Updated: Apr 27, 2021
In my cookbook I advise: you should never skimp on the china you put on your table. Now that may not mean spending the most money, but it definitely means investing the time to make sure you've got a pattern that really works for you.
Now before you melt down (this china syndrome is supposed to be fun), remember, you can do this. There's no end to available sources for full sets of jaw-dropping china that range from budget-friendly to ridiculous, but again, your focus should be on the year-round flexibility of what you can afford, and whether or not it makes you happy when you use it to serve the ones you love.
I've put together a series of links with a lot of great information on collecting and acquiring china below. They will help you:
Appreciate the history of china and use it to zero in on the style you prefer.
Start collecting fine antique and vintage china.
Focus your energies on a mid-20th century collection (my favorite era).
Do your research and take your time deciding on your strategy, financially and especially aesthetically. Save up for a set or sets that really trip your trigger if you have to. It's worth the investment. ALSO, once you choose a pattern, then you can make all your family and friends give you pieces that complete the set, as a gift for every occasion. "What I need is presents!"
I'll close this post with a bit about china on a page from my cookbook called "Settin' the Table."
"You want nice plates and china. I repeat: nice plates. Don’t save money on the plates. A beautiful tablecloth and wonderful flatware you can save money on. Plates, not so much. Think about color. What can you collect that will suit as many seasons as possible? Will one china pattern work for spring, summer, fall, winter, New Year’s, Easter, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas? Of course it will, if you get a pattern you really love. If you’re feeling more ambitious from a color and style standpoint, you might be able to get two flexible patterns that, in tandem, work for all those occasions divided perfectly between holidays. Your greens are magical for Easter and Christmas, your orange for Thanksgiving and even Hallowe’en."
Once you're caught up in your own "china syndrome" you'll see how much fun it can be. Cheers and good luck!
p.s. Here's the cup and saucer from a set I use year-round: "Monroe" by Lenox. It's understated yet classy and works for almost every occasion. My sister got me started on it, she's a china fanatic. She also has a great collection of railroad china. It's fun to focus on a niche too, not just a pattern or a period!