Kylie, Jane, Riley, Shane: Let’s Discuss Olsen Twin Character Names

Few people will experience admiration, envy, and inferiority like those of us who were born the same year as Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. When our parents were applauding us for holding our heads up unsupported, the Olsen twins were starring as Michelle Tanner on Full House. When we were writing our first names in shaky printing, they released an album of children’s songs complete with a tv special. They produced video series before we were allowed to babysit, and had a clothing line before we could drive.

All that and their characters always had dope-as-hell names, too.

The Olsen twins had the best of everything in the 90s and early 2000s – the FLYEST of sunflower hats, the cutest bowl-cutted nonthreatening boyfriends, the most spacious well-decorated tween bedrooms – but their character names took the cake. Often several years ahead of the popular names ACTUALLY given to girls born in 1986, they were cutting edge (at the time), super cute (again, at the time), and exactly what you wished you were named as a 5th grader.

To Grandmother’s House We Go

The year: 1992

The names: Sarah and Julie

Before the Olsen twins were the girls everyone wanted to be – or before the twins got to influence character names themselves – their characters actually had some of the most common names for girls our age. Trust me, there were about 6 Sarahs in our graduating class. A lot of kids’ movies give the characters names that either are popular with way younger kids (a high schooler of today named Harper, e.g.) or that were popular when the writers were kids (a high schooler of today named Stacey). This early O.T. movie hit the nail on the 1986 head.

Double, Double, Toil and Trouble

The Year: 1993

The names: Kelly and Lynn

Still a real mixed bag. Kelly wasn’t a NEW popular name in 1993. It was ranked 29 when the Olsens were born (’86), had fallen to 51 by 1993, and was in the top 100 since 1959. But thanks to Kelly Kapowski, it was still right in the cool-girl zeitgeist in the early 90s. Lynn, on the other hand – perfectly nice name, but it was actually ranked in the 400s in 1986 and 779 (!) in 1993. You’ll see some major changes when the O.T.s hit their tween years, so hang on to your hats.

How The West Was Fun

The Year: 1994

The names: Jessica and Suzy

Ah, Jessica. Ranked either number 1 or 2 from 1981 to 1997. If you run into a woman from her early 20s to early 30s, and you can’t remember her name, try Jessica. It’s a good bet. (And a fine name! No shade to Jessica).

Then there’s Suzy. Probably a nickname for Susan, Suzanne, or Susannah, it was way more popular in the boomer era than among millennials. Safe to say we’re still looking at a case of writers using a name that was popular when THEY were children. (Definitely no shade to Suzy either! Susan and Susannah are two of my favorite girl names.) But keep those hands on those hats (usually a denim hat with a big fake flower on it, if I’m remembering my Olsen movies). A storm’s a-brewin’.

It Takes Two

The Year: 1995

The names: Amanda and Alyssa

Now we’re getting somewhere. This was the Olsens’ first big theatrical release, and to my nine-year-old ears these were some of the best names around. You have to remember, the long, flowy, ends-with-an-A names on the modern top 100 list were but a twinkle in future baby namers’ eyes back then. Amanda and Alyssa were like the Isabella, Sophia, or Olivia of the time. Sure, they might feel too common to me as an adult, but if I were a kid I’d think they were beautiful.

Billboard Dad

The Year: 1998

The names: Tess and Emily

Friends. This, I argue, is when everything changed. First of all, this was the first direct-to-video movie of the tween Olsen era, with love interests and Limited Too-looking clothing and freaking butterfly clips. If you can find it, watch it. It’s like waking from a dream to find yourself in 1998, that’s how 1998 it is.

But you know what isn’t terribly 1998? The name Tess. It was ranked 572 that year, and 855 the year the Olsens were born. It hasn’t gotten any more popular since then, but add an -a and you have Tessa, a name that has absolutely flown up the charts. We’re looking at the beginning of cool, tween Olsens who had cool, tween names. Emily was the requisite familiar, standard name in the duo: number 1 in 1998, 24 in 1986.

Passport To Paris

The Year: 1999

The names: Melanie and Allyson

Melanie was most popular in the 1970s but has mostly hovered around number 100 or so. (An aside, if you’re naming a kid: my name, Molly, is also usually right around number 100 and never got much more popular than that. It’s a great popularity level because everyone knows it, but you don’t actually meet that many people who share your name.)

Allyson, though, was part of that really cool (again AT THE TIME) 90s trend of using a Y instead of an I in names. Sure, it’s played-out now, but do you remember when people first discovered you could do that? For a few years there it felt like every girl was named Madyson or Megyn or Lyndsey.  So there are three other Alisons, of various spellings, in her class? She’s the only ALLYSON-WITH-A-Y, and for a brief, shining moment in 1999, that was enough.

Switching Goals

The Year: 1999

The names: Sam and Emma

YES. There was this thing in the 90s where if a girl character was sort of sporty and tomboyish, but still cute and cool, her name was Sam. Sometimes her name might be Dani or Alex, but usually Sam. It’s as though even when she was in the womb her parents were like “welp, got ourselves a chill tomboy on our hands. Best give her a feminine name with a masculine nickname,” and Samantha was born. (Another no-shade disclaimer: I have a cousin Samantha-nicknamed-Sam, and I’ve always liked her name.)

Emma has been so entrenched in the top 10 list for so long that it’s easy to forget when it was the vintage-y interloper. It sneaked up the list through the 80s and 90s, a fresh alternative to the more common Emily, before landing in the top ten and eventually overtaking Emily.

Our Lips Are Sealed

The Year: 2000

The Names: Maddie and Abby

We are now entering peak ‘baby names on teenagers’ -era Olsens. Were there Maddies and Abbys born in 86? Hell yes. I know a Madeline my age and I have a cousin named Abbey. But Abigail rose from the mid-100s in 1986 to the top 10 in 2001. When this movie came out it was sounding super-fresh, moreso than typical 86-er names like, ahem, Sarah and Julie (no offense, To Grandmother’s House We Go). The Mad- names, like Madeline, Madelyn and Madison, collectively skyrocketed throughout the 90s. If you were a 13-year-old girl in 2000, Maddie sounded SO MUCH COOLER than your name, which was probably Kimberly or Nicole.

Winning London

The Year: 2001

The Names: Chloe and Riley

Chloe and Riley would have made excellent names for characters born around 2001 – you know, like Riley from Girl Meets World. But Riley’s rank in 1986, when this character was ostensibly born, was 1342. 1342 is “what was your mother smoking while pregnant”-level weird – and I LIKE uncommon names. Chloe fared a bit better, but at 461, it was still “quirky on purpose” if you were born in the 80s. I submit that this is the point where, if they weren’t before, the Olsen Twins began picking their characters’ names. How do I know? Because if you asked me to name a baby in 2001, when I was 14, I probably would have said something like Chloe or Riley.

So Little Time

The Year: 2001

The Names: Riley and Chloe

What can I say. The names so nice, they used them twice.

Holiday In The Sun

The Year: 2001

The Names: Madison and Alex

We already discussed Maddie, but let’s get into Madison. In 1983, Madison wasn’t even on the charts, meaning it was given to fewer than five girls in the entire country. In 1984, a few dozen babies had it. A few hundred in 1985. By 2001, it was ranked number 2. Just chalk it up to the timeless allure of Daryl Hannah, who played a mermaid named Madison in the 1984 film Splash. Madison was a joke. She said it was her name while looking at the street sign for Madison Avenue. Yet Daryl never really took off for girls – go figure.

The Alex- names (Alexandra, Alexandria, Alexis, Alexa) also soared throughout the 90s and reached their peak in the early 2000s. Like Sam, it was a popular character name for sassy tomboys during this time.

Getting There

The Year: 2002

The Names: Kylie and Taylor

90s and 2000s trend: unisex/male names and surnames for girls. It’s still going strong, but it seemed a lot more novel in 2002. Back then, before we knew what a Kardashian was, Kylie felt like a modern, original alternative to Kayla and Kaylee. And before we knew what a Swift was, Taylor felt streamlined and cute, fitting on a studious girl or a bubbly athlete. What’s even more interesting than the rise of these names in the 90s is that both have fallen quite a bit lately. I bet if this movie were made in 2016, the cool tweens with unisex/surname names would be called Ainsley and Harper, or Hadley and Peyton.

When In Rome

The Year: 2002

The Names: Charli and Leila

I’ve been diplomatic about the names that aren’t my personal style so far, but Charli on a girl sets my teeth on edge, and not just because I have a nephew named Charley (my nieces and nephews all have names that sound like they’re from British children’s books from the 1910s, for which I’m very grateful to my siblings.) Charli is a fine as a nickname for Charlotte, but I can’t get behind it as a full name. But since the twins had already used Sam and Alex, what were they supposed to do? It had to be Charli. There was nowhere else to go.

Leila falls into one of the other big trends of the 2000s – the short, double L girl names. Leila, Layla, Lila, Lily, Lyla, Lola – no single one is huge, but as a group they are taking over. The dominant sound of the 80s, when the characters would have been born, is more of the three-syllable, ends in ee variety: Tiffany, Brittany, Stephanie, Kimberly, Mallory, Bethany, and so forth.

The Challenge

The Year: 2003

The Names: Shane and Lizzie

I’m not familiar with this one, but WHO COULD THE REBELLIOUS TOMBOY BE? (My money is on Shane. Especially because she was played by Mary-Kate. Always the rogue, that M.K.) Other than the boy name on a girl thing, it was actually pretty off-trend in 2003. Not only was Shane never popular for girls, the Sh…n… girl names were bigger in the 70s and 80s. Shana, Shayna, Shawna, Sheena, Shannon. I guess M.K. was really ~expressing herself here.

I assume Lizzie was the clean-cut, straight laced kid who was president of the homework club or whatever. Interesting only because the Olsens’ sister, arguably the most relevant Olsen in 2016, is named Elizabeth/Lizzie.

New York Minute

The Year: 2004

The Names: Roxanne (Roxy) and Jane

Do you remember how big this movie was supposed to be? The Olsens missed prom to host SNL during promotion! The posters were up forever – I should know, because I was a high school senior doing time at a movie theater concession stand. It didn’t take off like it was supposed to, but Mary-Kate and Ashley really came into their own, name-wise, with this one. The sister who wears concert tees and likes black: Roxy. Of course. It felt especially hip at the time because Roxy, the surfwear brand, was huge in middle America. Jane was just the kind of vintage name that was cool because nobody was using it – sort of like Hazel, if Hazel hadn’t gotten so popular. I hope it stays that way, because Jane is totally on my short list if I ever have a kid. What can I say, those Olsen twins really know how to name them.




Best Dressed And Not-So-Favorites: Met Gala 2015

We were nervous about this year’s Met Gala theme. Nervous because the theme was China: Through The Looking Glass, which seemed like an open invite for questionable or racist or racistly questionable outfits. Fortunately, most attendees stayed on the right side of homage versus appropriation. That’s why our best dressed list contains only attendees who followed our handy guide for how not to be a racist idiot at the Met Gala. Now on to the fashions – with not a single geisha costume or hair chopstick in the mix!

Fan Bingbing in Christopher Bu

American audiences might only be familiar with Fan Bingbing from the X-Men series, but she’s been performing in China for close to two decades, and with a recent deal with 20th Century Fox we may be about to see a lot more of her. This gold gown with elaborate emerald-green cape is my top look of the night – a modern, formal, lavish take on Chinese design. I want that cape framed and hung on my wall, because it is absolute art.

Beyonce in Givenchy Haute Couture by Riccardo Tisci

The best way to avoid offending anyone at a gala with a theme that’s practically asking you to make it racial: wear something that has little, if anything, to do with the theme. Also, be Beyonce. It always helps to be Beyonce. Bey wore a Givenchy gown… or, I guess, some Givenchy clusters of strategically placed sequins. Daily Mail said that the jewels were “protecting her modesty,” because the Daily Mail is the fussy English grandmother I never had. Beyonce followed our rule of “interpret the exhibit” by choosing a broad, flat shoulder and fitted cut (um, very fitted?) that is slightly reminiscent of some modern takes on the cheongsam. Which means she also followed our rule “know your Chinese influences” by not showing up in some sort of weird kimono.

Rihanna in Guo Pei

Oh my goodness, yes. The Met Gala dress code not only requires attendees to wear full evening dress but, as a fundraiser for the Metropolitan Museum Of Art’s Costume Institute, it allows the guests to play dress up. Stars can wear more creative ensembles than at major awards shows, but their creativity has to be tempered by better taste than at, say, the MTV awards. In other words, if you cannot wear a fur-trimmed yellow cape and bejeweled headpiece at the Met, there is simply nowhere you can wear it. Rihanna followed our suggestion of celebrating a Chinese designer Guo Pei. You can read more about her here. And yes, this dress has already spawned 1,000 memes. Good job, internet.

Anne Hathaway in Ralph Lauren

Now for something completely different. It sort of looked like Anne Hathaway was taking Star Wars Day (May the 4th, obviously) to heart – but in the best way possible. Sure, this Ralph Lauren gown is more restrained than Rihanna and Beyonce’s looks, but you still don’t get much of a chance to wear a hood on the red carpet. Could “it has a hood!” become the new “it has pockets?”

Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen in Vintage John Galliano

The Olsen twins took a broad interpretation of the theme, dressing as the ghosts of two old Chinese widows from the past. But seriously, I don’t think I’ve seen MK&A in matching outfits since the early 2000s, and I love that when they finally do it they both wear these giant black numbers. From what I can tell Mary-Kate paid tribute to the theme by wearing silk brocade, typical in traditional Chinese dress. Ashley looks sort of like Stevie Nicks in Victorian mourning dress, and I’m not making fun of her when I say that. I swoon over designs from The Row just about every fashion week and I love the 180 the Olsens have taken since their days in matching denim sunflower hats.

Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in Atelier Versace

So, what’s Chinese about this dress? That’s not a rhetorical question, I’m really wondering what’s Chinese about this dress. Grandma Daily Mail says that she “stuck to [the theme] and ran with” it. I suppose the swooping lines and minimalism is a bit reminiscent of modern Chinese design – I’m thinking of streamlined yet flowing interior design, more than anything. I don’t know. It’s pretty, though.

Amal Clooney in John Galliano

There was a lot of red last night. I assume it was a tribute to the Chinese flag, the importance of red as a lucky color in China, and those stunning Chinese wedding dresses. That’s why this tiered gown didn’t feel TOO off-theme, even if it wasn’t explicity Chinese. The skirt is really blowing my mind here, even if the structured, studded bodice isn’t necessarily my favorite.

Lizzy Caplan in Donna Karan Atelier

Janis Ian, killing it. The drape of this is just perfect, and the embroidered silk pays tribute to the theme without going into costume mode. A lot of folks missed a real opportunity to play with the theme in their accessories last night, but these tassel earrings are amazing. I really wish I owned this dress and also had someplace to wear it (Met tickets are only like $25,000, I’m sure I could come up with it??).

Allison Williams in Giambattista Valli Couture

Allison Williams: Met Gala 2015

Here it is again. Red and cheongsam-style sleeves – just enough tribute to Chinese design without straight-up appropriating traditional dress. I know Allison Williams does the princess dress thing a lot, and sometimes it can seem like a larger version of something a very fancy nine-year-old can wear, but I think that the demure and sweet look works for Allison and she knows it.

Hey, You Tried Something

As I said, the Met Gala is a time to wear outlandish, elaborate looks that just wouldn’t fit in most scenarios. While I wasn’t particularly feeling any of the looks below, at least they really went for it, I guess?

Kim Kardashian in Peter Dundas for Roberto Cavalli

Is it just because I’m not a huge fan of Kim K? Not sure, but something about this wasn’t working for me.

Sarah Jessica Parker in H&M

I know I said it’s a good time to go over-the-top. And I know that SJP is usually the belle of the Met Ball. And I love that this collection uses sustainable fabrics! The look as a whole isn’t my favorite, but she looks like she’s having a blast which makes it that much more fun for the rest of us.

Lady Gaga in Alexander Wang

It IS Lady Gaga. And Alexander Wang is an American of Taiwanese descent. And the sleeves are maybe a modern take on a hanfu (but it kind of reminds me of a Japanese haori??). So I have every reason to like this, I just don’t. It’s me, not the dress, probably.

 Kerry Washington in Prada

We LOVE Kerry Washington. And when she nails an outfit, she NAILS it. I’m just over this high-low thing and this particular shade of pink isn’t my favorite. Hair and face, though? Flawless as ever.

Katy Perry in Moschino

I almost feel like she bought this for the punk-themed Met gala in 2013. Even if I were into the dress, the spraypaint can clutch takes it from costume in a fun, classy, celebratory way to costume in a “My Mom Found A Costume For Graffiti In American Girl Magazine” way. I don’t know if it’s new, but short hair suits her.

Solange Knowles in Giles Deacon

On one hand, I love Solange’s style even more than Beyonce’s usually. And I think this is supposed to be the dress inspired by a Chinese fan, which is really fun. But on the other hand, I don’t enjoy looking at it.

Chloe Sevigny

Chloe reminds me of Mary Kate Olsen. Do they look disheveled, or is the way they dress so high-concept that I’m too simple to get it (probably)? But that doesn’t change that this looks like two Chinese robes from a public market vendor sewn together – in a way that doesn’t fit.

Justin Bieber

I don’t like you and I don’t like how you look, which is like Zach Morris’s long-lost torero cousin.

The Best (and Worst) of the Met Ball

Monday marked the annual Met Ball in New York City, and it’s regarded as one of the biggest fashion events of the year. Some have even touted it as the Academy Awards of the East. Which is weird but okay. It’s where fashion and Hollywood meet at the stairs of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and we’re not just talking Gossip Girl.

What’s great about the Met Ball is that the stars aren’t afraid to wear grand, elegant, edgy, head-turning gowns. I mean they’re rubbing elbows with the likes of Anna Wintour, Vera Wang, Tory Burch, Zac Posen, etc. etc., so they have to be on top of their game.

To help you get acquainted with the festivities, here’s some of the best and worst dressed at the Met Ball over the past few years.

Best Dressed

Solange in Rachel Roy, 2012

Emma Stone in Lanvin, 2012

Kristen Wiig in Stella McCartney, 2012

Michelle Dockery in Ralph Lauren, 2012

January Jones in Versace, 2012

Camilla Belle in Ralph Lauren, 2012

Emily Blunt in Calvin Klein, 2012 (and bonus JKras bc they’re just too cute together!)

Worst Dressed

Sarah Jessica Parker in Alexander McQueen, 2006

Victoria Beckham in Valentino, 2003

Diane Kruger in Prada, 2012

Shaliene Woodley in Christopher Kane, 2012

Chloe Sevigny in Miu Miu, 2012

Mary Kate Olsen in The Row, 2012

Elizabeth Banks in Mary Katrantzou, 2012