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Choosing the Perfect Pillow Accessory: Pillowcases vs. Pillow Shams

Choosing the Perfect Pillow Accessory: Pillowcases vs. Pillow Shams

When it comes to creating a comfortable and inviting bedroom, the bedding and bed accessories play a crucial role. We can’t undermine the importance of pillows, as they are a comfortable bedding essential, but what about their stylish counterparts, pillowcases and pillow shams? These bedding accessories are often used interchangeably since they are both removable covers for pillows but are very different in terms of their usage, design, and purpose. Understanding the nuances between pillowcases and pillow shams can help you elevate your bedding game and create a truly unique and personalized sleeping oasis. In this article, we’ll clear up some jargon to make your next shopping trip easier.


The primary purpose of pillowcases is to protect pillows from spills, dirt, or accidental tears. In general, pillowcases are used on normal pillows for sleeping and are either plain or match the rest of your bed linen products. They usually have an opening or a slit at the end with no closure.

Pillow Shams

Pillow shams serve a more decorative purpose, like an accent pillow that brings your bedding to life. It usually has a hidden closure at the back, which may be a zipper closure or an opening on the side. Pillow shams have a flange or a flat piece of fabric that runs along the edge of the pillow. A flanged pillow sham covers three or four sides of the pillow and is usually adorned with some detail.

Beyond the Basics: Unraveling the Purpose of Pillowcases and Pillow Shams

Regular pillowcases come with your sheet sets and are designed to ensure comfort while sleeping. Simple in appearance, the main purpose of using a pillowcase is to keep your pillows clean from spills, dirt, dust, and sweat. A protective cover for pillows, they usually have an opening or a slit at the end with no closure. However, you can also find pillowcases that are secured with a finish like a zipper, envelope, or button closure at one end so as to insert the pillow. They are mostly available in solid colors.

The primary purpose of a pillow bed sham, on the other hand, is to add a decorative layer to your setup. Designed to complement your bed linens, such as coverlets and duvet covers, or to bring your bedding to life with a splash of color, they serve to enhance your complete bedroom beautification. However, pillow shams can also be used for extra support and padding while you lay on your bed relaxing or reading. Fancier in appearance, they typically have an opening or flap at the back to insert the pillow.

However, this does not mean you cannot sleep on a decorative pillow sham. Dozing off to sleep on a decorative pillow while watching a movie on your couch is not uncommon. We’ve all done it, and it’s very comfortable if you ask me!

Fabric Face-Off: Pillowcases vs. Pillow Shams

Pillowcases are usually made of soft and breathable fabric like cotton, making them ideal for everyday use and sensitive skin. Apart from that, they come in a range of fabrics, such as:

  • satin for its anti-aging properties;
  • breathable linen for its highly-absorbent qualities, rendering them perfect for hot sleepers;
  • polyester for its durability.

Usually, pillowcases are either plain or match the rest of your bed linen products. However, you can also find delicate details on pillowcases, such as fine embroidery or decorative stitching on the edges or a color-coordinated flange for a subtle touch of style.

Puredown’s Linen Duvet Cover Set comes with matching pillowcases, making it easy to create a cohesive and stylish look in your bedroom. Made with high-quality French flax linen, this bedding offers supreme softness, breathability, and coolness for a restful night’s sleep. Upgrade your bedding game with our Linen Duvet Cover with Pillowcases and experience the ultimate combination of comfort and sustainability.

Linen Duvet Cover with Pillowcases

Pillow Shams, however, are available in breathable cotton for regular use, luxurious fabric such as:

  • velvet for a hint of richness;
  • satin for smoothness;
  • polyester for durability.

A bed sham has a flange or a flat piece of fabric that runs along the corded edge of the pillow. It may also be made from more delicate fabrics or fancier materials and embellished with lace, tassels, embroidery, abstract patterns, textures, colorful designs, or other adornments.

Choosing the Right Fit: Types and Sizes of Pillowcases and Pillow Shams

The most common type/size of pillowcases are:

  • Standard pillowcases are designed to fit a standard-sized pillow, usually measuring 20 in x 26 in.
  • Queen pillowcases are designed for medium-sized pillows, usually measuring 20 in x 30 in.
  • King pillowcases are designed for larger pillows, usually measuring 20 in x 40 in.

Likewise, commonly available sizes of pillow shams are:

  • Standard pillow shams cater to fit a standard-sized pillow, usually measuring 20 in x 26 in.
  • Boudoir pillow shams are designed to accommodate a boudoir pillow, usually measuring 12 in x 16 in.
  • King pillow shams are designed for smaller pillows, usually measuring 20 in x 36 in.
  • Euro pillow shams or European shams are designed for larger pillows, usually measuring 26 in x 26 in. 

The Science of Layering And Styling

Layering the bedding of your contemporary bedroom is a great way to achieve a crisp, luxurious look with bed pillow cases and decorative shams. Layering allows you to mix bed linen products of a variety of comfortable style, shapes, and decorative elements to enhance the visual appeal of your beautiful bedroom. Start by arranging your bed pillows on the headboard, followed by euro pillows in shams with decorative finishes. A layer of smaller pillows can also be added to the bedding set to boost the height and coziness of the bed. An organized, symmetrical, and pleasing arrangement usually makes for the perfect cozy aesthetic and adds a decorative touch to a warm, relaxing bedroom.

Care Instructions For Pillowcases and Pillow Shams

  • While pillowcases and pillow shams are essential for your bedding, make sure to read the care label on the product for easy maintenance.
  • Machine wash them in cold water with mild detergent on a gentle cycle. Using hot water or a harsh detergent can cause the fabric to shrink or fade.
  • Using bleach or fabric softeners may damage the fabric and cause discoloration.
  • Tumble dry them on low heat setting in the dryer. High heat can cause the fabric to shrink or wrinkle.
  • If your pillowcases or shams are wrinkled after washing, you can iron them on a low heat setting to smooth out any creases. In the case of shams, be sure to iron them inside out to avoid damaging any decorative elements.

By following these care instructions, you can keep your pillowcases and shams looking their best and prolong their lifespan.


Pillowcases and pillow shams are bedroom essential, whether you’re using them for their intended reason or for decorative purposes. Understanding the differences between them can help you choose the right one for your bedroom, as per your personal preference. Caring for and decorating with pillowcases and pillow shams will help you create a unique and inviting sleeping oasis that complements your personal style. 

When it comes to styling, everyone has their own preferences. Your bedding decor statement can be minimal or loud, so long as it’s a place you want to unwind to after a long day, trust us, youyou’reing it right!

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