The name Chemise first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in 1958:
1958: 7 baby girls named Chemise [debut]
At first I didn’t think much of it, as chemise is an old French word (originally for a woman’s undergarment) that happens to have a pleasant sound: sheh-MEEZ or sheh-MEES (similar to Charisse). Seeing it pop up in the ’50s data didn’t really surprise me.
But then I did some research…and discovered a fascinating bit of fashion history.
For most of the ’50s, the dominant silhouette in ladies’ fashion was an hourglass shape that included defined waists and full skirts.
But in 1957 specifically, several high-fashion designers (including Balenciaga, Givenchy, and Laroche) shook things up by presenting dresses that hung loose from the shoulder and were not cinched at the waist.
These shapeless “chemise” dresses — sometimes called “bag” or “sack” dresses — ended up being a hot topic in the American press during the last months of 1957 and throughout 1958. Supporters praised chemises for being modern and simple; detractors called them ungainly and ugly.
Perhaps even more importantly, the controversy inspired the novelty song “No Chemise, Please” [vid] by Gerry Granahan. It was popular over the summer of 1958.
After a while, the debate died down and the silhouette became accepted (and eventually mainstream). But not before it had given the French word chemise lots of extra exposure. And this extra exposure ended up having a (slight) effect on American baby names, resulting in that 1958 debut in the data.
So what do you think of Chemise as a baby name? (How about as a dress style?)
“Everly” is hot…”Beverly” is not. It’s a one-letter difference between fashionable and fusty.
If you’re sensitive to style, you’ll prefer Everly. It fits with today’s trends far better than Beverly does.
But if you’re someone who isn’t concerned about style, or prefers to go against style, then you may not automatically go for Everly. In fact, you may be more attracted to Beverly because it’s the choice that most modern parents would avoid.
If you’ve ever thought about intentionally giving your baby a dated name (like Debbie, Grover, Marcia, or Vernon) for the sake of uniqueness within his/her peer group — if you have no problem sacrificing style for distinctiveness — then this list is for you.
Years ago, the concept of “contrarian” baby names came up in the comments of a post about Lois. Ever since then, creating a collection of uncool/contrarian baby names has been on my to-do list.
Finally, last month, I experimented with various formulas for pulling unstylish baby names out of the SSA dataset. Keeping the great-grandparent rule in mind, I aimed for names that would have been fashionable among the grandparents of today’s babies. The names below are the best results I got.
In mid-1965, Peter and Pat O’Sullivan of Staffordshire, England, welcomed a baby girl.
Peter, a bricklayer who called himself a “fanatical Liverpool fan” — inspired by the team’s recent victory in the FA Cup — took it upon himself to give his daughter the following name: Paula St John Lawrence Lawler Byrne Strong Yeats Stevenson Callaghan Hunt Milne Smith Thompson Shankly Bennett Paisley O’Sullivan.
Those 15 middle names honored 15 members of the Liverpool Football Club: 12 players, the team manager, and two assistants:
St John Lawrence Lawler Byrne Strong Yeats Stevenson Callaghan Hunt Milne Smith Thompson Shankly Bennett Paisley
Ian St John Tommy Lawrence Chris Lawler Gerry Byrne Geoff Strong Ron Yeats Willie Stevenson Ian Callaghan Roger Hunt Gordon Milne Tommy Smith Peter Thompson Bill Shankly (manager) Reuben Bennett (asst.) Bob Paisley (asst.)
All 15 middle names appear on her birth certificate, but her name had to be shortened to “Paula St J L L B S Y S C H M S T S B P O’Sullivan” on the birth register.
Unfortunately, Paula’s mother Pat was not very enthusiastic about the situation: “The first I knew about it was when I saw the birth certificate, and I don’t mind saying I was furious. It’s a real shock to learn your baby’s been named after a whole football team.”