What Is A Sham

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pillow sham

We spend a lot of time in our beds so it only makes sense that we try our best to feel as comfortable as we can. From choosing the right mattress to using the perfect colors in our bedroom, there are only so many things that count for our level of comfort and peace of mind.

One of the accessories that we can use for creating a calmer and more relaxed feel in our bedroom (feel free to create any vibe in your bedroom, though) is the sham. It’s the pillow sham that we’re talking about.

Is the pillow sham a new bedding item?

pillow sham a new bedding item

The pillow sham is a “false front,” and it originates in the “trick” notion. The sham pillow term means “a thing that isn’t what is supposed to be.” The sham is not for misleading people in any way, but it does come with some disguising abilities.

People started using it in the 1700s when they made decorative pillows with covers easy to remove. The “false front” pillow covers soon became the pillow shams we’re using nowadays.

If it were to be highly accurate, the sham is a decorative cover laid over a bed or a pillow. The definition isn’t wrong, but there’s a lot more than that to a pillow sham.

Unlike the throw pillows, which only serves for decorating a room, the sham is typically easy to remove for washing.

Any hardcore decorator knows that every single decorative element counts for the whole décor, so you should never undermine the importance of pillow shams.

What’s the brief description of a pillow sham?

The sham is a decorative pillow case that turns a regular sized pillow into an original accessory for the bedding set.

Pillow shams come in traditional sizes (standard, King, and Euro sham). The pillow sham opens in the middle of its back and features overlapped fabric, and that sets it apart from the standard pillowcase. It can also come with a hidden zipper for closure.

You’re going to find pillow shams in pairs most of the time, as they’re made with fabric that matches a specific duvet cover.

You may use the pillow sham just like a regular pillowcase, but it works better as a support when you’re sitting in bed. The primary purpose of pillow shams is decorative, which is why comfortable design isn’t a central feature.

As for use, you can place the pillow shams behind the regular pillows when you go to sleep or remove them from the bed altogether.

Cotton shams are easy to remove for washing, whereas the throw pillows aren’t-which is a difference to consider when shopping for your bedding.

When should you use a sham?

If you’re trying to turn a regular pillow into a decorative item, the sham is the perfect way to do it. Even if it’s comfortable enough to use it as a regular pillowcase, you’re going to want to put it aside from the bed when you go to sleep.

Once again, we’re going to remind you that you can remove and wash a pillow sham, which is quite essential when you have kids and pets that like using the pillow shams a lot.

What are the common sizes for pillow shams?

common sizes for pillow shams

There are four standard sizes for the pillow shams, which relate to the traditional pillow sizes. Here are the sizes you can pick from:

  • Standard sham: 20x26in
  • Queen sham: 20x30in
  • King sham: 20x36in
  • European/Continental sham: 26x20in

The European sham is made for casing the square pillows. Most are placing it behind the standard size pillow sham, acting as a backdrop. You can also place it on top of the standard pillows or when coordinating a duvet cover set.

The mentioned sizes are for the ready-made pillow shams, but various bedding brands sell travel-sized pillow shams, made-to-order, boudoir pillow shams, and custom-sized pillow shams as well.

In all fairness, selecting your pillow shams isn’t easy, especially since there are also so many materials that only make the selection process more challenging. Silk and cotton are only some to mention.

If you’re going for safe design, it’s better that you go with shams with zippers. Shams with buttons to make a better impression, but you need to be more careful when coordinating the other elements of the bedding.

Is the pillow sham different from the pillow case?

Briefly put, the pillowcase protects the pillow, maintaining it clean for a reasonable amount of time. On the other hand, the pillow sham is going to hide the pad behind a more attractive front.

Here are the main criteria that define a pillow sham:

  • All four sides present cording or flange
  • It has a tuck flap on the back
  • It looks better than a pillowcase
  • You may sleep on it due to the sheeting type of fabric

Let’s see the main features of a pillowcase:

  • It includes a flange at the opening
  • It opens at one end
  • It’s protecting the pillow from soiling
  • It’s made for sleeping on

As you can see, the pillowcase begins at one end and has no type of closure whatsoever. It has a rather basic design and no decorative feel. The sheets and the pillow sham are made from the same fabric. You may notice various decorative accents on the high-end pillowcases (take a look along the open cuff). Some hemstitching, embroidery or matching fabrics for the cuff are the decorative details we’re talking about.

By contrary, pillow shams open from the back (most of the time) or present a hidden closure. Overlapping length of fabric is also pretty standard for the pillow shams. They feature borders on three and even all four sides and have a flange (a flat piece of cloth). The rim can be plain or decorated with decorative details (embroidery). The pillow sham is supposed to match several decorative elements of your bedding (the duvet cover or the comforter), but you can also use it as a colorful accent in the bedroom.

Can you use the sham for sleeping?

The short answer is “yes,” and many are sleeping on the pillow shams. However, you should never forget that it’s not their primary purpose, which explains the lower level of comfort when sleeping. They can be made with textured decorative fabrics that aren’t soft against the skin. The flanges aren’t high for your support either as they can be bulky or bunching up during your sleep.

When you’re getting ready to go to sleep, you may place the shams all the way in the back, behind the bed pillows. You can add some extra padding if you use them this way. More often than not, it’s easier to remove the pillow shams from the bed until the morning. You’re also keeping them clean and don’t let the oils from your skin and hair get to them.

What styles can you try with the pillow shams?

styles pillow shams

There are numerous styles to try for styling the bed pillows, but some are more used than others.

Here’s a closer look at the most popular styles; it’s going to help you decorate your bedroom in the future:

  • Layered

It’s a popular style that lets you display pillows of all sorts of sizes, textures, colors, and sizes. You can try the symmetrical way as it’s quite appealing.

Start with putting the sleeping pillows against the headboard, so that the cuffs are toward the margin of the mattress. Continue with a couple of Euro size pillows that come with lovely shams. You may use two standards (king size will do too) pillow shams right in front. Don’t forget to complete the decoration with several decorative pillows (bolster, boudoir, and even neck roll).

The style is versatile, and you can use as many/as few decorative pillows as you want- go creative!

  • Stacked

It’s a basic style, which explains its popularity. You may begin with the sleeping pillows, placing them flat against your mattress. The cuffs should point outward, toward the ends of the mattress. Continue with stacking the pillows shams on top of the sleeping pillows. It’s a fast yet good looking style. You can also angle the decorative accent pillows against the stack. If you’re going for the minimal feel, you should forget about the accent pillows.

  • Asymmetrical

If you’re feeling creative and fancy a less structured style, the asymmetrical type is an excellent choice for you. The style resembles the layered style, as it includes small pillows on the side of the bed.

You should try this style when you have pillows of similar texture and color, with the front cushions making an exception (the throw pillows that complete the décor).

One last suggestion

Sham pillows are a great accessory to use for feeling better in your bedroom. Don’t hesitate to try various styles, textures, and sizes until you find the perfect combination. It’s supposed to be fun decorating your home, remember?

Other resources

What’s the difference between a pillowcase & pillow sham?

What is a Sham? | Standard Shams and More | Crane & Canopy

Everything You Need to Know About a Sham – What is a Sham?

What Is a Pillow Sham Anyway? | Peacock Alley Blog