If I were going to start a new collection of vintage linens (and I’m not!), it would be cocktail napkins.
They are so small, easy to store, and utterly, utterly perfect. They speak of attention to detail and elegance of a time gone by.
Because a cocktail party is a special, showy occasion, cocktail napkins tend to be special and showy as well. And just as cocktail parties can take different tones, so can the napkins. Some are arch and clever, some are a little naughty, some are self-consciously elegant.
All of the napkins are designed to be noticed and to communicate about the party-giver.
Many, many of the napkins reference the point of the party—drinking. Roosters are extremely popular on cocktail napkins, presumably because of the connection with the “cock’s tail.”
Elegant “cocks” on super-fine fabric, with handmade lace
Jaunty printed “cocks”
Other cocktail napkins depict all aspects of drinking. You’ll find designs of glasses and liquor bottles.
Hand embroidered on linen, with tiny red cherries
Madeira bar accessories!
You’ll also find pink elephants
A pink elephant, hugging his cocktail
and fish that are drinking like fish!
A whole subset of cocktail napkins is the risqué or naughty category. These turn up on eBay and Etsy pretty regularly and can be very expensive.
One napkin, two views
Four girls with padding
A woman in a bottle
Another direction in cocktail napkins is that of sheer elegance and opulence. These napkins were used as a way to demonstrate taste and refinement.
The tiny “F” monogram is created by hand-pulling threads
These napkins are the finest-quality and most perfect I’ve had my hands on. The linen is like gossamer and the monogram “F” has been added, not with embroidery, but by drawing and tying those tiny threads.
The napkins pictured in this post were all wrought by handl. This work is not “hands at home” but, rather, done by experts and highly prized.
Madeira hand applique on organdy
Because of their appeal and craftsmanship, cocktail napkins can sell for pretty crazy prices, especially the very detailed ones that are cheeky and whimsical. But you can also get lucky and find wonderful surprises at tag sales and thrift shops. These superb napkins with embroidered champagne glasses came from an estate sale in a small town in the middle of nowhere.
Tiny stitches form the champagne glasses and bubbles!
And the F monogrammed napkins shown above were thrown into a mixed lot in an eBay auction.
So, keep your eyes open and see if you can add some fabulous cocktail napkins to your life! Or, if you just like looking and enjoying the glimpse into a bygone era, feast your eyes on this specialty shop, as well as this one!