What Is a Pillow Sham Anyway? Difference Between a Pillow Shams and a Pillow Case

pillowcases and shams

You would think that bedding is simple, but when you add valances, bolsters, European pillows, bedspreads, and duvet coverings, things can quickly become difficult. Therefore, we’re here to explain a very appealing aspect of your bed setup: pillow shams.

If you’re ever confused, “What is a pillow sham?” you’re definitely in the right place.  These pillow covers, also known as shams, pillow shams, or bed shams, transform standard-sized pillows into bed decorations. While pillowcases are meant to keep your pillow clean while you sleep.

But The Question Is How Can You Distinguish Between The Two?

What are Shams?

Shams has been used since the 18th century when merchants began creating “faux front” covers for their pillows to disguise them as bedroom decor. Consequently, the name “sham” in the realm of bedding is derived from the word “sham,” which according to Webster means deception. A sham is a decorative pillow case that turns regular-sized pillow fillings into utilitarian accessories for one’s bedding set. Traditional pillow sizes for pillow shams are Regular Sham (26″ x 20″), King Siza (36″ x 20″), and Euro Size (26″ x 26″).

pillow shams
Photo Credit: Canva

Pillow Shams vs Pillowcases

There are a few minor variations that highlight the distinction between pillowcases and shams.

  • A pillowcase will either have a seam and no closing or an open end. With less embellishment and pattern on the cover itself and a softer, more comfortable feel to sleep on. Pillowcases produce a more basic and minimalistic appearance. The pillowcases that come with a sheet set are the covers you would use to sleep on and put in front of a pillow sham.
  • To show a beautiful aesthetic, a pillow sham will feature an overlapping opening in the back of the sham or a zipper/button closure. Additionally, pillow shams will have various textured designs to them to produce a distinctive and aesthetically pleasing look to go with the bedspread or comforter you are using. Any matching pillow shams that come with a bedspread, blanket, or duvet set will match together and be used over the pillow covers if you purchase the set.
pillow shams vs pillow cases
Photo Credit: Freepik

Pillow Shams: Why and How to Use Them

A pillow sham can change the design of your bedroom without requiring you to buy brand-new pillows if you’re seeking an easy way to do it.

  • Bed decoration: This is the main and only excuse for using pillow shams. The other options are just to keep on describing the use of pillow shams. Pillow shams can be used to adorn your bed in a variety of ways.
  • Can be used as couch pillows: You also have pillows on the couch so why not add aesthetic there as well?  You can use pillow shams on your couch pillows to give them a fashionable appearance. Overall, they improve the aesthetics of your sofas and add to the design of the area.
  • They work well as pillow covers since if you don’t use shams. Your pillows will grow dirty and require frequent washing. Using a pillow sham will preserve your pillows from damage caused by repeatedly washing them. Additionally, your pillow appears nice after being covered by a pillow sham.
  • Match with your bedding sets: Making a pillow sham match the colors of your current bedding is quite simple. You can purchase shams in the same tones as your current bedding, or you can mix and match them with other shades. One of its benefits is that it is inexpensive.

How Should You Style Your Pillow Shams?

What is sham bedding? Styling your bed with pillow shams to make it unique How you will like to style is entirely up to you and the appearance you want from a show-stopping made-up bed.

Stack The Pillowcases. This is an easy way to create a finished bedroom look. Place your sleeping pillows at the top of your bed, flat. For a simple and attractive arrangement, add decorative pillow shams on top. Throw pillows are another way to creativity. However, this arrangement maintains your bedroom looking neat, uncomplicated, and clean.

Layer The Pillowcases. This is a wonderful method to display your artistic talents. You should put your pillows up straight against the headboard while using this method. Leaning your pillow shams against your sleeping pillows will result in an overabundance of pillows. To finish this iconic bed design, add a few ornamental pillows like boudoirs and bolsters in front.

Style Your Pillow Shams
Photo Credit: Freepik

Can you Sleep on a Sham?

Although some people do use pillow shams for sleeping. Even if it is technically possible to do so, that isn’t their intended use. Since many shams are composed of textured decorative fabrics or have bulky edges that may painfully bunch up when you sleep. They may actually be less comfortable to sleep on.

When it’s time for bed, what do you do with them then? One way to use them is for adding a layer of padding between the sleeper’s head and the bed’s headboard when they opt to sleep with their shams tucked behind their pillows. More often than not, shams can simply be taken off the bed totally at night to keep them clean and prevent them from becoming soiled with body or hair oils.

Pillowcases and Shams – FAQs

Can You Use A Pillow Sham As A Pillowcase?

Although some individuals do use pillow shams to sleep on, even though this is theoretically possible, it is not their intended use.

What Is The Point Of a Pillow Sham?

Pillow shams are typically used as decoration and support while seated in bed.

Where Do You Put Pillow Shams At Night?

Place your pillows at the foot of the bed in a trunk, storage bench, or chest. Use whatever ornamental trunks or chests you have in your bedroom or you can put them on your couch when about to sleep

What Is A Sham On A Bed?

Bed shams are decorative pillowcases that elevate and accentuate your bedroom’s aesthetic appeal.


Now that you know more about what is a pillow sham, perhaps you can shop for bedding with ease. Cooling, breathable pillow shams are a simple way to improve your bedding set.