Tablecloth Buying Guide

If you’re buying an all-purpose, everyday tablecloth, your considerations will be somewhat different than if you’re buying a tablecloth for a special occasion. But in either case, here are some of the factors to think about.

Size and Shape

Buying a tablecloth begins with two items: the table and the occasion. If the table is expandable (for example, with drop leaves or extenders) then the size of the table must be determined as well, as this will depend on the number of people who will be sitting at it.

Tablecloths come in four basic shapes to match four different table shapes: square, oblong (rectangular), oval, and round. The drop is the amount of overhand on each side. Eight inches (20 centimeters) is considered the minimal desirable drop. Ten to 12 inches (25 to 30.5 centimeters) is standard for a lap level drop, with 15 inches (38 centimeters) for banquet tables. For a floor-length drop, figure on 29–30 inches (73.5 to 76 centimeters).

To figure the size of a square, oblong, or oval tablecloth, add the drop times twp to the length of the table for the long dimension and drop times two to the width for the shorter dimension. For a round table, add the drop times two to the diameter. Computing from the length and width of the table plus the length of the desired drop on each side.

home institute 1 A tablecloth size calculator is available on the Tablecloth Designs website.

There are some standard tablecloth sizes that are characteristically available. These include:

  • Square: 52 x 52 inches
  • Oblong: 52 x 70 inches, 60 x 84 inches
  • Oval: 60 x 102 inches, 60 x 120 inches, 60 x 144 inches
  • Round: 70 inches, 90 inches

Custom-sized tablecloths can be made or ordered.

The Occasion

The occasion is the second thing to consider. The level of formality will be determined partly by the nature of the event and also by the guest list: if it includes any number of children, this may influence your choice of table linens, china, etc. If it is a seasonal or holiday event or a special celebration, consider if you want the tablecloth (among other items) to reflect that theme.


The next point to consider is the items that it would be desirable to coordinate the tablecloth with. This may include (but is not limited to):

    • Built-in room decoration items like paint, wallpaper, draperies, and other decorative elements;
    • Special occasion decorations (for example, Christmas tree, menorah, streamers, wedding cake, etc.);
    • Other table linens, like table runner, placemats, and napkins;
    • China, crystal/glasses, and/or other meal service items.

Fabric Types and Pattern

Many of the above considerations will contribute to the fabric choice. This will include choosing the fiber (for example, cotton, linen, or synthetic blend), as well as the fabric type (for example, lace, damask, moiré, denim, satin, gingham, etc.). Fabrics like lace and damask will have a pattern created by the weave, but for the others, a variety of colors and prints are available to match the rest of the room décor and suit the occasion.

Written by Mary Elizabeth

Related Home Institute Articles

  • Types of Menorahs
  • Introduction to Table Linens