Differences Between Sham and Pillowcase

  • It’s easy to get confused when trying to find out the main differences between the words used in quite similar contexts.
  • Pillow sham and pillowcase – two words that has a quite similar purpose – to cover the pillow.
  • However, there are much more differences between sham and pillowcase. Don’t  worry, below we have clarified everything once and for all!

So many words, so many meanings! Why can’t everything be much simpler, right? At this time, we will look into the differences between a pillow sham and pillowcase. Turns out that these two covers for pillows are really distinct from each other.

Purpose of Sham and Pillowcase

While both pillowcase and sham are pillow coverings, they have very different purposes.

  • Standard pillowcases are meant to cover your sleeping pillow and protect it from dirt, dust, stains, etc. More importantly, they are used to make a better sleeping experience for you, as the material they are made of is usually soft and nice to the skin.
  • On the other hand, shams are mostly put on the decorative pillows that are meant to cover and protect your standard pillows while not sleeping on them. Most of the time, such pillows have decorative accents and are put on top or in front of your sleeping pillows. In other words –  the pillow sham creates a beautiful appearance of your bed.
  • Pillow shams are only used as an interior detail. For example, throw pillows, that are smaller pillows that come in 16’’ x 24’’ size – are “thrown” on the bed to make it look nicer. People like to experiment when choosing pillow shams. For example, you can choose different colors and sizes with various decorative touches. 
  • Usually, shams match the duvet cover of the bed or a bedspread, but it’s not a rule! Express your creativity – choose completely asymmetrical decorative pillows that do not match with any color – you’ll be surprised how the interior of your room will bloom instantly!

Size Differences

In terms of size, both pillowcases and the pillow shams come in Standard, Queen and King sizes. These sizes match the same size pillows. For example, king-size pillow sham would fit king-size pillow, standard shams would fit standard size pillow etc. 

  • However, the shams are available in a little wider size selection. For instance, pillow coverings that are 26’’ x 26’’ size are called Euro shams, and those who come in 12’’ x 16’’ size – Boudoir shams.
  • Another quite visible difference is the way both pillowcases and pillow shams are sewn. For example, standard pillowcase is opened at one end and sometimes has a flange for more decorative look. Meanwhile, having the decorative purpose, shams often have four edges finished with cording or flange

Fabric and Material

The main difference between pillowcases and shams are probably the material.

  • Since sham’s primary purpose is decoration – the materials they are made of are usually more luxury, fancier and complex ones. Velvet, silk, sateen cotton…you name it! For a more outstanding look, shams can be made from combined fabrics. Besides, it is also very popular to decorate the closures of the shams with different accessories, such as zippers, buttons, decorative ties etc.
  • As for the usual pillowcases – the quality is the most important aspect. Having the purpose of comfort, pillowcases are usually more minimalistic. The most common fabrics they are made of are, of course, the natural ones – cotton and linen.
  • Pillowcases are usually sold together with the bed linens and match them. Even though the fabrics of the pillowcases are simpler, they can also come in a variety of different colors and patterns.

Hopefully, we have managed to clarify all the things regarding the main differences between the pillowcase and sham. Now you know, that one of them (pillowcase) is meant to maximize the comfort of your sleep, and another (sham) is meant to create the beauty for your eyes.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Pillow shams never get out of style! Use it for a decorative purpose only by covering the sleeping pillows after making a bed. Use it while napping on the sofa or a couch. Unexpected guests arrived? Simply change the pillowcase of the sham and use it as a normal sleeping pillow.
Technically, pillow shams rather have a decorative purpose. On the other hand - it's really up to you. If you have fallen asleep on them - no one will hurt! Also, you can easily transform sham into the standard sleeping pillow by changing the pillowcase.
Pillow sham's main purpose is decorative. Therefore, it's completely up to you if you need them or not. They protect the sleeping pillows and work as a nice cover. Experiment by choosing different size and color shams - you'll be surprised how your room will liven up!
The main difference is the purpose. Sham's primary purpose is decorative. Pillowcase is meant to cover your sleeping pillow. Another difference - the size. Although both pillowcase and sham come in same sizes - Standard, Queen, King, shams also come in Euro size. Moreover, the fabrics and materials they are made of are also different. While pillowcases are mostly made of natural and minimalistic fabrics, such as cotton, linen, shams are made of more luxurious fabrics, such as sateen, silk, etc.
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