of weeks later. I ask my optometrists, Harrison and Graham, to do the lenses for me. Painless really. And I can cast off my coke bottle glasses once and for all. You'd almost want to be short-sighted to wear my new ones.

Auckland optometrists

Occhiali
303 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby, ph (09) 376 3073; Shop 16, 2-10 Nuffield St, Newmarket, ph (09) 524 8828.

Optik Eyecare
2A Gillies Ave, Newmarket, ph (09) 520 1000; 20 Hall St, Pukekohe, ph (09) 238 3796.

Michael Holmes Premium Eyewear
25 Teed St, Newmarket, ph (09) 523 0343; 5b High St, City, ph (09) 973 8950.

Gates Eyewear
17A Remuera Rd, Newmarket, ph (09) 524 4962.

Mortimer Hirst
9 High St, City, ph (09) 379 0950

Harrison & Graham
1 Jervois Rd, Ponsonby, ph (09) 376 2565

Next week:

Volunteering is well known for giving people a real lift and zest for life. I've arranged to go and help out at the Blood Donor Centre in Epsom. My job will be to help serve refreshments to those important people: blood donors. Surely I can't muck that up?

- NZ Herald

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