Do you ever spill food down yourself or get food on your hand or mouth? Well luckily, since Roman times there has been a solution to that – a napkin. But like many things in life, there is a right way and a wrong way to use a napkin. According to Debrett’s etiquette guide:-
Napkins (never ‘serviettes’) should always be provided and placed either on the side plate or in the centre of the setting, where the plate will go. They should be folded simply; avoid elaborate origami styles.
Before you start eating unfold your napkin and place it on your lap. Never tuck it into the top of your shirt. Dab the corners of your mouth with your napkin if necessary during your meal, do not make grand side-to-side wiping gestures. When you have finished eating place your napkin, unfolded, beside your plate.
But it has not always been the case that folding a napkin in your lap was the “correct” way. In the 1700’s, it was fashionable to wear a napkin tied around your neck (above the ruffled collar), but when fashions changed to lace fronted shirts, the napkins were held by attaching to a pin, placed in the buttonhole of the shirt.
This method of napkin wearing continued right through to Edwardian times – A pin attached through a buttonhole, or attached to a chain worn around the neck.
Recently I have sold a couple of lovely looking Napkin Pins to customers. They look nice and have a practical use, so maybe the fashion is returning?