# antiques # china dishes

Antique Dishes vs. New Dishes (Portion Size)

Before we begin today, I'd like to express my heartfelt condolences to everyone affected by the horrible terrorist attack this past weekend. We are holding the victims and their families in our prayers.

Thank you for all of your wonderful notes and well-wishes for our family! Baby connoisseur is such a joy. We are all really enjoying spending time with him and just delighting in his presence.

Before I delivered my baby, I was able to shoot 5 videos for you that I have scheduled to go up in the next few weeks. I wanted to stay in touch with you on the blog, yet give myself a break to spend time with the baby without working. Today's video shows you some observations about antique dishes vs. modern dishes. In the weeks to come, I have three reader Q&As, as well as a fun and easy chicken dinner recipe.

Let's get started with today's post...

We recently picked up a set of 1960s antique dishes from a local estate sale. The set has a French blue and white scroll design with a gold edge. It is an ironstone set called Capri Crown Essex, made in Staffordshire, England. In today's video, I compare the antique set with our modern Pottery Barn dishes. As you will see, the modern dishes are much larger. I have compared antique dishes before in a previous post. It's fun to do this because you really do see how trends change. As time goes on, we tend to eat more and our modern dish sizes really reflect this.

If you have a set of antique dishes, I encourage you to use them on a regular basis. Not only is it fun to eat off of unique and beautiful plates, but we can all benefit from the smaller portion sizes as well. If you do not own antique dishes or china, keep an eye out for local estate sales or visit consignment or thrift shops. You can find wonderful bargains at mere fractions of the price of modern china, which can be so pricey. Don't worry if you cannot find a complete set, it can be fun to collect and mix and match.

Check out today's video to see the difference between the new and old plates. If you are unable to see the video above, click here, look in the sidebar of this blog, or visit my channel: www.youtube.com/TheDailyConnoisseur


Thank you to LandOMoms for recommending Lessons from Madame Chic in their article on eating well.

Comments of the Week
Lo C writes:

I'm a public school band director and we have two major concerts every school year. While our number one priority is to have families support their children (there is nothing more devastating than watching an elementary school student look for their parent only to have them not there), I have noticed a couple families attending our events without dressing up. Of course we understand as teachers when parents are running from one event to another. The children do seem to notice a difference in the presentation of adults. I, personally, love seeing parents dress up and make the event even more special to the kiddos! It's all about those babies!!

Hi Lo C, I took part in band from 5th to 12th grade and I remember each band concert feeling like such a major event. Back then, all of the parents took pride in their appearance and I think it helped make the events more special. What a fun job you have!

Me writes:

Congratulations for the birth of your son!

I grew up in Italy and brought up with the habit that you always give the best of yourself, it doesn't matter the circumstances. There's no grand, medium or small occasion in which you shouldn't show respect for the others and keep up your own dignity by dressing appropriate. "Comb your hair, wash your hands, polish your shoes" was what we still remember our grand-father's motto, "because you never know".

Dressing with decor at the children's function aligns with that idea, maybe very Italian, of pull yourself together without trying hard, without having to impress anyone. It's where good manners meet style and elegance. It doesn't take much and makes everyone in a good mood.

Hi Me, thank you for sharing the Italian perspective on the subject of dressing well. I love hearing from different cultures around the world. When I visited Italy, I had so much fun people-watching. I found the presentation of dress in Italy to be lovely.

This week I would love to know... do you use your good dishes on a regular basis? Have you noticed any differences in plate size from one era of dishes to the next? Let me know in the comment section below and your comment could be chosen as comment of the week.

Please share photos of your dishes on social media using the hashtag #MADAMECHIC

See you soon!

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Polly said...

I love your "new" (old) dishes!

I'm also a believer in using good china regularly. I have 4-5 (one set is a little incomplete) sets of antique china that I've inherited or been given over the years. I switch them out seasonally. In the fall and winter I like to use my cream and brown floral dishes--a set my mother bought me as a wedding gift after I admired it at a local "junk shop." I adore it!! In the summertime I like to use my jadeite, which I've collected over the years--many pieces have been gifts from family members who know how much I like it. I also have two sets of dishes from my husband's grandmothers as well as our modern fine wedding china. In our house there are no "everyday dishes"--we use all of these regularly. I like to coordinate our china with linens, mixing and matching, when we have people over for dinner--which we like to do at least once a week.

I also have only one set of flatware--yes, I have to hand-wash it, and polish it a couple times a year, but that's much better than having it sit in a drawer and never get used. We use a set that we inherited from my husband's grandmother, and it's delicate and beautiful!

Congratulations on your new baby boy! I hope you are getting lots of water and rest (as much as possible, anyhow) and pampering.

AWT said...

We bought salad plates instead of dinner plates for this very reason. So, our standard every day plate is 9.5 inches across instead of 11.5. In additional to being a healthier choice, they were also $7 cheaper per plate (which was very helpful since we bought Heath Ceramics plates).

Dianna said...

When I married, I had a hard time finding a set of silverware that wasn't oversized. I don't enjoy the feeling of having to fit an extra-large fork or spoon in my mouth. It definitely doesn't encourage good manners or good portion sizes!

When cooking out of my grandma's old cookbook from the 1930s, I noticed that if I made cookies a "normal" size, I only got about 1/4 as many as the recipe specified. Their portions must have been quite a bit smaller!

Rambling said...

I do have some antique plates and they are noticeably smaller than modern plates. I don't use them very often. I do have a set of Wedgwood china (for 13) that gets used several times a year for special meals, including Thanksgiving. And then there's my set of Chintz Rose pottery that gets used a lot when we have company, because there are 16 dinner plates and they are slightly on the small size and all fit in the dishwasher in one load. And then there's the Royal Albert china set that was a wedding gift from my husband's grandmother that we enjoy using several times a year, it has great sentimental value. I have more dishes than anyone needs, but I love them all.

Robyn said...

Congratulations! The blue dishes are beautiful! We use white Pier One or Pottery Barn dishes but I do have some Blue Willow of my grandmothers. I prefer the white mainly because it's easier to use and goes with everything. I often eat off the salad plate. A regular plate is huge. This often helps with portions sizes. I also picked up random white dessert plates and small condiment bowls which work well too.

Maureen said...

This is a wonderful topic. I've noticed the dramatic size increase in dishes as well as stemware, flatware, and single-serving items, such as muffins. It's amazing! Like Dianna wrote, it's difficult to find flatware that isn't oversized. When my husband and I got married, we received a lovely set of flatware from Williams-Sonoma, and the soup spoons are especially gigantic. My husband hates them and refuses to use them; they're difficult to eat with.

Years ago, after first reading Lessons from Madame Chic, you inspired me to use our antique fine china more regularly. It seemed like such a shame that it had been shut away, only being used once or twice a year at most! You inspired me to "use our best," and now we use our china for dinner on Sunday nights. I would be wiling to use them more often, but my wonderful husband, who is the Dish Washer in Chief in our home, isn't wiling to hand-wash china more than once a week. :) I love eating off of our china; it elevates the dining experience, and I'm certain that I eat more mindfully and with better posture! Thank you for the inspiration.

By the way, your husband has great taste; those dishes are beautiful!

SmallDisciplines said...

I'm sad to say we only have one set of dishes. Whenever we've talked about getting a "good" set, we end up disagreeing on the style, and so we always postpone the decision. I do like your new ones though, being a big fan of the white and blue combination myself.

As for the size issue: I think it can be quite elegant to display a small (normal!) amount of food on a large plate, leaving lots of room for white space. But of course, this do require some restraint on the person dishing up the food, otherwise a big plate is just a big portion.

wildnettle said...

Pretty !

Anonymous said...

I recently bought a set of antique Homer Laughlin plates that were described as luncheon plates. By today's standards, they are luncheon size. But I wonder if they really were dinner plates back when they were new. Actually, I do love your Pottery Barn dishes probably b/c I love white dishes. They remind me of a pretty French country table. I think you can serve a right-sized portion of food on them, but you must always be aware.

Blessings on your new baby. He is a very handsome little one.

zephyr said...

Jennifer, your new set of dishes is so pretty; love the scroll pattern!

Our everyday dishes are a mix of three patterns of white/cream porcelain. They weren't expensive at all, and I think that one set was "seconds" that looked fine to me, so I bought them. We'd broken some from our original Crate & Barrel set which had been discontinued (copied from Davenport "Burleigh"), so bought some more of a different pattern. When they arrived, I realized that the dinner plates were so huge that they don't even fit in my cabinet! So case in point. We still use them, of course: I just have to keep them in our dining room hunt board. And they're great for serving things on because they're so wide!

I bought another white/creamware set of dishes, again not expensive, and we mix and match them all. It looks fine, and I love the white against different placemats and napkins. When more are invariably broken, I'll find another batch.

We do have two different sets of china - one very plain, and another much more ornate. My husband chose those before we were married, and we still love them. The plain gold-rimmed white set is from the same manufacturer and the same shape, so they mix well on the table. And yes, we use them several times a year.

I'm not allowed to buy any more china because we don't have room to store it, lol! But I love looking at new patterns, vintage and antique sets, all of it.

Ladylike said...

Best wishes for the new addition to your family! Thanks for still leaving posts for your readers during this busy time! This post about vintage vs. modern tableware comes at an appropriate time for me. Yes, I do have a set of vintage ceramic tableware from England which belonged to my parents. (I hate to be picky, but the 1960's means "vintage", not "antique".) Yes, we do use our vintage tableware when our modern tableware needs to be cleaned, and yes, I have noticed a remarkable difference in the sizes. I don't want to blame my modern tableware for my struggles with my weight, but it is true that I felt the need to lose 20 lbs. several years ago, which I did lose, but I slowly regained it, and now I want to lose the same lbs. again. So your reminder about portion sizes and dish sizes is very timely. Thanks! Warm best, Alexandra

RoseAG said...

I didn't have 6 matching wine glasses anymore so I went shopping to get a set and when I compared what I bought to the mismatched ones we got from our wedding it was remarkable. The new ones are huge! My 1980s era, they were wedding presents, glasses seem tiny.

Anonymous said...

We have Spode delamere rural as our everyday plates. The size is perfect. At first I bought 4 plates by Juliska the berry and thread. I'm so glad I just bought 4 plates because they were so HUGE. They took up so much room in the cabinets and dishwasher. And I knew I'd eat more with such a huge plate not even realizing it. I looked for months for decent sized plates. The huge plates are the norm now.

martinealison said...


Très jolie publication...
Gros bisous 🌺

Starr said...

Congratulations on the arrival of your sweet baby. You are a hero! Welcome to the world, baby boy.

During the time I lived in England I haunted the charity shops, gathering a beautifully mismatched collection of Staffordshire transferware. The truly old pieces (some of them over a century) a significantly smaller than the more contemporary pieces. But, sticking with traditional patterns (ie. Willow ware, English Scene), the newer pieces still feel puny compared to a set of "standard" white plates I picked up during a subsequent U.S. relocation. Those white plates almost are never used -- except as serving platters.

Incidentally, when I first returned to the U.S., my sister came to visit. The shipping container had just arrived from England and my sister was so interested in my plate collection. After a happy 30 minutes of looking at the different patterns, my sister (who is universally recognized as the most elegant amongst my siblings) turned to me and said, "Now you need to go to [big box store] and buy some plastic plates." When I asked *why* I would do that, she explained that I needed to save my plates for "special occasions. You can't easily replace these as they break. You aren't in England anymore." I simply told that I use the best I have and if they break, it would be fine...and it is.

Gwyneth said...

Well, I wouldn't call 1960s dishes "antique", but they are pretty. ;-)
Congratulations on your son!

Anonymous said...

I have only one set of dishes: vintage Fiesta Ware that I use on a daily basis. I inherited a few pieces from my grandmother, and I loved it so much that I bought more pieces at garage sales and at a vintage china store. Even though Fiesta's dinner plates are still smaller than today's dinner plates, I use their "luncheon plates" as our plates. Some people buy perfect pieces and just display them. I can't fathom not using china, just keeping it on display. I even buy pieces with a chip in it -- at a considerable mark-down -- because I simply don't care if it has a tiny chip. I love these dishes -- they bring me joy!

I also have a set of silverware handed down from my grandmother -- and, yes, I use it every day. Which is why I never have to polish it. If you use it all the time, it doesn't have the opportunity to tarnish. Also, I attached a silverware box with the felt lining to my kitchen wall as storage cabinet for my silverware. The box actually does play a part in retarding oxidation. I don't know if it's the felt or the darkness of the box. Anyway, I don't even own silver polish because I never have to use it.

Ann said...

First - Congratulations on your new baby boy! How wonderful for your family to have a new member - Blessings to all of you!
I love dishes and blame it on my mother, because Santa would always bring a new set of play dishes each year for me to play house on my table and chair set! I love the dishes you found, and I agree - new dishes are so much bigger. We try to use ALL of our dishes - my sisters bought me "good" china as a wedding gift. It is not a high end name brand , but it is service for 12 and I use it a lot - every Sunday my husband and I use it and eat in our dining room to enjoy the ambiance. My everyday dishes were Pfaltzgraff Yorktowne - the department store I shopped growing up would display the wedding date and the china/silver selections of the bride. As a teenager I loved to browse this section, and fell in love with Yorktowne. Have used them every day for almost 40 years and just packed them all up to sell or give to a good home, and purchased a white simple set for everyday. But...I have holiday dishes, several settings of Blue Willow - I love it. And, another set of "summer dishes" with fruit design. I use them all! I try to remember the the plates are BIG and I don't have to fill them up.
Thanks again for all your wonderful posts - and enjoy this special time with your new baby!

Gesine said...

Well, I only have one set of dishes, that is Iitala Teema - some pieces I got from my Grandmother, my parents and my aunt also have some of this, and some pieces I bought myself, so the sizes are the same :) . But it's true, they now have added bigger bowls. They also have the smaller bowls still, which I like for cereals or soup, but I do like the bigger bowls for salad. Here in Germany one often gets small salad bowls and eats the salad as a side to the main course, and I hate these small bowls - I love eating salad, but there you take 3 leaves of lettuce and the bowl is overflowing already, and I always make a mess eating salad from these small bowls. I also like bigger bowls where I can mix a salad for myself and eat it out of the same bowl.
I don't think the plates here in germany have gotten so much bigger, more the bowls. But it is true that the plates often tend to have these huuuuge rims, which I don't like at all.
Also, the cutlery at the moment tends to be big, with long prongs on the forks, which I find very uncomfortable for eating, I'm glad I have my small older one.
But I imagine this will change again - fashion has to change as the companies want to sell things. I inherited my cutlery from my parents when I moved out, as they wanted new one, so I have used the same cutlery all of my life now and don't plan to by new, as I like it and it's very good quality - but I'm sure this is not what the companies want me to do :)

Casey said...

Are you sure that Pottery Barn bowl isn't supposed to be a serving bowl? It's HUGE!!!

I have four sets of dishes: my paternal grandmother's "good" dishes, a white set from my maternal grandmother, the set my parents had when they were first married, and Lenox Winter Song for Christmas. The dinner plates from the Lenox Winter Song set are the only ones that see regular use. Most of the time I prefer smaller luncheon plates and the dinner plates get used more as serving platters, etc.

Woman of the House said...

I have a large collection of mismatched blue and white transferware that we use everyday. I began collecting fifteen or so years ago, and with my own purchases and gifts from other people, I have quite a lot. I rarely spend more than $15 per dinner plate (often less, and fairly often much less) and will buy new or used. I have quite a lot of Spode and some Wedgwood, but I also have more pedestrian brands like Johnson Bros. and Enoch Woods & Sons. Sometimes a piece gets broken, but that's life. I love that the dishes are mismatched and also that they look great year round. I have a set of good china we got for our wedding, but I rarely use it because I love my blue transferware so much. I also have a set of Christmas Pfaltzgraff, which we do use, but I'm always anxious to get back to my blue and white. :) Plus, it looks great with silver and crystal.

When my two daughters turned 13, they each chose a set of everyday dishes and began collecting. My first daughter picked Fiestaware and she now has a large collection of many different colors she uses with her own family everyday. She also has a good set of fine china we bought her when she got married. My second daughter chose Pfaltzgraff's Yorktowne, and she also has a big collection packed away in her hope chest ready to be used when she has a place of her own. The nice thing about Yorktowne is I often see pieces at Goodwill and other thrift shops, so it has not cost a lot to build her collection. Plus, both girls have been given pieces by relatives for birthdays and Christmas.

Congratulations on the new addition to your family! God's blessings on you all!

Unknown said...

No, I do not, but that is because I do not own any, yet! I would love to. I would also love to own a set of gold plated silverware... I'll have fun searching for now though. Love your husband's find! :)

Rose said...

I've watched this happen through my life (I'm 60), all crockery has been "upsized", even kids' meals have been upsized. Jennifer if you can find the time I think you'd enjoy reading about the Small Plate Movement.


Emma Knight Peel said...

I've noticed the size of coffee cups. The ones from the 60's era are small, and the ones we use now are humongous! It's laughable! I see people on TV shows holding a gigantic mug that dwarfs their hands! Ridiculous!

JenniLouLou said...

So happy for your new baby boy! Bet your girls are loving him! A real living doll!

As for your dishes. Very pretty. I think what you may have is a breakfast set or a tea set. For either of these the plates are smaller, think salad size or a wee bit bigger. The bowl looks like a cereal bowl (or fruit bowl, but looks a little large for that, which is another animal altogether from a rimmed soup bowl. It's not so much that older tableware was smaller, it's more that modern tableware is much, much bigger.

I am a former Fine China/Crystal/Silver Department Manager. Hence my love of all things tabletop. I started married life with Villeroy and Boch Petite Fleur (which I still have) for every day and Wedgwood Medici for good. Since then I have added, ahem, many more sets (Thanksgiving, Xmas, Easter....) it's my "thing."

One Highlight of my life was visiting the "Potteries" outside of London years ago. Toured Wedgwood and Spode. We had a special ticket to see the Spode Blue Room which was fabulous. This was pre-9/11 and I was able to bring back a good 50+ pounds of china that I carried on and managed to wrestle up in the overhead.

Being married to an Irishman (off the boat from Cork), we have Waterford. Also took a tour of that factory which I very much enjoyed.

While I was said manager, a grandpa brought in his granddaughter, around age 9, held her up to the wall of sterling silver patterns and told her to pick out the ones she liked. I brought them down for her (they were in a locked wall cabinet)and she picked her favorite. I imagine by the time she married she had a full set of sterling. NICE!

I think that is a great idea for daughters! With guidance, you don't want them picking out something horrid or that you know will be dated, help them pick out a china pattern (everyday or formal) and a sterling pattern if one is so inclined or a high quality stainless pattern (which are usually sold in place settings as are the "better" dishes). When picking a china pattern, think about how food will look on it--and what type of food one is likely to serve on it. Personally, I have never understood Spode Christmas Tree--once one puts food on it all the tree is gone--I prefer more interest around border than in the center so that it "frames" the food.

Congrats again on Baby Boy!!!


Lori said...

Congratulations to you and your family Jennifer! I wanted to comment on this post regarding the portion size of plates. I now use the "salad" plate almost always for my meals for this very reason. When my kids set the table they know to put the small plate for Mom. When I use a "dinner" plate I tend to mindlessly fill up my dish and it's very easy to finish everything and thus over eat. Now that I use the "salad" plate I find that I eat slower (more elegantly), am full before I finish everything even on with a smaller portion and am usually the last one in my family still eating after they have all finished their large plate of food. I believe this simple adjustment had made a huge difference in my weight management.

galant said...

Jennifer, I am unable to send a photo of our daily 1930s tableware because I don't use social media, but let me assure you, it's beautiful and the plates, as you have noticed from your own dinnerware, are smaller.
By the way, the smaller plate of those you showed on your video we'd not refer to as 'salad' plates as salads weren't everyday accompaniments in the UK when these plates were produced. The large plate quite rightly is a dinner plate and the next size down is known as a dessert plate but it was more often than not used for the starter, say a fish dish or an hors d'oeuvre.
The bowl is not a soup bowl but it's fine to use it today as a soup bowl - it's a dessert bowl, for puddings (nowadays desserts tend to be referred to as 'puddings' regardless of whether they are actual puddings or not ... i.e. some people would call ice creams a pudding, whereas they are technically a dessert.)
What your husband picked up from the sale is a part dinner service. What is missing are the what we called side plates, i.e. for bread and butter. They would go with the sea service which would've been designed to match the dinner service, and this would've had 6 cups, saucers and small side plates for bread and butter or cake, plus a larger plate for the cut slices of bread and butter or cake or scones, plus a tea pot, milk/cream jug and a sugar bowl. It the 'sugar' bowl is quite large, it is then not a sugar bowl but a slos bowl into which the slops of tea were poured before people were invited to have a second cup.
We keep our portions down by using our 1930s tableware every day. Of course, they are not suitable for the dishwasher. The other thing I'd mention is that the dishwasher manufacturers haven't yet caught up (over here in the UK) with the new large plate sizes and sometimes they don't fit easily into a dishwasher. Indeed, the plates are so large now that when piled with food they are not only ugly and off-putting for someone with a small appetite, but they're cumbersome and heavy.
Margaret P (Devon, UK)

galant said...

PS Yes, as another person has commented, 1960s is not antique, but I think you were speaking generally of things which are reasonably old compared with items being manufactured and sold today? Antique, as I'm sure you know, is anything that is over 100 years old, so it would have to be made prior to 1916 to be termed antique. And 'antique' doesn't mean it has to be fine, either, it's just old. Our first dinner service (sadly long gone!) was a wedding present in 1964, I'd not like to think of it as antique (for what would that make me!)
Margaret P

Heidi said...

I was given excellent advice as a soon to be newlywed by my Aunt when registering- choose one set of china that could be both formal and everyday. In other words, dishwasher safe and high quality. That way we wouldn't be given half sets of a casual and formal china, and we wouldn't have formal china that would be infrequently used, with our everyday china of a lesser quality.
I chose a Villeroy and Boch set which 16 years later is still going strong, and which I dress up with crystal and silver for formal dinners, and that we eat off casually as a family. I think that modern European settings are still made in more traditional, smaller sizes, such as your vintage set. I've often found when purchasing things from the US from stores such as Pottery Barn that the sizes are just double what I'd expect - I've returned glasses that if you filled them with wine would take half a bottle!
The other problem with the oversized plate aside from the over eating aspect is, as another commenter mentioned, fitting them in the dishwasher. Many people end up with plates and glasses that just don't fit. The manufacturers are now making XL sized dishwashers to take the XL sized plates!

Unknown said...

I have a mix of dishes and they are all in use. I collet milk glass and have a variety of different small plates, the luncheon plate that has a spot for a teacup, teacups and saucers, etc. I have a set of white Better Homes & Gardens dishes with a pretty scalloped edge that I mix in with those. I have found that my vintage plates kept being broken by my girls and we had a few that they forgot and put in the microwave...not cool with vintage and antique dishes...and they shattered. New flatware is next on my kitchen list.

Unknown said...

I have a mix of dishes and they are all in use. I collet milk glass and have a variety of different small plates, the luncheon plate that has a spot for a teacup, teacups and saucers, etc. I have a set of white Better Homes & Gardens dishes with a pretty scalloped edge that I mix in with those. I have found that my vintage plates kept being broken by my girls and we had a few that they forgot and put in the microwave...not cool with vintage and antique dishes...and they shattered. New flatware is next on my kitchen list.

Unknown said...

Great post! Thanks for sharing great information about these unique Sterling Silver Tableware . With these astonishing collections you can choose your sterling silver art deco or choosing something different that compliments your special one.

Unknown said...

I do have a very nice coffee-set from my aunt, plus some very nice espresso-cups. I do use them on an everyday-basis and I love it. Using them I set my table just so. I like it. :)
I wanted to post a photo of my favorite Espresso-Cup, but I can't copy on here, so you have to imagine it.