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What is the Difference between Pillow Shams and Pillow Cases?

decorative pillow shams displayed on bed

Image by Charlotte May from Pexels

If you are someone who does not know what the difference between a pillow sham and a pillowcase is, you are not alone. Oftentimes, many people including retailers themselves, use these two terms interchangeably despite the huge differences in terms of their purpose and even design. So, in this article, we will be helping you explain and better understand what the difference between a pillow sham and a pillowcase is.

decorative pillow sham displayed on chair

Image by Rachel Claire from Pexels

What Exactly is a Pillow Sham?

Simply put, a pillow sham is a decorative cover for your pillow. These covers typically include complex patterns or embroidery designs on the face of the pillow, as well as flanges along the border, in order to make the pillow stand out and look aesthetically pleasing. Most of the time, you can find such decorative pillow covers in places like hotels or showrooms, where the goal is to give off a sense of luxury while also being pleasing to the eye.

What is the Purpose of a Pillow Sham?

As mentioned earlier, the idea of a pillow sham is to simply be a decorative front for your pillow. Its entire purpose is to make your pillow become another decoration for your bedroom, and acts as a home improvement accessory.

decorative pillow sham on bed

Image by julie aagaard from Pexels

When and How to Use Pillow Shams

Now that you know what a pillow sham is and its purpose, when and how should you use them? Although pillow shams are not at all essential in one’s daily life, if you still desire to own one, then here are some tips on how and when you might want to use pillow shams:

  • Typically, after you have made your bed in the morning, you will want to place your pillows with shams towards the front of the bed where it is most visible. Then, at night, shift the pillow shams towards the back of the bed where it is leaning against the headboard while you sleep on your regular sleeping pillows.
  • You can also use it as a back support while sitting on your bed or as an accessory to hug while you relax.

Can You Sleep on Pillow Shams?

A common question being asked is whether or not you can sleep on pillow shams. Although you can technically sleep on it, because of the way pillow shams are designed, it is definitely not ideal. Generally, pillow shams include embroidery on the surface of the cover, which can be incredibly uncomfortable and irritating to rest your head on due to the rough sensation against your skin.

decorative pillows with various sizes

Image by Skyler Kang from Pexels

What Size Pillow Sham Should You Use?

Depending on the size and type of pillow you are using, you will have to use the corresponding pillow sham with it so that it fits perfectly. 

Here are the measurements that correspond to each pillow and pillow sham size:

  • Euro size: 26 inches x 26 inches / 66 cm x 66 cm
  • King size: 20 inches x 36 inches / 51 cm x 92 cm
  • Queen size: 20 inches x 30 inches / 51 cm x 76 cm
  • Standard size: 20 inches x 26 inches / 51 cm x 56 cm
  • Boudoir: 12 inches x 16 inches / 30 cm x 41 cm

Lastly, we recommend that you use pillows with feathers or down as its filling. This is because feathers and down are some of the few types of fillings that are able to expand and fill up any empty spaces, which would make suitable materials for decorative pillows as it would appear more attractive. However, these fillings are recommended mostly for pillows you intend as decoration, as down is typically not a comfortable material for sleeping.

Pillow Sham vs Pillowcase

multiple pillows with shams stacked on top

Image by Roy Lach from Pexels

It has been a common misunderstanding that pillow shams and pillowcases are synonymous with one another, when in fact, they are as different as night and day. 

Here are the main differences between pillow shams and pillowcases:

Pillow Sham: 

  • Usually have complex designs or patterns that are very eye-catching.
  • Typically contains embroidery on the surface of the cover and flanged borders.
  • The opening is almost always found on the back of the cover.
  • Acts as a decorative piece and is not meant to be used for sleeping.
  • Can also be used to protect your pillow from dirt and dust when not sleeping on it.


  • Typically simple in design.
  • There is usually never any embroidery especially on the surface of the pillow.
  • The opening is almost always found on the side of the cover.
  • Designed to be comfortable and cozy for you to sleep on.
  • It protects your pillow from dirt and sweat while sleeping.


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Weavve’s TENCEL™ Lyocell Pillowcases

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