Image: Getty

Here is my annual piece of advice for summer enjoyers and those who aspire to join their ranks: Buy yourself a cute vintage tablecloth.

Nothing levels up your hostess game so fast. It transforms “having some friends over for rosé and Doritos during a heat wave” into “summer entertaining.” Suddenly the most rickety dining room table is a shabby chic temple to conviviality; you can turn a sun-bleached plastic table on a splintery deck into something that would appear in a glossy magazine spread about some celebrity’s summer home on Cape Cod. Freshly laundered they all give the impression of having been dried on a clothesline in the purest, best-smelling sunshine on earth. Even if you are plowing through a box of stale Entenmann’s donuts you will feel like you’re sitting in the background of Bake Off.

Doesn’t have to be anything expensive or fancy—you’re not looking to spend more than $40, which isn’t cheap, but you get a lot of luxury bang for your buck. (Sure, you could ball out—I’m very tempted by this design of roses on a picket fence and this beautiful orange blossom design is truly envy-inducing—but you don’t have to, which is my point.)

Perhaps you have an instinctive skepticism of purchasing old linens, but we’re not talking sheets, here, and because you aren’t going to break the bank buying this thing, you won’t be afraid of throwing it into the hot water wash. You’re going to splatter it with your own mustard and salsa and mixers stains, anyway. And if you truly are repulsed by the very notion, fine! Get yourself a new one, instead! The patterns just aren’t as cute, in my opinion.

You can almost certainly find a selection down at your nearest antique mall, which is the best place to look because then you can examine the wares really closely for spots and stains to decide what you can or cannot live with. (It’s all just midcentury salad dressing, probably, but preferable to get a good look up front.) If you’re sadly removed from any sprawling vintage emporiums, then Etsy will do the trick. I particularly like this strawberry number, currently available for $34:

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Image: Etsy

This one is perfect for the person who buys flowers for herself:

Image: Etsy

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Pretty blue flowers:

Image: Etsy

This store has several from the 1970s from Sweden, including this one, which is small but very cute:

Image: Etsy

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This grey is different but quite nice:

Image: Etsy

There’s just something really nice about almost any blue in the sunshine:

Image: Etsy

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Any one of these would set off your pitcher of iced tea and plate of plain tomato sandwiches beautifully. It’s too late to order for Fourth of July, but you can still get ahead of Labor Day. And while there’s something that just fits about a vintage tablecloth for summer, they’re also nice for other holidays—for instance, here’s a pretty Christmas one. And best of all a tablecloth stores mostly flat, so you won’t have to dedicate precious closet space to something you use just a few times a year.

And just think how good it’s going to look on the ’gram!