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History of a Place Setting

Tue, May 9, 2017

Setting a table is one of our favorite things to do at Coton Colors.  From big dinner parties to a Tuesday night family meal, we love to celebrate every day with fabulous serveware.  But where did this tradition come from? How did place settings come about? We’ve been reading The Festive Tradition: Table Decoration and Desserts in America, 1650-1900, to provide you a little background on how place settings have evolved and a bit of the history behind it.

Setting a formal table, and the etiquette that goes along with it, dates all the way back to the Ancient Greeks and can even be found in the Old Testament of the Bible.  But it wasn’t until the 18th century that a placed table setting truly became an art form. In this time, tables were elaborately set with every part of the meal on display and had to be reset between courses. Napkins were becoming more prominent and forks were being developed for each portion, which made memorizing which one to use a tad tricky {did you know there was such thing as a shrimp fork?}.

In the late 19th century, the style of dining changed to á la Russe {a fancy term for sequential courses}. Each type of food was served individually which did not require the entire tablescape to be reset as it had been done previously. We began to see multiple dishes at a place setting and it became the responsibility of the hostess to know the order of the forks to be set on the table, since the food was not served all at once. Have you ever heard of the term start at the outside and work your way in? This phrase became relevant with a la Russe dining!

The formality of table settings drastically decreased in the twentieth century and has remained that way through the years. Today, the hostess can truly customize her table, implementing the tradition from previous centuries and adding her own twist. Stay tuned later this month to see how Laura and Kyle uniquely set their own tables.


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