but still, damn, are the new White House china patterns ugly.
What is it with the White House china? They seem to update the patterns every twenty years or so, which means Jackie Kennedy left no record of her impeccable taste, and Hillary didn't have a go either. Of course Nancy went with the big bold red set - rather nice, actually, if you could just get rid of the gold seal in the center of the plate. Lady Bird picked out something really oddly frilly and old-ladyish for a state dinner. The eagle on those plates could pass for a barn swallow, and one half-expects some sort of garden-inspired inspirational phrase to be written around the outside edge: maybe "Thyme for God, thyme for prayer." Roosevelt's plates are very dignified and understated, the seal small located, for once, at the top on the plate, which seems better than covered with gravy in the center.
ERRATA: Turns out, as Michael comments below, the Clintons DID pick a china. I put together a news report that mentioned that not every first lady does get new china with that page I linked to above and assumed that the page showed all the presidential china. It did not.
Hillary's choice is here. To be honest, I'm not sure how I feel about that pattern. It's interesting, which is a plus. I hate the White House image in the middle of the plate - as may be obvious, I'm not exactly crazy about stuff in the middle of the plate. And using an image of the White House itself seems awfully literal. But the rest of the pattern, that softly colored but elaborate design on the rim, seems, again, non-presidential. It's more tasteful than LadyBird's choice, but seems to err in the same direction. I would love to see this plate (minus the White House) on a long mahogany dining table set with white linen at a big elegant old inn on the coast of Maine. State dinner, not so much.
And did you know (I did not!) that china was long the exception to the rule that only American-made furnishings were to be used in the White House. American china was just considered too obviously inferior. Then Lenox came along, and Wilson used their china, the first American-made china to be used in the White House. They've produced china patterns for six presidents.