Fancy or plain is much more than a matter of taste when deciding on equipment for an invading horde of diners. If you love fancy, you may spend more time ironing lacy ends than with those you have invited or are required to feed through a sense of birthright or marriage. No-iron, poly/cotton blends are very practical and no one seems to really care way or the other. (They will, however, always remember if the food is bad.) Here are some general tips to bear in mind while marketing for a tablecloth.
1. Choose easy to clean fabrics in deep shades or intricate prints (to conceal stains).
2. Make sure the cloth has at least a nine-inch drop from each edge of the table to avoid looking skimpy. Save floor-length cloths for stand-up buffets since they can be an accident waiting to happen around the feet of unsuspecting diners.
3. If you must go fancy or you will simply die, settle for a lacy runner or topper over easy-care cloth. Toppers serve several purposes: they protect a good cloth, hide a spotted one, and can be rolled off between courses in punishment for their neutrality. In respect for that old saying about square pegs in round holes, remember to always use a square topper over a round table. This can render a very graceful look, especially if the corners drape at least eight inches over the edge. White lace-works well over a deeply colored cloth as the shade shows through the cutwork. A runner looks prettiest when it is a little shorter than the tablecloth.
4. Stock up on a few vinyl-covered cloths for outdoor use. If you use an elegant topper, you can even go formal with them.
Remember that cloths make the table just like that old adage about clothes making the man. Don’t forget though, that a meal makes the meal and there’s no getting around that!