A well-fitted tablecloth makes a table look inviting, elegant and clean. The length of the tablecloth fall depends on the function of the table. A service table will look appropriate with a full fall. A dining table often looks appropriate and functions well with a partial fall.
Buffet and Serving Tables
Buffet and serving tables are often inexpensive fold-out tables. If the table were used without a tablecloth, most guests would find the table unattractive. This type of table is hidden by using full-size tablecloths with the addition of a table skirt. The skirt clips around the edges of the table over the tablecloth and completely hides the fold-out legs of the table. This transforms a functional table into an elegant service table.
The size and shape of the tablecloth should match the table's shape and dimensions. Tablecloths come in square, oblong, oval and round shapes. Selecting the wrong shape for the table will result in either too long or too short a fall. The exception is that an oblong tablecloth can be used for an oval table, if necessary. Another consideration is the use of weights. In an outdoor event, it is common to use tablecloth weights or a weighted hem on the skirt to hold the tablecloth in place during wind gusts. You can't assume that the objects on the table will hold the cloth in place. In the case of strong winds, the tablecloth can be blown up and over the table.
Dining Room Tablecloths
When you purchase a tablecloth that matches the dimensions and shape of your table, the fall of the cloth will generally be between six and 10 inches from the top of the table, which is considered the standard. This length brings the tablecloth to the top of the lap of the person sitting at the table. However, personal preference can be taken into consideration. If you prefer the more dramatic effect of a longer fall, that's perfectly acceptable.
Tablecloths should never drag on the ground. If a tablecloth is too large, fold it and pin it before positioning it on the table so that it drapes close to the ground without resting on it. Iron and pin the tablecloths with safety pins to fit the tables they will be used on. For an oversized table, join cloths with temporary iron-on hem tapes and pre-fit the cloths to correct the size before using them on the table.