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What Is a European Pillow Case?

By Judith Smith Sullivan
Updated May 23, 2024
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A European pillow case refers a pillow case fits a European pillow, which typically measures 26 inches by 26 inches (66 cm by 66 cm). European pillow cases can be decorative or plain, depending on the intended use. Many comforter sets or "bed-in-a-bag" kits include two European pillow cases.

The standard pillow case, most commonly found in the United States, measures 21 inches by 32 inches (53 cm by 81 cm). Other sizes, like queen, king, and the body pillow, are also rectangular. The European pillow is square. Throw pillows, which are small decorative pillows, do not have a standard size.

A European pillow case, which is primarily used for sleeping, is typically plain and made of cotton. These types of European pillowcases come in a variety of colors and thread counts. A thread count of 300 or more has a soft, supple feel. Lower thread counts are coarser, sometimes to the point of being uncomfortable. Usually, the pillow case is matched to the sheet set.

Decorative pillow cases that open in the center back are often called shams. A decorative European pillow case, or sham, is typically not used for sleeping but is often part of a decorative theme, such as a color or pattern. It is usually made of a heavier weight of fabric than an ordinary pillowcase and may include embellishments, like embroidery, buttons, or a ribbon.

The ideal "well dressed bed" in the United States and Europe usually includes a number of decorative pillows. Of course, it also includes comfortable sheets and a blanket or comforter. Usually, two pillows will have practical pillow cases made of soft cotton and intended for use while sleeping, and the other pillows will be covered with decorative shams.

The European pillow is often placed directly against the headboard of the bed since it is a large, tall pillow. Other pillows are stacked in front of it. The overall number of pillow cases in the ideal comforter set varies, but it typically includes two standard pillow cases, two pillows with shams — either standard or European — and a number of smaller throw pillows.

Both online and brick-and-mortar stores that specialize in home goods or interior decorating often carry European pillow cases. A European pillow case is a common item and typically readily available. For non-designer brands, both plain pillow cases and shams can be quite inexpensive. More prestigious bedding companies typically have higher prices, but they also have a greater variety and higher quality products.

PillowGuide is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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