What is a Pillow Sham? (Explained)

For something as simple as bedding, there are a surprising number of questions you might find yourself asking. And why shouldn’t you? Your bedroom is your chamber of sleep, and that’s nothing to mess around with. While everyone knows about pillows and sheets, you might be wondering, what is a pillow sham?

When it comes to putting together the perfect sleeping setup, you’ve most likely run across a pillow sham, which is, at its most basic, a decorative pillowcase. Now you may wonder: Is the sham just another term for a pillowcase? Do I need to use one?

We’re here to answer your questions, so keep reading to find out. You won’t want to skim over this one.

What is the difference between a pillowcase and a pillow sham?


Before we go further, we should probably explain the difference between a pillow sham and a pillowcase.

Pillowcases protect your pillow and keep it clean as you sleep, whereas pillow shams are there to hide your pillow behind a more decorative facade. They are a great cost-effective item that can add an extra layer of support, comfort, and breathability to your pillow.

In terms of the location of the opening, there’s one significant difference. Pillowcases open at one end, with a slit and no type of closure. On the other hand, pillow shams tend to open from the back, sometimes with hidden closure and other times with an overlapping length of fabric. They usually come with a zipper/button closure to signify their decorative look. A pillow sham often also has a flange around the edges.

Pillowcases and shams are both bed pillow coverings, but material-wise there’s also a difference. Pillowcases are typically made of the same material as flat sheets ( be it cotton, linen, or something else), while shams are made from more decorative materials which can sometimes make them less comfortable to sleep on.

What is the point of pillow shams?

Generally speaking, a sham is a decorative bedding piece typically used during the day while your bed is made. Their primary purpose is to protect your pillowcases from dust and dirt. Other than that, it’s all about aesthetics. Shams are designed to embellish your bedding, such as a comforter or duvet cover. Because of its decorative nature, you’ll often use a regular pillow sham as an accessory or to prop you up in bed while sitting, reading, or relaxing. It can also be uniquely designed to add a pop of color.

The great thing about pillow shams is their ability to transform any bedroom. A pillow sham or two is all you need to add a touch of color and class without the need to purchase all new pillows.

Can you sleep on a pillow sham?

Although some pillow shams can be slept on – depending on the fabric used on the sham itself – that’s not their primary purpose. Many are less comfortable sleeping on than regular pillowcases because they’re made from textured decorative fabric or flaunt sequins, buttons, or lace.

Some people choose to place their shams behind their bed pillows when it’s time to sleep. This way, you can add a layer of padding. Others usually remove sham-covered pillows entirely during the night to help keep them clean and only place them back on the bed in the morning. If you choose to sleep on a pillow sham, you should adhere to normal pillow sanitizing and disinfecting processes when it becomes time to clean.

Are pillow shams necessary?

If you’re looking for ways to improve the look of your current bedding, or you’re just starting your bedding shopping spree, then a pillow sham, among other bedding accessories, is sure to find its way into your home. It offers an amazing decorative touch and will complement your duvet cover, quilt, or coverlet. Shams, unlike most pillowcases, come with different designs, colors, and patterns that will improve the overall bedroom ambiance. Plus, they’re washable!

So, when decorating your room, no doubt a pillow sham can be a perfect addition. But if you don’t care much about the look of your bed, then a pillowcase will be enough.

What is a Euro pillow sham?

Generally, pillow shams are made to fit traditional sleeping pillow sizes. That includes Standard, King, and Queen sizes.

A Euro sham is a decorative covering for a Euro-sized pillow, typically 26 inches by 26 inches. They are the same as other pillow shams, just for a square-shaped pillow. They’re perfect for individuals who need extra support when sitting on a bed or couch. These bedding accessories also work with the duvet and bedding to tie the look together. Typically, standard shams will work for most beds, but you can add Euro-sized ones if you like the square shape.

Bottom Line

Pillow shams may sound all fancy, but they’re really just a great way to customize the look of the room and add a dash of your own personality. Now that you know everything there is on pillow shams, don’t be afraid to kick your bedroom aesthetic up a notch with this simple bedding accessory.

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