In many European cultures a white, or mainly white, tablecloth used to be the standard covering for a dinner table. In the later medieval period spreading a high quality white linen or cotton cloth was an important part of preparing for a feast in a wealthy household. Over time the custom of arranging tableware on a cloth became common for most social classes except the very poorest. As eating habits changed in the 20th century, a much greater range of table-setting styles developed. Some formal dinners still use white tablecloths, often with a damask weave, but other colours and patterns are possible.
Perugia tablecloths and napkins have been made since medieval times. White with characteristic woven blue stripes and patterns, the style is also associated with church linen.
Victorian interiors were full of thick, fringed draperies in deep colours, including tablecloths reaching to the floor on any kind of table.
A popular "magic trick" involved pulling a loaded tablecloth away from a table but leaving the plates behind. This trick relies on inertia.