What Is a Pillow Sham? 🛏️ Everything You Need to Know

If you look through bedding or linens online, you will come across pillow shams. They are often called bed shams or shams, similar to regular pillowcases. However, they are often more decorative and have an opening in the back. 

A pillow sham is similar to a pillowcase, but it has a different function. They tend to open in the back, often with hidden closures. They usually have a border made of a flat piece of fabric called a flange. It is usually designed to match the duvet cover or a coverlet, and it is a decorative feature in the bedroom. 

You may have a lot of questions about the function of pillow shams and how they can be used, so continue reading to learn all about them.

At Safe Sleep Systems, we’re supported by our audience, and we thank you. We may receive compensation if you purchase products or services through the links provided at no additional cost to you.

What Is a Pillow Sham?

When you first come across a pillow sham, you may think it looks very similar to a pillowcase. They cover pillows, but they are usually more decorative. Pillowcases are designed to keep your pillows clean while you are sleeping, whereas pillow shams are made to add decor to your bedroom. 

There are several differences between pillowcases and pillow shams. First, pillowcases are open on one end, and they don’t normally close. They are fairly simple covers, and they have little decor. They are usually made of the same materials as the sheets they come with, although some people do mix and match pillowcases and sheets. 

You can find different quality pillowcases, and some may have decorative techniques, such as embroidery, stitching, or multiple fabrics. Pillowcases are there to cover pillows that you sleep on, so their purpose resembles that of sheets. 

Pillow shams, on the other hand, tend to open in the back. They may have a hidden closure that is concealed by a layer of fabric that overlaps. They often have three or four borders made of a flange, which is a flat piece of fabric. The flange can also be decorated, or it can be plain. 

Usually, the pillow shams are designed to match the duvet cover or coverlet on the bed. They may be used to add color to the room or tie the room together. They are usually propped up near the headboard, and they can be arranged in different patterns. 

Do You Sleep on a Pillow Sham?

People often wonder if they can sleep on a pillow sham. They are often made of thicker, coarser fabric, so they may be less comfortable than pillowcases. They also might have different types of pillows inside to give them a look you desire. That said, you can sleep on a pillow sham if you want to, but it isn’t their intended function. 

Pillow shams are made as decorative pieces, and the fabric and flange are designed to look great rather than feel great. Sometimes, they are made with more delicate fabrics, so people want to avoid getting them dirty. The question is, what do you do with pillow shams if you aren’t going to sleep on them?

The fabric that pillow shams are made of is often thicker and bulky, and it isn’t very comfortable for sleeping. Some people sleep on them anyway, while others use them as extra support for their pillows. They can add a layer of protection from the headboard or the wall. Still, other people remove the pillows that are in shams before they go to bed. 

If you are using pillow shams in a decorative way, you may not want to sleep on them. At night, the dirt, particles, and oils from your hair make their way onto your pillowcase, which is why they require frequent washing. You can remove them and place them aside so that they stay clean for a longer time so that you won’t have to wash them as frequently. 

How to Choose Your Pillow Shams

If you want to add style or decor to your bedroom and tie it together, adding pillow shams is a great idea. First, you need to know what size pillows you want to use in the shams. People often use pillows they already have rather than buying new ones. However, you can do either.

Pillow shams come in standard sizes, including the following:

  • Standard: 20” x 26”
  • Queen: 20” x 30”
  • King: 20” x 26”

You should consider whether it matches your duvet cover and your sheets, and you can often buy a set that includes a duvet and pillow shams. You may also come across a Euro pillow sham, which is just a pillow sham designed for a Euro-size pillow. These pillows are usually 26” x 26”. 

The type of pillow sham you choose is a matter of personal preference. They come in many different colors, designs, sizes, and textures, and you can choose anything that works in your bedroom. 

How Should You Style Your Pillow Sham?

There are many different options for styling your pillow shams. That said, there are a few common arrangements. 

Stack the Pillow Shams

Some people stack their pillow shams. This is a simple way of arranging them, and it looks neat and clean. You place your pillow flat on the mattress and make sure that the cuffs are facing toward the outside of the bed. Then, take your pillow shams and place them on top. Your sleeping pillows are concealed, and the decorative shams show along with your duvet cover. 

You can add decorative pillows in front and lean them against the stack of pillows, but if you want a minimalist look to your bed, just leave them stacked. 

Layer the Pillow Shams

Another option is to layer the pillow shams. You have a lot of options when you take this approach, and you can use multiple pillows of different sizes, textures, colors, and fabrics. You can create all kinds of designs when you choose to layer. 

You should place your sleeping pillows in the back, set up against the headboard. Make sure that the cuffs are facing the outside of the bed. You can start with the largest size pillow shams and place them the same way, standing up against the headboard. You can choose any size sham, and you can add more later if you want more than two. 

Then, you can finish off the look by placing decorative pillows in the front. You might include boudoir, neck roll, or bolster-sized pillows and customize your look. 

Create an Asymmetrical Look

If you want to create a more whimsical look, placing the pillow shams in an asymmetrical pattern is a great option. Start by placing your pillows against the headboard standing up, with the cuffs facing the outside of the bed. 

Next, rather than lining up the pillow shams as you did before, you can use larger and smaller pillow shams on opposite sides. Make sure that they match and have coordinating colors and textures, but the sizes should differ. You can place them on angles so that they look strategically placed but in a more creative way. 

Why Are They Called Pillow Shams?

A pillowcase is a case that surrounds the pillow. A pillow sham is different. The word “sham” describes something that is not what it appears to be. In this case, the pillow sham appears to be a pillowcase, but it isn’t. It has an opening in the back, and it looks like a pillowcase. 

Should You Place a Pillowcase on the Pillow Under the Pillow Sham?

People often wonder if they should place a pillowcase over the pillow under the pillow sham. There are times when it is appropriate to do so, and other times it is a matter of personal preference. Some people use the pillow to sleep on at night. They place the pillow sham over the pillow and the pillowcase during the day, but they remove it at night while they are sleeping. In this case, you will want to put a pillowcase on the pillow.

Other times, people use these pillows in a purely decorative fashion. If you are using the pillow sham in this fashion, you do not need to use a pillowcase underneath. You can cover the pillow directly and then place it on the bed. 

Different Pillow Sham Styles

When you purchase your pillow shams, you will find that there are different styles to choose from. In addition, there are many different colors and patterns. You should consider the different styles and choose one that is best for you. 

Standard Pillow Sham

CaliTime Pack of 2 Cozy Standard Pillow Shams Cases for Bed Bedding Decoration Solid Dyed Soft...
Opens in a new tab.
25 Reviews
CaliTime Pack of 2 Cozy Standard Pillow Shams Cases for Bed Bedding Decoration Solid Dyed Soft... Opens in a new tab.
  • Contains: Brand New 2 PCs Pillowcases 20" X 26", No Insert or Filler, Solid Colored
  • Solid Thick Durable Poly Chenille, Comfortable, Velvety & Superoft Touch, Grade A, High Class, Both Sides Same
  • Rich Solid Color, Brings Gorgeous Look To Your Home Decorative, Living Rooms, Bedrooms, Etc

Last update on 2022-05-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

First, there is the standard pillow sham, which is also called a knife-edge pillow sham. It is plain and rectangular, and it fits the size of a pillow without any extra fabric. This type of style is plain, and it usually comes in solid colors. 

They can be decorative when they are embellished with trim or embroidery. They may have a band around them of ribbon or lace. They can also be made with patterned fabric or shiny metallic-looking fabric. 

You may find that these shams have a short opening or a standard sham opening on the back. Some slide on or off the pillows, while others have to fit the pillows. 

Flanged Pillow Shams

Kotton Culture Set of 2 Pillow Shams Set 100% Egyptian Cotton 600 Thread Count Premium Hotel Quality...
Opens in a new tab.
390 Reviews
Kotton Culture Set of 2 Pillow Shams Set 100% Egyptian Cotton 600 Thread Count Premium Hotel Quality... Opens in a new tab.
  • SIZE INFORMATION - Two King/Cal King Shams (20 Inch X 36 Inch)
  • 100% EGYPTIAN COTTON PILLOW SHAMS - 100% Extra Long Staple Egyptian Cotton, a fabric known for its luxurious appeal and high durability.
  • UNIQUE DESIGN - 600 Thread Count, available in a wide range of vibrant colors, these pillow shams complement any bedroom decor with traditional elegance.

Last update on 2022-05-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The flanged pillow sham is similar to the standard sham, but it has an extra piece of fabric around the perimeter. It can go around three or four sides. This extra piece of fabric is called a flange, and it is usually between three and five inches wide. It adds decor to the pillow sham. 

Sometimes this type of sham has a decorative cording that goes along the hem and divides the flange from the pillow. You can also find pillow shams with a double flange, where one flange extends from the top, and another extends from the bottom. They make a double layer around the pillow. They can also be ruffled or have a border. 

Quilted Pillow Shams

American Style Quilted Embroidered Solid Color Pillow Cases Standard/Queen Size 100% Cotton Boho...
Opens in a new tab.
1,160 Reviews
American Style Quilted Embroidered Solid Color Pillow Cases Standard/Queen Size 100% Cotton Boho... Opens in a new tab.
  • 【Material】 100% cotton. Both the front and back are woven with cotton fabric, and the middle layer is made of high-quality absorbent cotton. Skin-friendly and safe, WINLIFE protects your healthy sleep.
  • 【Package Include】 Standard/Queen Size: 20''x 36'' Inches. Set of 2
  • 【EXQUISITE WORKMANSHIP】 Fine Stitching with smooth and neat sealing, strong and firm, which effectively avoid unraveling to prolong the use of time.

Last update on 2022-05-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

A quilted pillow sham is made with a quilt, and it has a comfortable, plush feel. They usually have decorative stitching along the front. The back can also be quilted, but it is normally plain. The front of the pillow sham is often layered with thin batting, which gives it more substance and makes it softer. They take these two layers and sew them together with quilting stitches. They can be stitched by hand or by machine, and the stitches are what create dimples in the fabric. 

Normally, the quilting is geometric in its pattern, with a grid-like appearance. They can also have repeating patterns of paisley, fancy scrolls, or flowers. They are frequently sold with a quilt that matches. 

How to Choose the Best Fabric for Your Pillow Shams

Pillow shams come in a wide range of fabrics. The type of fabric you use should fit in with the design and theme of your bedroom. The key is to make sure that the pillow sham helps to tie the room together. One of the most common materials is cotton, but they can be made with velvet, linen, fleece, quilting, and more. They also come in different textures and a wide range of colors. 

The texture, type of fabric, and color you choose will have an effect on the way the room feels. If you choose calming colors, such as greens or light blue, the room will feel relaxing. You can use orange or yellow to give the room a burst of energy. 

Cotton is cool, soft, and simple, so it makes the room look clean and crisp. Velvet is soft and warm, so it feels inviting and comforting. Linen is also crisp and clean, and it works well in the summer months. 

Final Words

Pillow shams are decorative pillow covers that can tie in with your decor and look great on your bed. There are different sizes and styles to choose from, and they often come in a set with a duvet cover. You can sleep on them if you want to, but they are most frequently used as decor and placed aside when you are sleeping. 


Was this article helpful?

Team SafeSleep

Hi! We're a team of scientists, doctors, teachers, and coaches experienced in helping people with special needs. We hope you like our research and share it with others who might find it helpful too :)

Recent Posts