When you pick up that piece of paper lying next to your dinner plate to wipe off your messy lips, have you ever wondered about its advent? The cloth napkin that is generally more widely used for formal settings was introduced by Madam Rebecca Waltemath at her finishing school in the 1700s. The word napkin was derived from the French word nappe that literally meant cloth covering for table.
For the longest time these cloth napkins were hugely popular; in fact they still are. Their paper alternatives were not introduced until 1887, when John Dickenson used them for the annual dinner he hosted at his company. Their introduction took place at the same time as face tissue and toilet paper, but they became a rage only in the 1950s, and today have taken over cloth napkins in popularity.
One of the main reasons for the popularity of paper napkins is the convenience that they accord people with. Unlike linen or cloth napkins, which are great to look at but a hassle to clean, these can be used and disposed off. There are none of the annoying laundry needs that cloth napkins have like bleaching, washing, and ironing to ensure that the napkins did not crease and were properly folded. They also de-stress a busy woman's life, saving her the hassle of cloth napkins.
The reason that these paper napkins became extremely popular in restaurants was because of the cost-effectiveness. The exorbitant amount of money that restaurateurs spent on laundering cloth napkins could be spent on buying paper napkins which turned out to be much cheaper as not only were there no costs of laundering, they were available at discounted prices if bought in wholesale. Also with these there were absolutely no chances of giving a guest a napkin that had stain residues on it. Can you imagine getting a take away parcel at a fast food joint without those conspicuous paper napkins that are handed out?
Today these napkins come in a variety of sizes, colors, designs and quality. You can use them for the most formal of occasions and for even a casual Sunday barbecue. Some paper napkins, thanks to their design, make and quality, resemble a cloth napkin so much that you cannot differentiate otherwise till you touch them. In fact, many people opt to order for custom-made varieties depending on the occasion that they are ordering them for. You can get them specially designed for the festive season or even get monogrammed napkins. Floral paper napkins are also very commonly ordered. Napkins invented recently come with a slight adhesive surface that will allow it to stick to your lap lightly and not slip off.
If you are planning a formal sit-down dinner and are not sure whether these napkins are the best way to go, then one way to make them look more formal and have the desired effect on your guests is by folding paper napkins into different designs. There are several different folding techniques that you could opt for in order to make your table setting appear more elegant. Sure, they may not look as posh as cloth napkins, but they have a similar effect.