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Huge shades draw looks, protect eyes


In spring and summer our thoughts naturally turn to sunglasses.

We could consider them the health product of the '90s. After all, as the ozone layer depletes further, we should get the best protection possible against the sun's rays. But let's not get too carried away here. Forced to admit it, most of us would confess that we buy sunglasses to glamorize our images.

And what better way to do it than with the newest, hottest styles: oversized Jackie O. shades reminiscent of the mid-1960s, with frames done in bold, colorful graphics. These specs can have plain black lenses. But the best and most with-it versions are colorfully tinted and so opaque no one can see your baby blues or browns behind them.

If you want to look rich -- and have the money to do so -- there are big, opulent, jewel-studded Jackie O. frames from eyewear designers such as Ellen Tracy, Laura Biagiotti and Judith Jack. Some of these glasses cover nearly your entire face in real tortoise shell; others are a bit smaller in colorful heavy-duty plastic frames trimmed with a bit of marcasite crystal or antique estate jewelry. Fashion designers Mary McFadden, Donna Karan and Chanel featured the new Jackie O. styles in their runway fashion shows for spring.

"We're seeing a massive return to the Jackie O.-style big round sunglasses, and whenever there's a trend like that, it becomes more interesting and sales of sunglasses go up," says Cheryl Hall, regional fashion director for Saks Fifth Avenue.

"For so long," she explains, "the Wayfayer and Ray Ban glasses were popular, and they didn't change that much. The Jackie O. styles," Ms. Hall adds, "are huge and give you a brand new look."

Beyond Jackie O. are many other styles popular this season:

* Mask-type goggles for the sports-minded that wrap around the face aviator-style and wouldn't come off even if you went bungee-jumping with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

* Skinny cat's-eye styles in mock graphite with orange lenses that look best with motorcycle jackets.

* Retro-look John Lennon-ish or industrial-looking, screw-and-bolt wire-rims, with the best featuring sturdy spring-loaded arms to prevent breakage.

* Angular, cheekbone-enhancing, gold-trimmed traveler-type styles that conjure images of Tom Cruise in "Rain Man" and Susan Sarandon in "Thelma & Louise."

Of course, some people are opting for more than one style to suit their many moods and looks.

Prices for this year's crop of sunglasses range from $5 for a pair of vintage cat's-eye sunglasses to $130 for Donna Karan's Jackie O. styles and $289 for tweedy and round Giorgio Armani shades.

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