What’s the Difference Between a Pillow Sham and Pillowcase?

A fluffy, comfortable and supportive pillow makes good sleep almost a certainty. Pillowcases and pillow shams are necessary for your pillows, just as a cover is for a duvet. However, like with all bedding categories, you have various choices for pillow add-ons too, so it’s important to know your options.

It’s no surprise that shopping for pillow products may be perplexing with so many options in terms of ranges, fabric types and sizes. In this article, we’ll share everything you need to know about a pillow sham vs pillowcase to aid you in your decision-making.

What Is a Pillow Sham?

A pillow sham is a form of pillow cover that’s decorative. Typically, sham-covered pillows are layered on top of  plain pillows to make them more visible. They often have a tuck flap in the back, but some also have closing or overlapping fabric. 

Pillow shams are typically more attractive than plain pillows. They’re not just decorative; you may also sleep on them. They provide your bed with a stylish touch while also protecting your pillowcases from dust and filth.

Features of Pillow Shams

Many individuals use pillow shams as decorative additions to enhance their bedroom design. Let’s dive into the features of the pillow sham.

Design Features 

Standard pillow shams are often intricately designed. Fabric and lace often adorns the shams, making them look more lovely. 

A pillow sham is more cushioned than a bedspread or comforter, which makes it comfortable to lie on top of them. If you look at the back of a pillow sham, you’ll notice that it also has a peculiar fluffed pattern.


Manufacturers use silk, satin, or cashmere to create pillow shams. Cotton, synthetic textiles like polyester, and linen may also be used.

Feather is one of the finest sham pillow filler materials. But they’re not the most popular since some people are allergic to feathers, even though they’re cheap and never bunch up. You may also pick poly-filled pillow shams as a filler for your pillow shams. 

Design Purpose 

A pillow sham has a decorative touch that you’ll adore. Decorative shams are the way to go if you want to add a unique touch to your room. They are an excellent addition as they’re made to match your quilt, duvet cover, or coverlet.


Pillow shams are sold based on bed size.

Standard Sham 

A regular pillow sham is typically 20 by 26 inches, which means you can use it on twin XL, twin, or full-size mattresses with smaller-sized pillows.

Euro Sham 

Euro pillows are bigger and square-shaped, measuring 26 by 26 inches on average. They provide extra support when you’re sitting on a couch or bed.

Queen Sham 

These are typically four inches longer than other shams. Most people use two regular pillows on a queen bed.

King Sham 

They are as much as 10 inches longer than standard shams. As the name suggests, king pillow shams are made to accommodate a king-sized bed.

The Benefits of Pillow Shams

Pillow shams are slipcovers for bed pillows that complement your bedsheets. Here are a few benefits to having pillow shams:

  • Support your back when working or reading. Remember that they’re not ideal for sleeping directly on since they’re primarily decorative.
  • There are a lot of patterns, colors and materials to choose from.
  • Easy to put on and remove because, at the end of the day, they’re just covers. 
  • Easily washable at home.

What Is a Pillowcase?

Pillowcases are pillow protectors; they keep the actual pillow from getting dirty and damaged. They usually have a flange on their openings.

Regular pillowcases are often easier to make than pillow shams. And all you need to do to fit your pillow in a pillowcase is just open it from its only side, which may have a flap or a tuck.

Features of Pillowcases

Let’s dive into the features of pillowcases. 


A pillowcase is made of extremely light fabrics. As for their color, you’ll mostly find pillow coverings in solid colors with little to no decorations. 


Pillow coverings are usually made with soft cotton, polyester, linen, satin, flannel or a jersey knit fabric that feels good against the skin.


Pillowcases provide you with an added layer of comfort while you sleep. Furthermore, it shields the pillow from unwanted and external particles such as hair, skin oil, hair, saliva and sweat.

Types of Pillowcases

Housewife Pillowcase

This is the most common type of pillowcase. It’s tightly sewed at one end and open at the other, just like a standard pillowcase.

Bag Pillowcase

These are usually the easiest types of pillowcases.That said, they usually don’t feature an interior flap to keep the pillowcase in place, although they do have only one opening.

Oxford Pillowcase

Oxford pillowcases are a little more dazzling than regular pillowcases. They have a border around all of their four corners and are two inches wide. 

Benefits of Pillowcases

There’s nothing like returning to a bed with clean sheets, freshly plumped pillows and a warm blanket after a long day. The substance and consistency of your pillowcases go a long way in making you comfortable in bed.

Here are a few more ways a pillowcase can benefit you:

  • Help protect and keep your pillow clean while you sleep
  • Made of the same fabric as the bedsheet, so a color combination is naturally maintained
  • Easy to put on and remove

Pillow Sham vs Pillowcase: Are They the Same?

Simply put, a pillow sham is a pillowcase with a beautiful design. A pillowcase is an essential component of your bed, as it safeguards your pillows from sweat, dead skin cells, saliva, oil and other substances produced during sleep. 

Pillowcases have a plain and minimalistic appearance, with less decoration and pattern. After all, they’re meant to provide a softer, more pleasant sleeping surface. 

Some pillowcases may have hem stitching, embroidery, or matching fabrics, but only around the open cuff and not on the part where you rest your head.

Pillowcases are best to sleep on, whereas pillow shams are used for decoration. Although you can sleep on them like you would on a standard pillowcase, it’s better to use them for aesthetics during the day and then remove them from the bed at night. 

Unlike a throw pillow, pillow shams may readily be removed from their pillows and cleaned or replaced. And if you ever want to up your decor game, just buy new pillow shams!

Bottom Line

When it comes to adorning your bedroom, both pillow shams and pillowcases are excellent choices. A sham is a decorative touch for your pillows, while a pillowcase protects them. Both of them are available in various designs, patterns, materials, and colors.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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