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Look through any home decorating magazine, and you are bound to see countless photos of decorative pillows on beds. These pillows are usually covered with pillow shams, which are basically false pillows. These have no filling or stuffing. They go over the top of the pillows to make them more decorative.

If you are going to have pillow shams on your bed, it is a good idea to invest in extra pillows. This will save you from having to take the shams off every night and then put them back on again in the morning when you make the bed.

So, what does the term “pillow sham” actually mean? Well, we all know what a pillow is. And, sham is exactly that, something that is fake or a sham.

The Benefits of Using Pillow Shams:

Now we come to the reasons why you should be using pillow shams on your bed. Obviously, the main reason to use them is because they look so great. But, they do have some functions that you may not even have considered, including:

  • Protect your pillows – Rather than spending a lot of money on expensive decorative pillows, you can protect the pillows you already have with shams. They are washable, whereas decorative pillows are often dry-clean or hand-wash only.
  • Value – You can save a lot of money by using pillow shams. If a pillow or cushion gets worn out, instead of replacing it (pillows can be quite costly), cover it with an inexpensive, decorative pillow sham. If the sham wears out, it is cheaper to replace than the pillow.
  • More Value – If you do have to throw out an old pillow, it is cheaper to replace a pillow than it is to buy a new decorative pillow. You can save $20 or more by doing this. Just make sure that you get a pillow that is the same size as your sham.
  • Variety – You can get pillow shams in hundreds of colors, styles, and patterns. If you are handy with a sewing machine, there is also the option to make your own, and you have thousands of fabrics to choose from.

How to Use a Pillow Sham:

It is easy to use a pillow sham. Start by making the bed, and making sure that the blankets, sheets, and comforter/quilt are nice and smooth. Next, insert the pillow into the opening at the back of the sham. Reach inside and pull the pillow so it goes right to the seam and isn’t puckered in any spots. It is often a good idea to get a sham that is a bit larger than the pillow it is to be used for, so it looks like a perfect fit.

Isn’t it Just a Pillowcase?

You are probably thinking, “Isn’t a pillow sham the same thing as a pillowcase?” The answer is “no”, although some people do use the terms shams and pillowcases interchangeably. There is actually a huge difference between pillow shams and pillowcases.

A pillowcase is generally open at one end, and the pillow just slides in. With a pillow sham, there is usually a slit in the back, and the fabric wraps around the pillow after it has been stuffed inside the sham. This allows the edge to be uniform all the way around the pillow, which is particularly important if you are incorporating ruffles into your bedding design. You can’t get this uniform edge with a traditional pillowcase.

Can You Sleep on a Pillow Sham?

How many times did your mother or grandmother yell at you for not taking the fancy pillows off the bed before going to sleep? This has happened to most of us if there were pillow shams on the beds. Sure, they are still pillows, but they are the “good” pillows, and often only used for decorative purposes.

That all being said, there is no reason why you can’t sleep on a pillow that is covered with a sham. In fact, there are many pillow shams available that are made from regular bedding cotton, and they can be used both for decoration and for sleeping comfort.

Pillow Sham Sizes

Another difference between pillow shams and pillowcases is the size. Most pillowcases come in standard or king-size (occasionally you will find queen size pillowcases). Pillow shams come in a variety of sizes:

  • Standard – 20” X 26”
  • King – 20” X 36”
  • Euro – 26” X 26”
  • Queen – 20” X 30”
  • Boudoir – 12” X 16”

Sold in Sets and as Separates:

If you are a stickler for having everything in your bedroom match, you will likely want to purchase your pillow shams as part of your comforter set. There are many styles available, with some sets having shams in the same colors and fabrics while others use contrasting shams.

You can also go wild and get something that doesn’t go with your bedding set at all. Often, this adds a nice, decorative element to a bedroom. This is also a great way to switch things up once in a while. You can change the look of your room simply by having a variety of pillow shams and switching them regularly.

How much do Pillow Shams Cost?

You can find pillow shams anywhere that bedding and home décor items are sold. The price can range greatly and depends on a number of factors, including:

  • Fabric (silk, linen, satin, suede, shearling, faux fur, etc.)
  • Style
  • Size
  • Embellishments (beading, lace, ruffles, etc.)

What is European Sham?

You may have heard the term “European sham”, and are wondering what the difference between this and a regular sham. Basically, it is the size and shape. These are large, and used for covering square pillows. They generally measure 26” by 26”, and are the first layer of pillows on your bed design. Next, you follow it with a layer of smaller pillows (with shams, of course), and top it off with a cute decorative pillow.


Well, now you know everything you need to know about pillow shams. All you have to do now is go shopping, and find some that suit your tastes and budget, and give your bedroom that little added touch of flair.