When you arrive at the dining table, you should see a pristine table adorned with china, glassware, utensils and fresh linen. When you sit, show elegant confidence by refraining from touching or moving items in your place setting.
The napkin is the first item you should touch. Wait for the host to signal the beginning of the meal which they do by picking up their own napkin and placing it on their table. Then you follow suit. If you are at a table where there is no official host and everyone is seated, you may place your napkin on your lap immediately after taking your seat. The key here is to remember to wait until all your dining companions have taken their seats before putting your napkin on your lap. You don't want to look rushed. You want to look in control.
Cellphones, purses, sunglasses, umbrellas, keys, cameras, medicine, makeup and the like do not belong on the dining table. These personal items are to be kept off the table and out of sight. If these items are brought to the restaurant they should be placed in a bag or briefcase that is kept on the floor between one’s feet. Storing the bag there helps keep it out of the way of wait staff while within easy reach and safekeeping. However, many ladies do not want to place their purses on the floor. Quite understandable. In that case, they may want to consider switching to a small purse that may be kept on the lap under the napkin during the meal, hung from the table by an attractive purse holder or placed inside a larger workbag that is kept on the floor between the feet. Another safe spot for your purse is tucked behind your back on your chair. Just make sure the chair has a solid back so the purse doesn't end up on the floor.
Have a marvelous week - Catherine