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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Posts
    2,149

    Little black dress names!

    On my thread about Jane, Io reminded me of YouCan'tCallItIt's fabulous post on "little black dress" names. Her list is as follows.

    Alice
    Anna
    Anne
    Claire
    Eve
    Grace
    Jane
    Kate
    Laura
    Rose
    Sophie

    I'm not sure if I agree that all the names on this list are little black dresses. Laura, Sophie, and Grace in particular jump out at me as not quite belonging. This is probably because Laura and Grace seem dated, and Sophie not only has a very uneven history of use and has skyrocketed to popularity, but also seems distinctly, well, frilly.

    So what IS a little black dress name? I would say it's chic, versatile, and never truly goes out of style. Thinking about my post on Jane, I'd also add that a little black dress name is pure: Jane is the original form of Jean and Joan, which, while they would otherwise fit the criteria, I wouldn't include because they're elaborations.

    This definition (which is certainly up for debate!) begs a number of questions, of course. Can a rare or new name be a little black dress? Calla, for instance, is a nature name that's virtually unheard of, but its stripped-down, simple sound makes it surprisingly adaptable: Calla could be a teacher, an undertaker, a judge or a surfer. Seren seems to hit that same sweet spot: sleek, chic, and adaptable. Then again, Calla and Seren are both very recent and unusual to the American ear. Does that necessarily mean they aren't little black dress names?

    What about longer names? Catherine and Margaret certainly seem to have claims to little black dress status. Again, there's that adaptability -- it's hard to pigeonhole Catherine and Margaret as being a certain kind of girl (or woman). Both have been in steady use for hundreds of years. On that note, how about Elizabeth? With four syllables she's hardly slight, but Elizabeth is perhaps the last word in versatility. She can be a Betsy or a Beth, a Libby or a Liz. Or would Eliza qualify but Elizabeth not? Why?

    If Catherine and Margaret and Elizabeth have a claim, how about Frances and Agnes? Sure, they've fallen off the charts, but they're also simple, pure, and arguably quite versatile, not to mention both have an extremely long history of use. Their datedness would probably be a strike against them. But then again, ten years ago Alice was sipping tea in the nursing home with Bertha and Gertrude. Or does falling off the charts lose a name its little black dress status?

    What about Mary? Or are the religious connotations too strong? (As someone of Jewish descent, I would never use Mary.) And hey, why isn't Sara on this list?

    It's worth mentioning that this list is also very Eurocentric. In the Hispanic community Juana, Maria, and Elena have been around as long as Jane, Kate, and Ellen (another little black dress contender!). For any cultural heritage you could name, there are names that would definitely have little black dress status. What are your favorites from YOUR heritage? Are there names that have long been popular in other cultures that you would love to use yourself? And do little black dress names survive translation?

    Talk to me about little black dress names, Berries! Do you agree with this list? If not, why not? What additions or deletions would you propose? What are YOUR favorite LBD(N)s?
    Last edited by augusta_lee; February 9th, 2013 at 01:22 AM.

    Matilda Sailor or Faye Matilda | Sylvie Winifred or Simon Atlas | Atlas Dov or Alice Violetta | Lucien Wilde or Lucinda Jane | Jane Lucinda or Jack Mariner | Marlowe Charles or Roscoe Thomas | Charles ' Charlie' Wallace or Marigold 'Maggie' Wynn | Eloise Lily or Elliot Darwin | Iris Cordelia or Thea Marina | Jasper Augustus or Juniper 'June' Lovelace | Julian Felix or Judah 'Jude' Reeve

    Just a grad student dreaming ahead...

  2. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Texas
    Posts
    986
    I would take off Laura. It's dated. An LBD name should be at least mostly timeless.

    Sophie and Rose can stay, I think. Agnes I would not add. Elegant to our ears, but to most it's aged, even clunky. A nana name. Like Frances, it's still too hipster. Calla is still too new.

    Mary I am tempted to add. Then again I'm Catholic. Ha! But I'd leave it off, because it comes with a built-in image. Mary is a good girl.

    I would definitely add Elizabeth and Catherine, but not Margaret. She's too... Margarety.

    Some possible additions:

    Sarah - simple, classic, a tad innocent, cross-cultural. Sarah could be anyone.
    Victoria - also a classic. Slightly longer but ultra-versatile and elegant.
    Marie - she's more than a French Mary. She's crossed the pond but retains some of her understated continental chicness. Def an LBD as a first name; but like Grace, Rose, and Anne, she's filler as a middle, and no more French or diminutive at this point than Sophie.
    Elise - everything I said about Marie, but substitute Elizabeth for Mary. Pure elegance. Timeless.
    Lena - a diminutive, yes. But it's stood the test of time, it's cross-cultural, it's sleek, it's elegant, it's pronounceable, it's versatile. I think it qualifies as an LBD.

    So right now my list would look like this:

    Alice
    Anna
    Anne
    Claire
    Eve
    Grace
    Jane
    Kate
    Rose
    Sophie
    Elizabeth
    Catherine
    Sarah
    Victoria
    Marie
    Elise
    Lena
    Last edited by missusaytch; February 9th, 2013 at 02:41 AM.
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  3. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Posts
    2,149
    Quote Originally Posted by missusaytch View Post
    Some possible additions:

    Sarah - simple, classic, a tad innocent, cross-cultural. Sarah could be anyone.
    Victoria - also a classic. Slightly longer but ultra-versatile and elegant.
    Marie - she's more than a French Mary. She's crossed the pond but retains some of her understated continental chicness. Def an LBD as a first name; but like Grace, Rose, and Anne, she's filler as a middle, and no more French or diminutive at this point than Sophie.
    Elise - everything I said about Marie, but substitute Elizabeth for Mary. Pure elegance. Timeless.
    Lena - a diminutive, yes. But it's stood the test of time, it's cross-cultural, it's sleek, it's elegant, it's pronounceable, it's versatile. I think it qualifies as an LBD.
    I agree with every one of these additions. Though I'm going back and forth between Lena and Ellen. Lena seems fresh while Ellen seems dated, but Lena also has a touch of the exotic to her...an LBD with an embellished hem, perhaps? Still, I would say she qualifies.

    How about Ruth? Ruth is short, sweet, and sleek. The -th ending might not be on trend, but Ru is seen in popular Ruby as well as Nameberry favorite Rue. Ruth has also had a long, strong history of use. Is she versatile enough to be an LBD?
    Last edited by augusta_lee; February 9th, 2013 at 02:53 AM.

    Matilda Sailor or Faye Matilda | Sylvie Winifred or Simon Atlas | Atlas Dov or Alice Violetta | Lucien Wilde or Lucinda Jane | Jane Lucinda or Jack Mariner | Marlowe Charles or Roscoe Thomas | Charles ' Charlie' Wallace or Marigold 'Maggie' Wynn | Eloise Lily or Elliot Darwin | Iris Cordelia or Thea Marina | Jasper Augustus or Juniper 'June' Lovelace | Julian Felix or Judah 'Jude' Reeve

    Just a grad student dreaming ahead...

  4. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Australia
    Posts
    2,742
    Hmm...I wouldn't add Ruth for the same reason I wouldn't add Agnes. It's still seen as a bit of a frumpy old lady name (and a bit hipster). I agree with missusaytch's list, especially the inclusion of my name, Sarah! Nice to know I'm a classic! ;-)
    TTC #1

    Audrey - Beatrice - Clara - Daphne - Jane - Margaret - Susannah - Violet

    Arthur - Barnaby - Edward - Frederick - Henry - Rupert - Theodore - Walter

  5. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Posts
    2,149
    It seems like LBD names run the risk of being interpreted as frumpy -- there seems to be a fine line between timeless and dated! On that note, what about Ada? She's definitely on trend, Ava's sophisticated older sister, but for me at least she seems a bit, well, old. Should she qualify as an LBD?

    Matilda Sailor or Faye Matilda | Sylvie Winifred or Simon Atlas | Atlas Dov or Alice Violetta | Lucien Wilde or Lucinda Jane | Jane Lucinda or Jack Mariner | Marlowe Charles or Roscoe Thomas | Charles ' Charlie' Wallace or Marigold 'Maggie' Wynn | Eloise Lily or Elliot Darwin | Iris Cordelia or Thea Marina | Jasper Augustus or Juniper 'June' Lovelace | Julian Felix or Judah 'Jude' Reeve

    Just a grad student dreaming ahead...

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