Pillowcases vs. Pillow Shams

Pillowcases vs. Pillow Shams


        Having The Right Information To Make The Best Decision

Deciding whether to get pillowcases or pillow shams for your bedding may not sound like a big deal, but it will make a difference depending on which one you decide to choose. You may even be wondering, what’s the actual difference between the two? Today we will be diving into the difference between pillowcases and pillow shams.

 Difference Between Pillowcases and Pillow Shams



A pillowcase is used as a comfortable protective layer of fabric for your pillow. Usually, pillowcases are made of thin soft fabric and are more minimalistic/one solid color. Pillowcases are most comfortable/preferable to fall asleep with. Pillowcases are meant to be as basic as it gets, which isn’t a bad thing. Pillowcases are comfortable by being made of cotton but can sometimes even be silk. Pillowcases are often just a single solid color. They will usually match your sheet set.

Pillow Shams

A pillow sham, on the other hand, is more of a decorative piece to accompany your bedding. While it still serves the same purpose as a pillowcase in covering your pillow, pillow shams are often designed with patterns and different fabrics to work as a decoration for your bed.

Pillow shams are endless when it comes to their style. They can have different textures such as being frayed, ruffles, or even fluffy. They can be made of different fabrics from cotton to quilted. They can have different designs on them from patterns to having text or images on them. They can be any color and have any design.


Pillowcase Features

Pillowcases are the original pillow covering. Many people have used pillowcases as their go-to option when it comes to pillow protection for centuries. 

 Here are the features of pillowcases to help explain just exactly what their purposes and functions are:

  • They either have an opening on one side while the other side is completely closed. 
  • Are made of softer material for more comfort.
  • Breathable and thin.
  • Simplistic and often one solid color. 
  • Included in most bed sets.

  Pillow Sham Features 

 The term “pillow sham” technically means “pillow with a false front”. It got this name in the 1700s stemming from the meaning of a ‘trick’. Not to say pillow shams are shams themselves, but it does infer that the front part of the pillow sham displays a more decorative, different side than the back!

Here are the features of pillow shams to help explain just exactly what their purposes and functions are:

  • Will have a slit in the back that may even be closable with a button or zipper.
  • Can be made of any material or fabric.
  • Usually thicker and not functional as a sleeping pillow (sometimes can be though).
  • Have designs or patterns on them.
  • Usually are purchased separately from bed sets.

 Using Pillowcases and Pillow Shams

Yes, you can incorporate both pillowcases and pillow shams into your bedding since they have different uses. Pillowcases are best to be used on the actual pillows that you sleep with. Since pillowcases are made for comfort, these are the ones that get used with the sleeping pillows.

Pillow Shams are used for decoration pillows that you probably don’t sleep with. These may be the extra pillows that you have purchased that aren’t too comfortable, but they add an extra layer to your bedding style.

Styling Pillowcases and Pillow Shams

As explained, pillow shams are for decoration while pillowcases are used for comfort. So, when it comes to styling your bed, you will most likely want to place the pillows with pillow shams on top of the pillows with the pillowcases. If you prefer a simple look and are not looking to add too many decorative pieces to your bedding, you can always just use pillowcases for all of your pillows. However, if you do want to add some more expressive style to your bedding, layering the pillows with pillow shams on top of the pillows with pillowcases will help you achieve that look. When using both pillowcases and pillow shams, the pillow sham pillows will be presented on your bed at the forefront, while your pillowcase pillows will be placed behind them. The pillowcase pillows are usually covered by the pillow sham pillows and aren’t there to be seen, simply just to be used for sleeping at night. 

Benefits of Each

Pillowcases and pillow shams don’t have benefits over one another. They are used for different purposes based on what you prefer, and you can even include both in your bedding. It’s very popular that people have both pillow shams and pillowcases for their pillows since one is for style and the other for comfort. Although one is not per se better than the other, they each have their benefits along with similar ones as well.

Here are the benefits of pillowcases:

  • Can choose any fabric you know will give you the best night's sleep (cotton, silk, etc.).
  • Don’t usually have to pay out of pocket because they come included in sets.
  • Simple and easy to wash.

Here are the benefits of pillow shams:

  • Gives your bedding set a sense of style.
  • Allow you to mix it up and have multiple pillow shams with different designs and patterns for a variety.

Here are the benefits that both pillow covers and pillow shams present:

  • Protect your pillow to make sure it lasts longer. 
  • Keeps your pillow clean.
  • Adds a sense of care and comfort to your home.
  • Easy assembly.

Do’s and Don’ts

Pillowcases and pillow shams do require the proper amount of care to keep them in the best shape and around as long as possible. Here are some do’s and don'ts when it comes to pillowcases and pillow shams.


  • Wash frequently.
  • Treat with care.
  • Make sure your pillowcase/pillow sham fits your pillowcase comfortably to avoid rips or tears.


  • Ignore washing instructions based on which fabric/material you have.
  • Sleep on them with hair products or dyes in your hair (can cause damage or discoloration of fabric).

In Conclusion

Pillowcases and pillow shams are essential for your bedding. Deciding on which to get, or even to use both, is completely what you prefer. If you are looking for simplicity and comfort from all of your pillows, invest in pillowcases. If you are looking to add more style and design to your bedding, invest in pillow shams. If you are looking for all of these aspects, then you should invest in both for your bed! 


Emily Trzeciak
A New Jersey-based professional writer, blogger with a passion for writing about lifestyle, entertainment and trending topics.

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