Retro Baby Names: Dorothy, Gloria, Maxine and Estelle, the latest comeback kids

May 6, 2012 Linda Rosenkrantz

In perusing the baby name news of the week, Abby Sandel of Appellation Mountain documents the latest developments in the trend for retro baby names.

We all know that names drift out of fashion and then slowly find their way back into style. But when is it time for a comeback – and how do you know?

This week’s big baby name noise has been about Jessica Simpson’s use of two family names for her new daughter, combined for the masculine Maxwell Drew. Parents of boys called Max everywhere accused the celeb mom of name-napping and general bad taste.

But maybe we’re all missing something. Rumor has it that Simpson plans to call her daughter Maxi – a sassy retro choice that fits right in with Sadie and Sophie. Could it be that Jessica’s faux pas is really an invitation to dive right into names from the 1910s?

And why stop there? This week also saw high profile birth announcements drawing on favorites from the 1920s to the 1980s.

Whatever the decade, this week’s nine newsiest baby names are all a blast from the past.

Maxine – If little Miss SimpsonJohnson will really answer to Maxi, is it time to reconsider Maxine? She was at her most popular in the 1910s and 20s. If the hundred-year rule applies, then maybe this is her moment. Musician Nick Hexum named his daughter Maxine Vita last year. There’s also Madame Olympe Maxime, as in the toweringly tall headmistress of Beaux Batons in the Harry Potter series – though technically, Maxime is masculine in French.

Gloria RayMaggie Gyllenhaal and Peter Saarsgard surprised us with their birth announcement for Ramona’s little sister. Gloria Ray is another choice that could be right on the edge of a reprise. She spent 1922 through 1963 in the US Top 100. Even if their eras are different, it is easy to imagine Gloria fitting right in with Olivia and Amelia on the playground.

JeanRemember Irish pop group The Corrs? They scored a smash hit with their 2000 single “Breathless.” Singer Andrea Corr welcomed a daughter named Jean after her late mother. Once again, the name’s heyday in the United States started in the 1920s, but she’s another classic along the lines of the very popular Claire, and feels as wearable as Jane. Then there’s the heroic Joan of Arc, known as Jeanne d’Arc in French. I’d like to hear more of her.

Ruby Jeanne – If not in the first spot, then maybe in the middle? Marley Shelton has welcomed her second. Big sister West’s name is very different in style from the retro Ruby Jeanne. Ruby was a Top 100 mainstay from the nineteenth century into the 1940s, and has hovered just outside the US Top 100 for a few years, so no surprises there. But will Jeanne catch on as a sister for Claire? Or maybe she’s just an alternate middle for June and Jane.

Lauryn Anabelle – Dancing with the Stars champ J.R. Martinez is a new dad. Like Jessica, he and girlfriend Diana used family names. Lauryn is the name of Diana’s late sister, and Anabelle honors J.R.’s sister Anabel, who died before he was born. It’s incredibly meaningful, and in fairness, Lauren remains a Top 100 choice for girls in the US. Still, Lauren feels tied to the 1980s, once again raising the question about how long a name has to be out of use until it sounds fresh again.

Estelle – Here’s one to watch, a cousin to the wildly stylish Stella, but with a French twist. Estella is a Dickens character, but Estelle might be a spare yet feminine option for parents to consider in 2012. She was most recently spotted in the Waltzing More than Matilda birth announcements as Estelle Barbara Lindsay. She still reads a little Golden Girls, but then, it wasn’t that long ago that the same was true for Stella.

LuciaMira Sorvino’s fourth child arrived last week, a sister for Mattea, Johnny, and Holden. The sharp-eyed Beth immediately noted that Mattea and Lucia were the feminine equivalent of popular celeb brother sibset Matteo and Luca.

Dorothy – I caught a promotion by Tyler Florence for his Sprout kid cuisine a few days ago, and was reminded of his kids’ names: sons Miles and Hayden and daughter Dorothy. A Top Ten pick from 1904 through 1939, Dorothy feels as current as Natalie and fresher than Mackenzie.

Clarabelle – My latest obsession is name-spotting on Project Nursery and pinning the best finds to Pinterest. If allowed, I’d forgo food and rest to keep digging into the incredibly creative names in use by terribly clever parents. My favorite find his week: twin sisters called Milly and Clarabelle.

Do you like retro girls’ names – and if so, which era is your favorite?

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